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Opinion: How Rahul Dravid changed Indian cricket

File photo of Rahul Dravid. Photograph:( )

Bengaluru, Karnataka, India Jan 11, 2018, 05.04 AM (IST) Pankaj Agrawal

It was quarter-final match between India and Pakistan at Bangalore during 1996 World Cup. The atmosphere was charged up and spectators were on the ground with all sorts of banners to cheer their side. However, one banner was conspicuous with its presence and it said: “Where is Dravid”.  It manifests that how dominating Rahul Dravid was in domestic Cricket by the year 1996 and his inclusion in Indian playing eleven had become so much imminent.


Twenty-two years down the line when the great wall of India Rahul Dravid turns 45, I fondly recall this incident. During this time period, Dravid had not only arrived but had become one of the brightest stars and a great ambassador of the game in the whole annals of Indian Cricket.


Statistics has its own tales to narrate about Rahul Dravid – that Rahul Dravid scored more than thirteen thousand Test runs – that he is highest run getter in Test Cricket for India after Sachin Tendulkar – that Dravid holds the world record of maximum nos. of catches in Test matches – that he scored with an average of fifty plus and has scored thirty-six Test Centuries – that Dravid scored Test century in each Test playing nation – that Dravid scored two Test centuries in a single Test on two different occasions – that Dravid scored four Test centuries in four consecutive innings in 2002, and many many others. 


The list is long but sorry to say all these statistics are insignificant. Rahul Dravid is the bloke, whose worth and greatness cannot be gauged by these number; its way beyond.


Indian Cricket can broadly be divided into two time zones, before the year 2000 and post 2000. The huge turn around in Indian Cricket started in 2000 when Sourav Ganguly took over the rein. During 2000-2005, Indian Cricket evolved to a different level altogether and one man who undisputedly and unequivocally deserves most of the credit for this process of revamping was Rahul Dravid.


Dravid made his Test debut in England during the summer of 1996 (three months later his ardent followers flashed that banner at Bangalore) but the inning which showed the world what actually Dravid was, came a few months later in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was a well-crafted 148 by him against blazing Allan Donald and company. He arrived with a huge thud.


Coming back to the resurgence of Indian Cricket during 2000-2005; Indian side moved up the ladder, notch by notch, step by step and Dravid played his part to perfection, propelling his side, pushing his side at each step relentlessly and with mercurial consistency.


Let’s have a quick reap of that special upward journey. 


It all started in a very emphatic way by India’s epic victory against Australia in Kolkata in March 2001. He along with Laxman built that immortal partnership which gave India one of its most famous Test victories. 


Next step up the ladder was India’s tour to England in 2002; Dravid was in the form of his life. He scored more than 600 runs in four Test matches and India won the Test in England after 16 years. Dravid scored three centuries (one of them was double). 


Next step up the ladder (or I can say a leap) was India’s tour down under in 2003-04. At Adelaide, Dravid architected undisputedly the most famous and glorious Test victory for India. He played knocks of 233 and 72 not out. India won the Test from a situation of 85 for 4 in first innings in reply of 550 plus by Australia; a Test victory in Australia after more than two decades. 


That series was the farewell series of legendary Steve Waugh. After India’s heroic at Adelaide, one meme went viral in email (it was not WhatsApp/facebook era). In this meme, dejected Steve Waugh and Rahul Dravid were shown together post-match, and the caption was “Mate, you have just spoiled my retirement”.   


Next step up in ladder was India’s tour to Pakistan in 2004.  At Rawalpindi, Dravid scored 270 and India won the Test by a huge margin. India created history by winning Test series in Pakistan. I remember that how that Test series defeat was deeply mourned in Pakistan. The day India won Rawalpindi Test riding on a double century of Dravid, the Cricket fraternity in Pakistan tipped it as the blackest day of Pakistan’s Cricket.


To leave you spellbound, here is one data - Dravid scored more than 20% of the total run scored by India, in all Test victories under Sourav Ganguly during 2000-2005. Truly Incredible.


For those who don’t rate his ODI credentials high, India – Sri Lanka encounter in 1999 World Cup is there to rebut. The match was played at Taunton, England.  Dravid and Sourav Ganguly built a record partnership of 318 runs for the second wicket. Dravid scored 145.  Though in the end, Sourav with the knock of 183 took the majority of applause but this is a fact that it was Dravid who started showing aggression during the partnership and set the tone for such mammoth partnership.


Taunton is home ground for Somerset County. There was a time when legendary Viv Richards and Ian Botham used to play for Somerset and this ground witnessed some superb attacking batting by them. After this India – Sri Lanka match, next day many newspapers in England wrote that the partnership between Sourav-Dravid was reminiscent of those good old days of the supremacy of Richards-Botham at this ground.  


Dravid was the man of all season. Give him the task and he would be up for the grab. He kept wickets in 2003 World Cup which allow the team to include one extra batsman in the lineup. He had to open with Sehwag in Test in Pakistan in 2006, he returned with a partnership of 410 runs for the opening wicket.


Somehow, I found that Dravid was on the same template as that of great Pakistani batsman Zaheer Abbas and our very own Dileep Vengsarkar - away from galore and controversies and silently doing his job determinedly. 


If going gets tough and tough gets going, the great wall of India would come to rescue. During 2007-08 India’s tour to Australia, India was 2-0 down when they went to Perth for the last Test. It was a series which was mired in various controversies. Indians were desperate to make a statement. Dravid played a well-crafted knock of 93 and India registered yet another famous victory in Australia. 


He scored three centuries during the Test series in England in 2011, though Indians were subjected to whitewash with a score line of 4-0. He has one bad series down under in Australia and he called it a day in 2011-12. An era had come to an end. He timed his retirement pretty well (the way he used to time his shots).


Apart from the awards and statistics, Rahul Dravid is remembered as the true gentleman of the game. One, who is admired by almost every Cricket fan across the globe.   


Happy Birthday Rahul Dravid – History of Indian Cricket in this millennium would have been different, had you been a different player than what you were.


(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL).