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Dravid or Tendulkar: To choose or not to choose


Greatness is a virtue which can't be compared. Yet, the human mind is compelled to judge and measure the difference created by people and their eminence. Here I am trying to assess the contribution of two legends of the modern day game. Both are Arjuna awardees, both have scored over 10,000 runs in ODIs and Tests in their respective illustrious careers and both have also captained India. Yes, I am talking about Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar. India has never been short of batting talent, but the heights touched by these two have been unprecedented. My sole aim to write on this topic is to talk about the massive contribution by the two superstars that India has been privileged to have. I do not intend to compare their greatness, or state who is better.

When it comes to ODIs, I believe Tendulkar has had a greater impact than Dravid. It was Sachin who everyone believed would save India in tough run chases and give them a good start when they batted first. With superb fighting knocks throughout his career, he became India's favourite son. Every shot he played was and is still cheered by Indian crowd. Whether you talk about his back to back centuries in Sharjah against Australia or his 200* against South Africa this year, almost every century has been special. Not only has he heavily contributed with the bat, he has occasionally provided vital breakthroughs as a bowler for India as well. No one can forget the Tendulkar-Ganguly partnership, which was a world class opening pair. Tendulkar's performances in the World Cups have been really good as well, as he was the highest scorer at the 1996 as well as 2003 edition when India finished as runners up. 'The Little Master', as he is fondly called, shares the ODI record for highest run partnership ever of 331 with none other than Dravid, who at first wasn't believed to be a good limited overs player, but he proved critics wrong by adapting to the game wonderfully and scoring tons of runs. He isn't as much of a stroke-maker as Sachin is, but still has been among India's batting mainstay for many years. He might find himself without a berth in current ODI squad, however I feel that it is politics and not his performance which is keeping him out. The Wall has sacrificed for the team like no other guy. He has often shifted his position from his regular number 3 to number 5 or 6 and at times even opened the batting to help the cause of the team. This is probably one of the reasons why his average is slightly below 40, which still is a superb record. He also went on to don the wicketkeeper’s role under Ganguly's captaincy so that India could accommodate an extra batsman. This move paid rich dividends as India had a great run during 2002-03. He was also the highest run scorer in 1999 WC in England, when he scored to back to back hundreds. But sometimes people remember only the 2007 World Cup debacle and associate his name with it. They forget how well he played in the two previous editions as he still averages a staggering 61 in WC matches.

In the recent test against Sri Lanka, Tony Greig commented that Tendulkar was the India's best batsmen and not Dravid. Frankly, I don't agree with him, since in tests 'Jammy' has been more crucial for India. Dravid has been India's backbone in tests particularly when playing abroad. His overseas performances have made Indian fans like myself believe that India could win even in bouncy and seaming conditions. He became India's go-to man in hostile conditions and under pressure. He holds the record of being the only batsman of this era to have scored four centuries in four consecutive innings. Dravid is among the very few batsmen who average higher away from their home country. Under Saurav Ganguly, who is India's most successful test captain with 21 wins, Dravid was just phenomenal. In these 21 matches he averaged 102 and scored nearly 23% of runs scored by India. This is the highest percentage contribution by any batsman in Test cricket history in matches won under a single captain where the captain has won more than 20 Tests. No one can forget how he, along with VVS Laxman, batted one whole day in the famous Kolkata Test of 2001 and turned the match on its head. The Bangalorean was also the key architect of India's win in Adelaide in '03 as he batted for 835 minutes in the match making 233 and 72*. Almost every test win outside India had a significant contribution from Dravid. Also, number of matches he has saved is incomparable. Tendulkar is most definitely a key member of the Indian Test team and has played some great knocks like the 148* on a bouncy Sydney pitch back in 1991-92 and 241* in 2003,where he showed great determination by not playing any shot on the off-side in order to avoid his downfall. He has dominated various attacks from different parts of the world and has won millions of hearts. He also has a lot more centuries than anybody else on the planet, yet the number of matches that Dravid has won and saved is far more. Hence, Dravid has left a larger footprint in the Test arena.

When the two are compared on basis of captaincy, Rahul Dravid has a better record. Sachin, in spite of personally doing well as batsmen, was unlucky as the team went through rough patches during both his terms as the captain. India had a world record of 17 consecutive ODI wins while chasing, 15 of which were under Dravid, while 2 were under Ganguly. Under Dravid, India also won 8 consecutive ODIs. Even in tests Dravid has the upper hand. He led India to a series wins in England as well as West Indies, where he was even the "Man of the Series". India won its first test match in South Africa under Dravid, who was also picked as captain of the ICC's Test team in '06. I firmly believe that captaincy requires a certain amount of luck and Sachin didn't have the rub of the green going his way on most occasions. Dravid in most stages as skipper has done well, although he had to go through a tough time as India crashed out of 2007 World Cup in the first round itself.

Even though in the last two years when Tendulkar has been in better form, Dravid's selfless approach and outstanding overseas performances make him my favourite. I can't take anything away from the master blaster from Mumbai and in spite of the enormous respect that I have for him, Dravid ranks slightly higher in my books.

Who would your pick be?

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