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Time for the warrior’s swansong

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Since his debut, Rahul Dravid has never been dropped from the Test team. If he hasn’t played, it is only when he is unfit or unwell. However, the scenario in ODIs wasn’t the same for the Bangalore batsman. From the start, he was believed to be a liability. It was quite a challenge for him to cement his place in ODI squad.

But that’s what the man loves – challenges. Dravid’s uncanny habit of finding fielders pulled down the team’s and his own momentum. However, he kept at it and showed tremendous form in ODIs from 1998 onwards. Two superb knocks – 123* against NZ and 103* against WI, came in losing causes. Not to forget the brilliant 84 against South Africa when he hit Allan Donald for a massive six, much to the latter’s annoyance. From having the habit of getting stuck and bogged down, he was transforming into a useful ODI batsmen. The determined young man was starting to fit in into the Indian middle order by 1999.

The World Cup of 1999 was yet another showing that shut his critics up. ‘Jammy’ was the highest scorer in the tournament and notched up 2 well deserved centuries, which included a record partnership of over 300 runs with Sourav Ganguly. Thereafter, he became a regular and important member of not only India’s test team but also the ODI squad.

Since then, Dravid never looked back and kept scoring heavily. In the 1990’s, he averaged 37 due to first couple of years being rather ordinary. Later, he went on to improve his numbers as he averaged 40 from 2000-2009. In spite of consistently moving from opening the batting to even number 6 on occasions, his overall average is a shade over 39. 

Not only does it show his superb consistency, but also his adaptability. Most good batsmen of this era have usually had fixed batting positions and a definite role. Dravid had to change his role according to position and yet he delivered for the team with averages 39, 37 and 44 at number 3 (106 innings), 4 (102 innings), and 5 (69 innings). 

Around 2002, Dravid who was the vice-captain, agreed to take up the extra responsibility of wicket-keeping. This provided good balance to the team and India had a very successful run. To add to that his average as wicketkeeper was 44, higher than his overall average. In the matches won as a wicketkeeper, this further went up to a stunning 64. His wicketkeeping might not have been as sharp as others, but he sure covered up with the bat.

Continuing this good form, he reached his peak in the first half of 2001-10 decade. This was the time he became India’s crisis man as he averaged over 40 in four of these five years, while he averaged 39 in 2004. His strike rates had also improved from the late sixties to the mid-seventies. Later on, his performances as skipper were also splendid as he averaged a superb 53 in wins and 42 in all matches. In fact, his average under his own captaincy is better than under any other captain. After a rough few matches in 2007, he was dropped from the ODI team, which I thought was a little tough on him.

An average of 51 in the 160 ODI wins that Dravid has been part of shows his importance. Out of his 12 hundreds, 8 came in wins, while there were many other knocks, when he set up a win by scoring an unbeaten 70-plus score. Two such knocks that often come to mind are 85* off 63 balls against Sri Lanka and 92* off 63 balls against England. 

The debacle of 2007 World Cup is often blamed on him, however his performances in World Cups have been spotless too. In the 3 World Cups, he averaged 61 with a winning average of 106. Needless to say, he did his job as a batsman rather well and that too without much notice.

Often called ‘The Wall’, Dravid proved that he could be much more than just a defensive bat. In fact, he also holds the record for the second-fastest fifty by any Indian in an ODI, off just 22 balls. His hundred in Sabina Park in 2006 came at better than run-a-ball setting up a thrilling win. Another similar knock came against the West Indies again, in Ahmedabad when his unbeaten century allowed India to chase down a mammoth 324.

The man known for his immense cricketing acumen might not have been an impact player like a Yuvraj or Sehwag or Tendulkar. However, his importance can never be forgotten. Playing at three, he often set up the basis for launch pad towards the end. When playing lower down the order, he performed the role of a finisher with good regularity. The solidarity that he provided over the years was a must for the team to perform well with the bat. The contribution of this team man has been instrumental over the long time he has spent in the nation’s colours. 

Though, Dravid isn’t a World Cup winner, but he surely is a true champion. His contribution to India in ODIs must not be forgotten, for often people remember him only for his efforts in test cricket. Here’s hoping that luck and weather be on his side and we get to see the best of this modern great in the last days of his ODI career. 
 


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