From the first time he entered the Test arena at Lord’s in 1996, his class has shone through. But Rahul Dravid will look back at his one-day career with equal satisfaction. It’s been a smooth ride for him in Tests but in ODIs he will cherish the way he beat the odds to be regarded as a great.
For a classical batsman, to survive and succeed in a game where the cross-batted shot is bread and butter, is a tribute to his resilience and adaptability.
This series is the last chapter of Dravid’s glorious ODI innings, the last page of which will be written at Cardiff on Friday. He will walk out a content man, satisfied with how he made adjustments to ensure a successful career. From a batsman who was not cut out for this format, to finish with 10,000 plus runs is an amazing feat.
In fact, his international break was in one-day cricket, but his orthodox style became a baggage in the thrill-a-minute version where mighty slogs were the order of the day. The initiation into the game was torrid. After repeated failures, he was on the verge of being written off.
shaky start It helped that he made a stunning start to his Test career scoring a stylish 95 at Lord’s. But somehow success eluded Dravid in one-day cricket. He was dropped for a short period at the end of 1997 to sort out his game. Recalled soon for the low-key matches against Bangladesh and Kenya, to everyone’s frustration, he just couldn’t break the code.
After his painstaking effort of one run off 22 balls against Bangladesh at the Wankhede Stadium, even his most ardent supporters had started having doubts.
That is when Dravid’s resilience shone through. India saw a transformed attacking batsman when the team travelled to New Zealand. The 123 he hit in the first game in 1999 at Owen Delaney Park, Taupo, had a cathartic effect. He established his spot with scores of 38, 68, 51, 29 (aggregate 309, average 77.25) and for the next 10 years remained a key player.
At the 1999 World Cup in England, he was the leading run-scorer for India with two centuries. The 2003 World Cup saw another side of his game when he agreed to don the ‘keeper’s gloves to lend balance to the team.
When the 2007 World Cup came around, he was the captain. Unfortunately, it turned out be the lowest point of his ODI career. India made an early exit, his form slumped and it was downhill from there.
Soon, he lost his place before being recalled in an emergency in 2009 as the young crop of batsmen struggled against the rising ball, only to be dumped after the Champions Trophy in South Africa.
It would have been unfair for such a great servant of the game to make such a meek exit. He was recalled under similar circumstances again as all the other batsmen struggled against the moving ball in England.
Dravid hasn’t been able to make the expected difference to India’s fortunes so far, aggregating only 51 runs in four games, but his commitment has been total.
On the eve of his final game too he spent the most time in the nets, arriving an hour before everyone and leaving with them.
Clearly, he is determined to make amends and leave on a winning note.
For such a decorated career, a platform like the April 2, 2011 night at Wankhede with the World Cup trophy in hand would have been an ideal stage to bid adieu.
But true to his style, Dravid would be happy walking into the sunset quietly.