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Rahul Dravid: Standing tall

Rahul Dravid, Mr Dependable of Indian cricket, completes 15 years in Test cricket today. Sanjjeev Karan Samyal analyses the man and charts his journey to the top.

cricket Updated: Jun 20, 2011 08:46 IST
Sanjjeev Karan Samyal

Year: 1996. Location: A restaurant in Bangalore. Scene: A budding India player and his Karnataka teammate are sipping tea, celebrating the former's first international assignment in England earlier that summer.

"Great! So, now you are a Test cricketer," the Ranji player remarked, to which the India batsman retorted: "That is all fine, the important thing is I want to be remembered as one of India's greatest cricketers ever."

The main protagonist of the aforementioned scene is a then 24-year-old Rahul Dravid and his partner is, school and Karnataka teammate, Fazal Khaleel.

"He has certainly achieved more than what he set out to do. His place in India's cricket pantheon is assured," says Khaleel, who played with Dravid from back in their kindergarten days, summing up his friend's Test career, 15 years to the date the journey started at Lord's on June 20, 1996.

The match-winning 233 against Australia at Adelaide; a monumental 270 against Pakistan at Rawalpindi to help seal a magnificent series win; the 180 against Australia at Eden Gardens in which he and VVS Laxman helped script the greatest turnaround in the history of cricket; These are just some of Dravid's numbers that are inscribed in gold in the annals of Indian cricket.

The three C's
'The Wall' at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, built as a tribute to one of Karnataka's famous cricket sons, is flashing the number '12063' - his aggregate Test runs, a proof of how far Dravid has come in the period. 'Commitment, Consistency, Class' is inscribed in big letters at the top corner of 'The Wall'.

Former teammate Javagal Srinath, sums up the meaning of the three qualities with a fine example.

"During the 1996-97 tour of South Africa, Rahul got a call that his father had to undergo a bypass surgery. It's tough to imagine what he was going through in that situation. We could make out that he was very disturbed but the way he separated personal turmoil from responsibility was amazing. He came out and played an extraordinary innings, hitting Allan Donald all over the park at the Wanderers, Johannesburg. Good news or bad news, he is able to shut out completely from the world. The ability to channel all that energy and focus on the thing you love is what makes Dravid so special," says Srinath.

"He's been brilliant when it comes to mind over body," the former India pacer says.

"Players like Rahul and Sachin Tendulkar, even if they are 45 and retired, you bring them back to the game and they will score hundreds. That's the mastery they have over their art."

Srinath feels the key to Dravid's success has his self-critical approach.

"Thinking hard about the game and being hard on oneself, these two qualities differentiate Rahul from the others. He is very honest, and will always assess himself fairly; he doesn't wait for somebody else to tell him what he needs to do," he says.

Man in control
Former India captain Anil Kumble feels Dravid's consistency over such a prolonged period is unparalleled.

"He has always been the same. I first saw him during an U-15 camp, during my U-17 days. Pretty soon he broke into the Ranji team and made an immediate impact. I don't think any other cricketer has been as consistent for Karnataka and India. From the moment he walks in to bat you know things are under control. That is the feeling I got the first time I saw him and I still get that feeling today," says Kumble.

"I remember the first time he walked in to bat at Lord's. He was quite nervous, though he didn't show it on the field. He was disappointed that he didn't get a hundred. He has another opportunity and hopefully his dream will be realised," Kumble concludes.

Prophetically? Watch this space.