Sourav Ganguly was doing laps of the ground, jogging alongside Paddy Upton, the trainer. VVS Laxman had just made his way out to the middle with resistance ropes to do some stretching. Sachin Tendulkar was throwing down balls to the last of the batsmen having nets and Anil Kumble was trying to get the session wrapped up, as the sun set on the Ferozeshah Kotla, a ground where India have not lost a Test in nearly 21 years. Just when you wondered where the last of the seniors was, Rahul Dravid arrived to meet the press. No, he did not make any announcements about a retirement plan.
With Diwali around the corner, and a 1-0 lead, the Indian contingent was in high spirits three days before they set out to seal the series. There has been plenty of talk about how India's fast bowlers have unlocked the key to reverse swinging the ball early but Dravid, typically, played it down.
“Sometimes we can complicate things a bit too much. We talk about this preparation and that, this video analysis and that, this reverse swing and that … we look at a lot of things outside the cricket field and think they make a huge impact on what happens on the field. Realistically we have just batted, bowled and fielded much better than them,” said Dravid. “At the end of the day, it's what you do between those 22 yards that's important.”
But Dravid did concede that there was something to the success of the fast bowlers. “Zaheer is hitting right areas consistently. His rhythm is fantastic. The same could be true of Ishant. When I stood in the slips to (Javagal) Srinath I always spoke to him about his rhythm," explained Dravid. "I feel the same with Zak and Ishant. Standing at slip you just sense it from the way they run in, the approach to the crease and the way they hit the crease."
But even with the team on a high, Dravid has not played one of his signature big knocks in this series. He has looked positive, struck the ball well, and got solid starts, but the big score has eluded. “It has been a bit disappointing. I thought I've batted well in this series. Even in Bangalore, in the first innings, I got a 50. On a very good wicket in Mohali I couldn't convert. Generally I know that when I'm batting well there are some runs around the corner."
With all the other batsmen coming into their own quite nicely, the one headache Australia could do without is Dravid slipping into big-scoring mode at No. 3. Australia have spread fields and adopted a semi-defensive approach to stem the flow of runs, but this has not succeeded so far.
“In this series my strike rate (runs per ball) has been better than in 2004 (against Australia where the same tactics were used). If fields are spread out sometimes good shots get you only one run. But this just means you have to bat longer to get your runs. Someone like me might have to bat an extra hour to get a big score. It's something I've done in the past. You just have to be a bit more patient."
Patience at the batting crease is one thing. But you can be sure this team is in a hurry to wrap the series up at the earliest opportunity.