Rahul Dravid perfects a craft which, with each passing day, is becoming extinct, at least in India. His style of batting and the method of accumulating runs are an antithesis of the times we live in, where instant gratification is given precedence over lingering pleasure. He belongs to that traditional school of cricket, which relies on technique and inexhaustible patience to master the difficult challenges created by the swinging, bouncing and spinning ball.
There has been no better batsman in India's history who has made a virtue of adversity and in the process created a work ethic which has helped his team not just save matches, but more often than not, win them.
Unlike his great contemporaries in the team, he does not always charm you with strokes of grace and beauty, like Laxman and nor does he make you gape in awe at the majesty and longevity of a Tendulkar.
He is there, always there, like a dutiful servant, who has, without complaining served you so well that you take his contribution for granted. It is rare to find him being lauded and feted, like the others, when he scores, but very common to raise doubts when he fails.
The bad times
He spent the last two years of his career struggling to rise to the heights expected of him and unable to resist the temptation of courting disaster. Advancing age slows down the reflexes of the best and the mind wanders a bit, making him appear so vulnerable and fragile, that demands of retirement appear justified.
Before West Indies happened and now England, Dravid was in the precarious situation of having to decide what his future priorities were. That dreaded question must have troubled his mind: should he or should he not quit? That the answer must have been a firm no becomes obvious in the manner in which he batted, first in the West Indies and now in England.
This English attack, that too in their own conditions, is perhaps among the most threatening in the recent history of the game. To have first negated them when they were at their most menacing and then having mastered them, that too when no one around him could put bat to the ball, will remain one of the greatest batting feats of all time, comparable to the best - from the Bradman era to the present, which includes Tendulkar as well.
That these masterly lessons in the art of batting have come at a time when he was grappling with many prickly questions put his resolve, physical prowess and mental strength on a pedestal not scaled by any Indian player and that includes Sunil Gavaskar as well.
Dravid's square-cutting is a stroke moulded in perfection and his drive, which he plays so late that you wonder how he avoids nicking it, were all on display while the rest of the Indian team was embarrassing itself. And the one stroke, getting rarer and rarer these days - the on-drive - was often unleashed despite the ball doing so much, that one marvelled at the skill of the batsman.
It is time to take his name in the same breath as that of Tendulkar. I would go one step ahead and say that if a player has to be judged by the adverse conditions in which he has succeeded and scored runs, Dravid should be acknowledged as the greatest Test batsman India has ever produced.