On his 39th birthday on Wednesday, Rahul Dravid’s mind wasn’t on blowing out the candles on his cake; rather it was struck on the last ball of the 78th over of India’s first innings at the WACA Ground in Perth four years ago.
He was asked about the pitch for that match, where India recorded a historic first ever win at the venue, but his memory was acting its age. “It’s hard to remember how the wicket was four years back,” said Dravid.When asked about his near hundred at the venue four years back, and you’d be fooled into believing that it was four days ago, and not four years. "I was really disappointed to play the shot I did on 93. It still gives me nightmares sometimes," he said.
After blunting a four-pronged Australian pace attack with a straight bat, Dravid was nearing a ton when he played an uncharacteristic cross-batted swipe that found a leading edge and was gobbled up at point. After keeping Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Stuart Clark and Shaun Tait at bay, he perished to the innocuous off-spinners of Andrew Symonds. No wonder, that shot is still giving the most technically sound batsman of his generation nightmares.
Young in spirit
Having turned 39 on the day, Dravid was practicing like someone half his age. He was the first man to enter the nets. Even while others were still in the players’ room at the Lillie-Marsh Stand here — eating pre-practice nutritional meals, lacing up their spikes, drinking health drinks — Dravid was batting in the nets.
Having missed out on a ton at the bounciest pitch in the world, it was evident Dravid wanted to put the “nightmares” to rest. Getting a century will help, a win ever more so.
“I think it’s an exciting challenge. If you do well here in these conditions, like we did last time around, it gives you a great amount of thrill and satisfaction. That’s what you want to do. You want to come outside the country and play in conditions like these. And do well. You know that’s what you're going to be judged upon. It's like an Australian team coming and playing on a rank turner in India — and winning a Test match.”
All’s not lost
It wasn’t all serious work though. He found time to crack a few jokes. Sample this. When asked of the 100% winning record at the WACA, he chortled, “We should have quit when we were ahead.”
When asked where the bonding between the senior members in the squad and the juniors took place, he said, with great comic timing, “There are lot of conversations that happen in the dressing room, over dinner and even when we go go-karting.”
While answering the last question in the press conference, he’d praised the Australian pacers’ line and length. Just as he was getting up to go back to the nets, he joked, “Hopefully, they’ll bowl a few long hops in the Test.”