The lone ranger
Amidst the ruins of the England tour, Rahul Dravid stood tall to give India something to cheer about. Sanjjeev Karan Samyal gets close and personal with the man. Man of the hour in England | Man for all spots | Defining one-day knocksindia Updated: Sep 18, 2011 00:57 IST
As India sift through the ruins of the English summer, there will be one man who can hold his head high. In conditions where his teammates wilted, Rahul Dravid single-handedly took on the might of the England bowlers. Hindustan Times caught up with the man who fought valiantly and enhanced his reputation as one of Indian cricket's great warriors.
It was not an easy period; it is never easy not to score runs, especially after the kind of successes I had in the early part of the decade. That is part of life, part of learning. Definitely there were stages when I doubted myself, but I never stopped being positive; never lost the joy and enjoyment in batting, that never went away, luckily for me. Even though the time was tough and runs were not coming as I would have liked them to, the joy I got from batting carried me through.
From that perspective, what are your thoughts at the end of the series?
It's nice to be able go through that period and then come and have something like this. I know I am closer to the end of my career than the beginning, and to have a series like this, from a personal point of view it is nice. It was disappointing, it will always remain that despite my doing well we lost the series. It is a bitter-sweet feeling. But personally there is satisfaction that this is a good attack and I got some runs.
Sometimes you are not only playing for yourself but for people who support you, people who get behind you; and to have a series like this, in some ways for me it is nice we have had something to celebrate after going through some tough times.
How was it to finally get the Lord's hundred?
I had missed out when I first came to Lord's in 1996, my first Test there. I had been on two more visits and never got a hundred there. While it would not have been the end of the world if I had not scored a hundred there, it is very nice in terms of the history and tradition and everything associated with that ground.
So it is nice to get your name on the honours board there. Also, I was excited because I thought it was quite a nice hundred in some difficult conditions and against a quality bowling attack.
During that short sparkling partnership with Tendulkar in the first innings at Lord's, the summer promised a lot...
Yes, it was one of the few times it happened in the series. To be honest, it was a tough series from a batsman's perspective. They had three good fast bowlers and a quality spinner. The ball swung, and they had a quality attack, bowled well and made us work hard for runs.
How was the Trent Bridge hundred different from Lord's?
In Trent Bridge we were setting up the game. We lost a wicket off the first ball and then Laxman and I batted through a very difficult period on the first evening and then set up a base and a partnership.
The batting conditions were probably better than some of the other places. The hundred there was probably more fluent than at Lord's. There was a bit of pace and bounce in the wicket and you could play the backfoot shots. It set the game up, and at one stage when Yuvraj and I were batting, it looked like we could get a bigger lead than we did. Then Stuart Broad took a hattrick and our tail collapsed. That was disappointing, the way we finished in the end.
In terms of control, was the Oval hundred the best?
Yes, in terms of fluency and carrying my bat through under pressure, it was my best hundred. Leading into the Test, I really felt good about my batting. I just felt in control right from the start, even my rate of scoring was probably the best. It was also a good wicket. Maybe it was also the culmination of the fact that I had batted so well through the series and my confidence was high.
You have faced some great attacks, from Curtly Ambrose's West Indies to Glenn McGrath. How tough was facing Anderson, Broad, Bresnan?
It is not right to compare it to the Australian attack. The attack of McGrath, (Jason) Gillespie, (Brett) Lee and Shane Warne was probably the best I played against. That's not to say these guys can't become that. Potentially, they are a very good attack, they have got everything covered. They have got three-four fast bowlers, bench strength, and a quality spinner. From that point of view, they can be a very good attack. But I still think the Australian attack I played was the best.
You were playing beautifully at Edgbaston till you got that ball from Bresnan.
It was not easy batting conditions on the first morning at Edgbaston. In England you have to accept that there are going to be times when you are going to get a good ball. You have got to try and make it count when you can. I got a good ball in Edgbaston, and even in the second innings at Trent Bridge I got a pretty good one. That happens, especially when you are playing against a hard, new ball.
Everyone is stunned by the series result. How do you analyse this debacle?
We were outclassed by a team who were much better prepared and were much better in these conditions. They had a bowling attack which was very good in these conditions, they have played some outstanding cricket over the last few years and they were ready.
There are lessons for us from this defeat. It is not the end of the world to lose cricket matches. That's life. It is sport, but it will be great if we can turn this around from here and learn the lessons from this defeat. We need to realise we got to have to prepare better and be more ready when we come and play in these conditions.
You had a similar experience in Australia in 1999-2000, and many say it sowed the seeds for the future success of the team, ultimately reaching No 1?
In some ways there were lessons to be learnt from 1999, there was the pain of that defeat. But we will only be able to look at the future and say whether this was the turning point and whether we learnt from this and moved forward. We learnt some lessons from 1999, and we improved in the decade after that. And we had some fantastic results.
Other than Australia, we were the best travelling team. We have won Tests in every country in the last decade, so we made a lot of improvements after the defeat in '99. Who knows, this just could be the wake-up call we needed, but we need to make it count.
Most great players are particular about how they would like to end their careers. What's your idea of a perfect finish?
You never get a chance to choose how you make your debut and you never get a chance to choose how you will finish. It's life. You've got to just play the sport and enjoy and hope things work out well. If you finish well, it's great; if you don't, that's life as well. I don't believe you judge careers, what people have done for 15-20 years, based on one or two matches or ten matches at the end. It is a lifetime of the body of work that goes into the success.
It is brilliant to finish nicely, it is nice to finish nicely, but it may happen, may not happen and that's life. That's never been my goal, to try and finish in a particular way.
I still felt I had some good cricket left in me, that's why I continued. It was not a question of proving anything to anybody. It was just nice for me to reinforce the support that I have received from the people. That is what this series meant to me.