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Dravid determined to turn out for India

Rahul Dravid has been advised to skip the first Test but he seems to opt against it and play for his team.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2006 18:21 IST

The plaster is still on but Rahul Dravid is unshakeable in his belief that he would turn out for India in the first cricket Test against South Africa starting at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Friday.

Dravid, since he was diagnosed with a chipped right middle finger in Cape Town on November 27, has been medically advised to skip the first Test but the Indian skipper seems to have opted against it and play for his team.

He was back in the nets within 10 days and a gradual hitting of soft balls has progressed to the point where he is pitting himself against the bowling machine in real-time speed.

He has once again sought medical opinion on the progress of his finger and could be seen using ice to hold off swelling, if any. Still, the presence of plaster is a reminder that Dravid could be rushing up his return.

For a man who has a history of chipped, broken or bruised fingers -- he once confided in the 90s that hardly a series passed without him having the misfortune of attending to his fingers -- Dravid is actually revisiting his nightmares.

Usually such is the fate of men who like to get behind the line of the ball and who field at slips and forward short legs -- his record 146 Test catches testify that he has not done too bad a job either.

One such attempt though to catch Shaun Pollock at Cape Town last month has rendered him hors de combat and India, without its best batsman and captain at the steering ship, have been tossed into the high sea of uncertainty.

Dravid's record reflect a man who has been one of India's three best batsmen ever -- 9049 runs from 104 Tests at 58.76 with 23 centuries and 46 half centuries.

He averages 65.28 for 5288 runs from 57 Tests abroad and in South Africa it reads 379 runs from five Tests at 42.11, clearly indicating how anxious India are to see him lead the unit at the Wanderers.

No doubt South African quicks would probe if Dravid carries any scar of his injury into the first Test. On a fast and bouncy Wanderers pitch, Dravid would be subjected to rearing deliveries aimed at his head and fingers but the stylish Bangalorean has worked the challenges out.

"I know I have been out of practice for sometime but I have batted here in the past and know the conditions well so I should be ready," Dravid had commented while weighing the pros and cons of risking his still-soft injury.

"The only place I would shift in the centre would be in the slips but fortunately Sachin (Tendulkar) has been catching well recently so it would be taken care of."

Dravid is walking onto a dangerous terrain and opening himself to a risk which could have far-reaching consequences. The Indian team is without its regular deputy with Virender Sehwag being replaced as vice-captain by VVS Laxman.

The Test series against South Africa and World Cup next year cannot be wished away. But Dravid, not for nothing, has been a man of action, and such merits have never been more sorely needed than at this hour.

First Published: Dec 13, 2006 18:21 IST