Rahul Dravid, a gentleman-cricketer to the core (Profile)

March 9th, 2012 - 4:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Sachin Tendulkar Bangalore, March 9 (IANS) Rahul Dravid never believed in half measures. He tried to be perfect in everything he did both on and off the field. For 16 years, he played international cricket and outside of it in all forms of the game with dignity and humility. A gentleman-cricketer to the core.

Spotted by coach Keki Tarapore, whose list of trainees include practically all the great Karnataka players who played for India, Dravid’s name would be right up there if Keki decides to rank them all.

Dravid formed the ‘Fab Four’ of Indian batting with Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman. Tendulkar described him as the perfectionist who showed patience and willingness to build big knocks.

Tendulkar’s cricketing tribute to him is apt: “Rahul has a excellent technique and he is someone who occupied crease for a long time and concentrated extremely well.”

The 39-year-old Bangalore-based Maharashtrian ended his One-Day career during last summer’s England tour, and now he chose to retire from all forms of international cricket after a none-too-happy series in Australia.

Dravid, the only Indian cricketer to score a century in all Test playing nations, is a rare persona. Well read, his interests are varied and different from his teammates. Not for him the entertainment spots. In his spare time, he is invariably found in bookshops or discussing environmental subjects or wildlife. One can discuss with him any subject under the sun.

Dravid, a team man to the core, agreed to play the ODI series in England even though the selectors had not thought of him in the last two years. Someone who has amassed 10,820 runs in 343 ODIs, played just to add some stability in the middle-order of an injury-hit Indian batting after making it clear that he would be retiring from limited-overs cricket at the end of the series. He had 12 ODI centuries and scored runs at an average of 39.16.

He is going out of Test arena as the second highest run-getter in the world (13,288 runs) after his teammate, the legendary Sachin Tendulkar. Dravid has 36 Test centuries and his runs came at an average of 52.31. He was always India’s saviour overseas and 21 of those 36 centuries were scored on foreign soil.

But he couldn’t repeat his magic in the Test series in Australia. The former India captain has realised that 194 runs in eight innings and getting bowled out in six of them Down Under was hint enough for him retire, not wanting to remind the fickle cricket pundits and fans his performance in England.

In England series, a banner at The Oval read: “England vs. The Wall” - that pretty much summed up what the tour for the Indian team was. He was by far the best batsman, aggregating 461 runs at an average of 76.83, which accounted for 23 percent for the Indian team’s runs. In the first innings, he got 388 runs at an average of 184 that accounted for India’s 35 percent runs.

Dravid’s three of the last four Test centuries came in a losing cause on the tour, but his three centuries were all about immense pride and dignity. Two of them came as a stand-in opener, a role that he never relished.

England always was a special place for Dravid, who made his Test debut there along with his former captain Sourav Ganguly in the summer of 1996 at the Lord’s. While Ganguly went on to score memorable century on debut, Dravid, who came in to bat at No.7, fell short by five runs.

It took another six months to score his maiden Test century (148) against South Africa at Johannesburg in January 1997 and since then there has been no looking back.

Most of his big knocks either won the Tests or saved them for India. He himself listed Thursday quite a few, including that memorable 180 in a monumental partnership with Laxman (281) at the Eden Gardens that fashioned one of India’s greatest Test wins, against Australia in 2001. That win proved to be the cornerstone for India’s ascent in international cricket, culminating in their becoming World’s No.1 team.

Considered a slow starter in ODIs, Dravid emerged as one of the finest finishers. He went on to become the highest run-getter in the 1999 World Cup in England with 461 runs.

Dravid also kept wickets when the team needed. In the words of Ganguly, “Rahul has had a checquered One-Day career and it took a new turn once he decided to keep wicket in 2002. His decision was absolutely for the team as it helped reorganise the middle order and add more depth to it.”

It later helped the team during the 2003 World Cup, when India came close to becoming the world champions for the second time, though they were outplayed by Australia in the final.

Though it took another eight years for India to win the World Cup a second time, Dravid was missing. He led the team in the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, where India made a shocking first-round exit. By the time India got ready to host the World Cup at home, Dravid was no longer a serious One-Day player. That only made him greater Test cricketer.

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