Dravid returns to where it all began
Rahul Dravid may as well confess he feels at home at Lord's. The ground operates on the same characteristics that have defined Dravid's career: discipline, order, balance, elegance, simplicity and respect.
He is an honorary MCC member and part of the MCC's world cricket committee and has been making an annual visit to NW8 since 2008. He intimately knows the walls and the portraits in the pavilion that houses the committee room and the famous Long Room.
So when Dravid says Lord's is a "very special" place for him, believe it. The respect is mutual. Dravid, who will become the first active member of the world cricket committee to play a Test at Lord's on Thursday, was even allowed today to enter the inner sanctum of the pavilion in the Indian team's bright blue tracksuit.
In the past, this would have been an unpardonable act at the 224-year-old MCC, long known for its insular and closed attitude; a place where you cannot enter without wearing a jacket and tie. It was an exceptional allowance granted to Dravid.
"It always brings back some special memories. I think this place is personally very special for me," Dravid said, when asked about his relationship with Lord's, the ground of his debut. The ground where he fell five runs short of a maiden century in his very first innings. He has only made 215 runs in the three matches he has played there but the hunger that was evident on June 20, 1996 hasn't diminished one bit. The appetite for runs is still the same.
"To start your Test career, at this venue 15 years ago was indeed very special for me. And coming back here, in some strange way you always feel at home. You feel that this is the place for cricket. This is the place that truly understands cricket, and history and tradition of the game," said Dravid, who along with Sachin Tendulkar, is the only member of the current team to play at Lord's in the 1990s.
Our first experience at anything, regardless of the outcome, invariably becomes the inerasable reference point of our lives. For Dravid, the third day of the second Test 15 years ago is that point. "It meant a lot to me. I had played five years of first-class cricket to break into the Indian team. I'd scored a lot of runs in domestic cricket and got an opportunity to come on the tour of England."
"At the start to series I wouldn't have given myself very good odds to even play with the kind of team that we had," he said. "There were a few injuries and I was lucky to get the opportunity and I knew that probably it would be the only one. Otherwise I would have to go back to domestic cricket and start the cycle all over again, scoring runs. But in India everyone scores a lot of runs in domestic cricket and sometimes it is very tough to break in. I had waited five years so I knew the significance and importance of it. So I was lucky. It was great for me, it meant so much. I never expected it to lead to anything. I never expected to be here 15 years later talking about it. Absolutely not."
Usually a reticent gent, and a bit stiff in front of the media, it was interesting to see Dravid open up about his insecurity as a youngster. But it is a nice example for today's youth like Abhinav Mukund and Suresh Raina in this squad and Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma and Murali Vijay back in India. Most of them are on the same wobbling platform that Dravid stood on in 1996.
"I remember when I was 50 not out at the end of the day and I was walking back to the hotel with [Javagal] Srinath and I knew somehow that this was probably a very significant innings. I knew I had some more breathing space, I got a few more Test matches at least. It gave me a lot of confidence scoring 95 here and 80 at Trent Bridge. It gave me a lot of confidence for me as a player and as a person, too."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo