England v India, 2nd npower Test, Trent Bridge, 2nd day July 30, 2011

A Dravid day at Trent Bridge

In the toughest conditions of the series so far, he has come through as the toughest batsman on both sides

The grey skies at the start of the Nottingham Test had slotted first day into what English cricket folk call a "bowling day"; as the clouds parted on Saturday and sunlight flowed over Trent Bridge, naturally it was the advent of that other phenomenon: "batting day."

For this Test match, surely, they needn't have bothered with the descriptives. In terms of batsmanship, the first two days of the Trent Bridge Test have both just been, quite simply, Dravid Days.

The wicket at Trent Bridge is known for its propensity to swing. The theories behind that phenomenon include the Duke's ball, the new stands built at the ground, the airflow around them, the neighbouring river Trent, the sky, the clouds, the weather, everything and nothing. Wherever the swing came from, Rahul Dravid's response to it, and his second Test century of the tour, came from skill, memory and cussedness.

In the toughest conditions of the series so far, Dravid has come through as the toughest batsman in either side. In passages of play when the bowling has been unrelenting and spells in which the ball has darted, jagged, leapt and thrown flying kisses at the bat's edge, Dravid has been instinct and calculation in perfect sync.

With this 34th century, he has now drawn level with Sunil Gavaskar and Brian Lara, to go with his No. 2 spot on the list of all-time Test run-scorers. If there ever was a poll conducted to identify the most hardy and considerate of international batsmen of this age, Dravid has a very good chance of topping it. In this series already, he has done whatever he is capable of: opened, batted at No. 3, kept wickets, fielded at slips - and he will say with his droll humour, also dropped a few. Asked a question about his ability to bowl after his century, he laughed and said, "If I bowl, my shoulder will come out off my back."

On this tour of England, it is a shoulder his team has leaned heavily upon. Of all the India batsmen, he has adjusted the quickest in England, looked the most composed and scored the most heavily. India still find themselves gasping because he has had very little company. He was out in an outrageously flashy manner, a wild, short-game cut off Tim Bresnan, as out of place in his innings as pink hot pants would be at an awards presentation. Given that his partners had been unpredictable in the last 10 minutes, and four wickets had fallen for six runs, it was hard to blame him for going for broke.

It is worth remembering that his first-innings century at Lord's had been rendered paltry because of a similar effort from the rest. So maybe, if Dravid is seen attempting reverse hits or Dilscoops at The Oval, we'll know how the Indian batting has gone in the rest of the Test matches. After Harbhajan Singh was out, he said he wanted to go for the runs, the extra 20-25 runs that could all add up at the end. Essentially, Dravid wanted to borrow from Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann's ninth-wicket approach on Friday. "I thought let me do what they did and the first one I tried went into third man's hands ... that's just Test cricket, it happens."

Dravid's second century of the tour had begun with a bruising hour of play on Friday evening. He was hit on his wrist, jammed in the fingers, worked out, worked over. He had kept batting through two more sessions, sometimes hobbling, sometimes cramping but always pushing forward. He was hit in the wrist again this morning, and after the initial spasm, his hand lost sensation for a few overs. What Dravid never lost was the purpose of what he had to do: bat one ball at a time.

In his epic innings - and he's one of the few who has produced regular epics as against memorable stanzas - Dravid can often bat like a clock that ticks over reliably. Tap. Single. Back again. Forward. Defend. Dot ball. Beaten. Dot ball. Forget. Off stump. Leave. Dot ball. Late. Nudge. Two. Soft hands. Kill. Dot ball. Width. Cut. Four. Ball after ball, over after over. The craftsmanship does not lie on the surface. Dravid's batting is not the stylish face of the clock, it's the moving parts inside. He called Nottingham one of his better hundreds because of the "hard-working, fighting" aspects of it that he said he "really enjoyed". He said the conditions in Headingley back in 2002, when India batted first on a green track to put up a total that set up victory, were tougher, but the bowling in 2011 was far more demanding and precise.

He emerged with VVS Laxman on a bright morning and within three overs they cracked four consecutive boundaries. Two each, off rare lapses from Anderson and Broad, that erased the dread that had built up last evening among the small but vociferous Indian fans at the ground.

The partnership hummed along like it always has, at varying paces. The two men farmed the attack cleverly, Dravid facing Broad and Laxman against Anderson, with few singles, several twos and the quick boundary at a juicy sighter. Laxman melted the conditions - driving, pulling and cutting savagely to score his second half-century of the series. At the other end, Dravid was in his own bubble of concentration, found often at the non-striker's end shadow-practising the leave as much as he did the forward defence. Andrew Strauss's team believes it's all the leaving from Dravid that the England line-up should take a cue from when they bat on Sunday.

Broad later said Dravid's wicket, off Bresnan, had been his favourite in a day when they fell in a clatter and had included his stunning hat-trick. "He [Dravid] has been so hard to bowl at in this series." Dravid's game is based on technical classicism and attached to it is the awareness of how valuable a wicket can be. Unlike items on the English retail market right now, Dravid's wicket in this series is not going to be on discount sale.

In Nottingham, there was measured driving, his runs earned by tucking balls away off the pads, countering the swing by playing the ball late and easing them through to third man. Closer to his century, the new ball nearing, Dravid saw the slower bowlers and the sun come on, and decided to show off the rest of his repertoire of shots: a back-foot cover drive, a glide through slips, and Swann, in particular, was taken apart, going for 42 in 37 balls to Dravid.

After more than six hours of batting against the swinging, darting ball, Dravid put all the acclaim in perspective. "I played and missed a lot in this game. I could have nicked the first one and people would have said he's not leaving well. When you get beaten you have to fight back. You have to say, 'As long as I'm here, I'm going to make it count,' and not try to do something silly."

If Dravid's batting this series was to be set to music, it could possibly be to Elgar, in both its pomp and circumstance. This is his last tour of England, a country where he has always enjoyed playing his cricket; he has scored five centuries (average 73.18) here and soaked in its best traditions. His grim, beautiful fights in these two Tests for India have also carried with them gratitude for the grounds he is playing on.

In Nottingham as he tried to push his team ahead in the contest run by run, inch by inch, he was also giving the crowd his farewell masterpiece. Dismissed in an unDravid-esque manner, he walked back through stretching shadows and the golden light of a dipping sun. Having shaken off his own annoyance at his dismissal, he raised his bat to all sections of Trent Bridge as he neared the gate. Then he disappeared up the steps into a pavilion that is 125 years old, with an honours board that will have his name up a second time. When Rahul Dravid leaves Nottingham, he will leave a part of his best self here.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Srinivas on August 2, 2011, 23:38 GMT

    @zxaar, "All you are worried is why Sachin did not score those 20 runs". You got me wrong. That's not what I'm all worried about. He didn't TRY to score. He may or may not succeed in scoring those 20+ runs. No problem even if he doesn't succeed in getting those 20+ runs. He didn't go down FIGHTING. He preferred to go down by HIDING. That was a horrible feeling I got in the stomach when I watched him do that. That's my grouse. Did Dravid succeed in upping the ante at Trent Bridge in the first inning? NO. It was like all the ill-luck fell on India that the players started to fold and then a well connected upper cut from Dravid had to exactly find the fielder. That's everything going against India all of a sudden as a script. Did Dravid succeed in his endeavour? NO. Did he try? YES. Read the reasons given by Dravid for going for aerial play all of a sudden, "I thought let me do what they did and the first one I tried went into third man's hands". He could have taken a single instead.

  • Srinivas on August 2, 2011, 23:13 GMT

    @zxaar, I watched that match against SA. It was Sachin who called for a tight single from the non-striker's end on the 5th ball. Go figure. And even IF the 11th batsman calls for a single towards the end of the over from the striker's end, specialist batsmen deny it from the non-striker's end to keep strike. Not the case with Sachin though. Why? And the 11th batsman we are talking about here is Jaidev Unadkat, a new kid who isn't even a proven tailender like Ishant. Go read the commentary or watch the footage. The kid was visibly shaken by Steyn and Morkel and you want me to think that the new kid asked Sachin that he wants to bat? Good for you. Yes Dravid, VVS, Gambhir anybody could score those 20+. But, they are gone. You can't change that. And Sachin's actions were tasteless. A loss by fighting gallantly is as good as a win. Bowing out timidly with a personal record against your name is worthless.

  • arjun on August 1, 2011, 22:40 GMT

    @Dravid_Gravitas , It was the 11th batsman who asked Tendulkar that he wants to bat and NOT to be shielded. What makes you so sure that this is not the case. Calling other blind does not make you right. If Dravid showed more responsiblity we would not be facing innings defeat. But you are okey with Dravid not performing. All you are worried is why Tendulkar did not score those 20 run.

  • Srinivas on August 1, 2011, 20:34 GMT

    @zxaar, just another clarification. Sachin is no ordinary batsman and so is Dravid. I'm no Sachin fantic to take such cheap potshots at other players. On the other hand look at how Sachin fanatics call Dravid - dozen a dime player, ordinary rescue player, players like him will come every now and then, so called wall, snail, turtle, plays slow because he is selfish etc etc....I take pleasure in praising every foreign player as well if they play well because I enjoy cricket and it doesn't have to come from the willow of Dravid alone. Try as hard as you may all to paint Dravid as selfish, now that the true colors of your paper 'god' are out in the open. Nice Spin. When you can't show a paper 'god' in good light, throw mud on the most honest cricketer that India has ever produced. Good for you all. My main grouse against Sachin - he is selfish and that makes him timid. He should come out of it and try to play honestly like Dravid. It's hard. But nothing wrong in trying to play like Dravid.

  • Srinivas on August 1, 2011, 20:11 GMT

    @Ganchu, that timid Sachin can't even come at no.3 let alone opening. VVS had to be airlifted and placed in front of him as no.3. But Sachin cried hoarse and ran to the media when he was asked not to open in ODIs. Simple, he doesn't want to risk his average and wicket under testing conditions. Our hopeless captain doesn't have the guts to move this 'elephant'. See how much Indian team will suffer because of Sachin and his selfishness. Why am I not surprised! If Dravid is gone, Team India has to lose. Nobody saves India. The result will be a foregone conclusion. So, no pressure whatsoever and Sachin scores a century. Too bad, he is not even able to score inconsequential centuries now. He should retire and let an honest younster like Pujara play in his place. Look at his pathetic strike-rate in this series. Pujara can play at a much better strike-rate ;). Wasn't strike-rate the basis for rabid Sachin fanatics to keep dissing Dravid without understanding Dravid's role in the team?

  • Srinivas on August 1, 2011, 18:14 GMT

    @zxaar, nobody is a nut to ask Sachin to bat the whole day. He didn't show any intent to save innings defeat by scoring those 20+ odd runs on the final day. No problem even if he couldn't succeed. He didn't show any intent. That's the whole point. You Sachin fanatics are blind. Don't ask me to be blind.

  • Ganesh on August 1, 2011, 17:33 GMT

    Now where is Tendulakar ? By taking rest from west Indies what he has acheived ? He never comes to the rescue of india.It is a selfless act by Dravid to takes the gloves from Dhoni and also to open the innings. Why can't Tendulakar open the innings in test matches.If he can open in One day format then why not in test ?

  • arjun on August 1, 2011, 9:04 GMT

    @Dravid_Gravitas , so the india's so called greatest batsman Dravid can not even score 10-20 runs in SA and you are asking so called ordinary batsman Tendulkar to bat whole 5th day with #11 batsman. That too when SA has to bat again. These dravid fanatics are the most unreasonable fans on face of earth.

  • Sukumar on August 1, 2011, 7:20 GMT

    Dravid once again proves he is the wall. His partnerships with Laxman and Yuvi had been good and the most needed. Once Yuvi got out at 267... Indian collapse started and ended thier innings at 288. Dhoni should have given more support to dravid by staying in crease for another 10-20 overs which would have made India score 350+ and stay on top and that would have made the real diff by adding pressure on England...

  • Dummy4 on August 1, 2011, 7:13 GMT

    Dravid i like second Vishwanath, who always stood between collapse and India. But our media is so biased, Sachin's failure to score Century at Lords was more important for them than Dravid's scoring it. See headings of some newspapers next day. Will media stop highlighting certain achievements and ignoring certain achievements and be fair.

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