India v New Zealand, 1st Test, Ahmedabad, 1st day November 4, 2010

Determined Dravid overcomes the pressure

ESPNcricinfo staff
Amid pressure to deliver and intense scrutiny over his performance, Dravid's century was a defining innings in more ways than one

These are not easy times to be Rahul Dravid. In his previous innings, on home soil in Bangalore, he walked out to replace the man who many see as his eventual successor. Cheteshwar Pujara had batted with tremendous poise and fluency for 72 and the cheers for Dravid mingled with the applause for a future star. Murali Vijay, who made a hundred in the first innings of that game, had also shown himself to be someone capable of filling any breach in the top three.

Every time Dravid fails from here on, there will be clarion calls for youth. Even when he succeeds, there will be those who say that his presence at No.3 isn't beneficial for the long-term health of Indian cricket. In a country where those in their late 20s like Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif are considered past it, what chance does a soon-to-be-38-year-old have?

This century, his 30th, won't feature in the highlights reels of his career. The opposition wasn't the most taxing and the pitch, though two-paced, was little more than benign. But for a man who has struggled since two wonderful stroke-filled hundreds against Sri Lanka at the end of last year, this was a defining innings in more ways than one.

In his previous Ahmedabad appearance, he had taken India from 32 for 4 to over 400 with a 177 that was as full of intent as any innings he had ever played. This was a very different knock. With Sehwag playing as is his wont, even on a pitch where the ball didn't come on as you'd expect on the opening day of a game, he was becalmed for long periods early on. He faced 105 balls for his first 17 runs, and was fortunate when Gareth Hopkins failed to hold on to a bottom edge off Jesse Ryder when he had just 28.

But in the hour before tea, something changed. The feet started to move more decisively, and the strokes that had previously found the inner ring started to streak away through the gaps. In a passage of play where India scored 69 runs, Dravid made 44 of them. By the time the bat was raised for the hundred that took him past the greatest No.3 of them all, Sir Donald Bradman, he had made 83 from just 111 deliveries. With Sehwag slowing down as a result of a slight jarring of the knee, it was just what India needed to keep the pressure on.

Dravid would be the first to admit that he isn't as prolific as he once was. But leaving aside the statistical anomaly that was Bradman, the law of diminishing returns has affected the greatest of No.3s. Being the pivot of the batting order comes with its own pressures, and unlike those who bat lower down the order, there's no hiding from the dangers of the new ball.

Viv Richards averaged 55.18 with 15 centuries after his first 60 Tests. In his next 61, he made nine more hundreds, but the average dipped to 50.23. Ricky Ponting has suffered similarly. When Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath brought the curtain down on a golden generation with a 5-0 Ashes whitewash in Sydney, Ponting was averaging 59.29 with 33 hundreds. In 38 games since, he has made six centuries, but the mean has dipped to 54.68.

In Dravid's case, he ended the tour of the Caribbean in 2006 with two masterful half-centuries at Sabina Park, on a spiteful pitch where even Brian Lara was made to look ordinary. At that stage, 104 Tests into his career, he averaged 58.75 with 23 hundreds. In 41 matches since then, he has made seven centuries and 13 other scores in excess of 50. But the average is 39.65, largely a result of the failure to play the monumental innings that were once his forte. Only once, at Motera last year, has he gone past 150.

Something about batting with Sehwag brings out the best in him though. In some ways, as bizarre as it may sound, they are birds of a feather. The tempos may be very different but both trust in the method that has brought them so many runs. Sehwag, who has now added 3038 runs with Dravid (average of 63.29) from 50 innings, said as much after the day's play. "Rahul takes his time when he is batting," he said. "He is batting in his own style and I bat the way I want to. It's easier. We never discuss stuff like you should score fast or slow. He bats the way he knows and I bat the way I know."

Even when batting as fluently as he did in Ahmedabad last year, Dravid has never forced the issue with unnecessary innovations or improvisation. In that sense, he and Jacques Kallis remain a last tenuous link to the old ways of Test-match batsmanship.

Another missed catch - again Hopkins, but this time off Jeetan Patel - gave him a reprieve on 92, and there was more than a hint of fatigue about the shot that cost him his wicket with the close of play in sight. The snipers may have been temporarily deprived of ammunition, but yet again the big innings had eluded him.

How much longer can he go on? South Africa lie in wait at the end of the year, the pace and swing of Dale Steyn and the height and hustle of Morne Morkel. More importantly, how do the selectors view Indian cricket's future? If Pujara and Vijay are considered ready, would a tour of the Caribbean, against a team that's been in disarray for years, be a good place to blood them? Will Dravid walk of his own volition?

In some cases, form hasn't always been the prime consideration for moving a player on. Steve Waugh, another with resolve hewn from granite, averaged 76.61 in a final year bookended by Sydney Tests. Yet, with Michael Clarke waiting in the wings, it was decided that he needed to move on. Waugh would have loved another crack at India in India, but it was Adam Gilchrist and Ponting that led Australia as the final frontier was finally surpassed less than a year later.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rohit on November 11, 2010, 11:12 GMT

    like in odis we got the replacement for the 'tortoise' we have few replacements for him in tests too...pujara, kohli, vijay or we have a bowler as we hv a very deep batting now...except 2009, since 2007 he is just a liability on test team...avg very poor in 07, 08, is pointless that viru is attacking on the bowlers from one end and on the other end a batsman is looking for the safety...just pointless and drvd 100 has proved nothing....just the stats...he is not a plyer for a no. 1 team like ind...he is still a struggling plyr of a 4-5 rank team....shud be axed from here too like he was axed from odis since 2007 and team is growing without him...drvd purely dont deserve to be in this team...earlier we hv no rplacements but now he shud take retirement or be axed...!!

  • varun on November 7, 2010, 1:26 GMT

    @cricinfo author and all those guys who were bashing Rahul, Sachin and other Indian cricketers - take a break. Thank God, Indian Team management and the selectors have their heads in right place and doesnt give a hoot to these silly comments and fickle minds of some of the fellow Indian fans and anti Indians...and finally cheers to all those guys who support their Team and players in Good and Bad times!!!

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2010, 16:22 GMT

    Those who say tht Dravid is selfish, hv u forgotten one of the saying of a old Indian cricketer about Dravid "He could even walk on broken glass if team want him to do so"

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2010, 8:26 GMT

    For those who commented about the strike rate of Dravid in his innings, plz check the strike rates of Tendulkar and VVS today. That suggets the pitch and conditions in the early hrs of the game.. Learn to appreciate the class acts.. Keep goin Rahul.. U rock..

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2010, 8:05 GMT

    and it's these contrasting features of each batsmen tht make india one unique teamand the perfect rank 1 team for now........sehwag a superb hitter , gambir gud temperament but can hit the ball well, dravid technically the best defensive batsmen , sachin a true master can play either innings, laxman wristy strokeplayer gels well with anyone , raina a gud prospect and dhoni not bad a batsmen a gud captain , and the bowlers mixture of both experience and youth doin gr8 so as long as each fill their role perfectly we r one unbeatable be proud of it don't attack on guy always .....

  • nishit on November 5, 2010, 6:45 GMT

    taking nothing away from Sehwag ,do u think that was an inning of test .after 100 he was just playing so rash ,3 catches dropeed and 3 catches just fell short .while if u look at the quality of innings dravid played ,there was not a false short .the drive ,the rock solid cut to short ptch deliveries to jeetan patel i thought was the shot of the day ,and how can one replace dravid who scored 233 and 270 against the best bowling attck by someone who just scored his 1st century (vijay)that too in banglore which was a nice flat wicket ....coming to yesterday innings he was so determined not because he was under pressure but since he was middling but was not able to get gapes for the first 100 balls ,and then see wat he did in the next 100 balls ......

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2010, 6:37 GMT

    hey guys just a small question no offence to sachin as he's my fav cricketer after dravid but pls today sachin scored his runs at a sr of almost 30...u all guys must have seen it...with balls 133 or something...yesterday the same dravid scored 39 from 139 balls abt 6 balls differencel..........but all criticised dravid for being too slow selfish...but when saching played this innings no one';s told a word......may i know the reason pls this selfishness ??? no cos he's GOD right?? so pls pls stop this humiliating criticism when one plays well......this pitch is not easy to bat on tht's why sachin laxman dravid took some time to get used to it.......and dravid once he got used to it got his next 80 runs in some 110 tht's how we play a class test innings...pls guys learn it and respect it don't criticize a player who's done so much for the country

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2010, 6:18 GMT

    Dravid has done well .... its a tough pitch to score freely yet he hung around and gave INDIA some runs.... please dont compare him with sehwag...sehwag can win us a match but cannot save it if things go wrong...each player has a role to play and driavid does and did wat he does the best.... he will play well in SA and silence the critics just like sachin did tats how gr8t batsmen are! they let the bat do the talking 4 them

  • jack on November 5, 2010, 5:29 GMT

    @snowsnake... at the moment i am writing tendduklar and laxmans strike rates are below 40 well below team and dravid, does that mean they should be dropped...get real your states are meaningless and worthless

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2010, 5:26 GMT

    People were talking rubbish about Dravid's Strike rate yesterday.And today Sachin is scoring at a similar rate and nobody will criticise him and there won't be any articles written about Sachin's low scoring rate. Why is this double standard even after Dravid proved himself as one of the greatest modern day cricketers? Even the commentators who think themselves as pundits won't open their mouth to criticize about Sachin's SR. This is what happening in Indian cricket for past 2 decades. Dravid deserves more recognition than what he is getting now. We need Dravid's solidity for the middle order atleast for sometime before the youngsters take charge. And a great sportsman like Dravid will choose the right time to hang his boots rather than being thrown out.

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