India v England, 2nd Test, Mohali, 2nd day December 20, 2008

'Relieved' Dravid happy to be contributing again

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A 26th Test century, to break a poor run of form, was greeted with only a subdued reaction from Rahul Dravid © Getty Images

After a year when the words "wall", "falling" and "crumbling" were never far from the headlines, Rahul Dravid could have been forgiven for thinking he had become Humpty Dumpty, instead of the most prolific No.3 batsman the world has ever seen. It really had been a wretched 2008, with 669 runs from 14 Tests before he arrived in Mohali. This, remember, was the man who made more than 600 runs in series in Australia and England when he was in his prime.

There were no clenched fists or frenzied waves of the bat when he reached his century on Saturday, but the man who sat behind the microphones later in the day looked like someone who had finally seen the light after weeks of confinement in an underground cave. "There was no statement," he said when asked about the muted celebrations for his 26th century. "I was just happy. I'm older and wiser now. I don't jump around and get excited.

"I'm relieved. It's nice to be contributing again. It's been a tough year, and it's good to make an important contribution, especially with the conditions that we've had in this game."

The partnership with Gautam Gambhir was worth 314 runs in 107.5 overs, its significance evident when the next highest stand was 40 runs. "Hopefully, it will be a match-winning partnership," Dravid said. "Gautam batted beautifully and took the pressure off me. He rotated the strike and was positive against both the pace bowlers and spinners. He's having a phenomenal year."

England fought back spiritedly after breaking that partnership, but they should also be worried at how subsequent batsmen failed to make much headway on a pitch that's sure to play a few tricks over the next three days. "At 300 for 1, we were looking around, wondering where we were going to get a wicket from," said Graeme Swann, who along with the indefatigable Andrew Flintoff was the pick of the bowlers. "The way Dravid played, he hardly gave us any chance. He was exceptional."

Dravid himself couldn't really pinpoint a reason for the turnaround. "This year, I've tried everything," he said with a laugh, when asked if he'd gone back to videos or books to get out of the slump. "I watched a few old videos of me batting well to recreate some of those emotions and feelings.

"But the last two series, I've just enjoyed each net session, trusted my instincts and watched the ball.

"The way I judge if I'm batting well is by how I bat in the nets. Against Australia and even in this series, I felt like I was batting well, but there weren't the runs to show for it."

The way I judge if I'm batting well is by how I bat in the nets. Against Australia and even in this series, I felt like I was batting well, but there weren't the runs to show for it

He batted beautifully on day two, clipping the ball off the pads with his old fluency and also easing it through the off-side gaps when chances presented themselves. After taking 205 balls for 65 on the opening day, the next 71 runs took just 123 deliveries. "You grow comfortable, the more time you spend in the middle," he said. "Your feet move better. You pick up the length better. They bowled a good testing spell with the new ball and we were lucky to get through."

He called it one of his "most significant innings", and admitted it might not have been possible without the reservoir of goodwill from fans and experts alike. "There's been lots of scrutiny and speculation because I haven't played very well," he said. "I haven't got enough runs. It's been tough personally.

"So many people have been wishing me to do well. It's at times like these that you realise how many want you to do well. They didn't need to be, but they were so supportive - former players, and even those in the media. That's all you can ask for."

What Mahendra Singh Dhoni will ask for from here is a repeat of the bowling excellence that humiliated Australia here two months ago. "They tested us right through," said Dravid of the English bowling. "But we'll aim to pitch the ball further up and get more swing, make them drive a bit more."

If the skies overhead continue to be overcast, that could well do the trick. As for Dravid, the overwhelming sense of grey has given way to a patch of blue sky. For some, like his three-year-old son Samit, though, life's about far more than centuries and revivals. "He just wants me to come back home."

A match-winning century to go with so many others wouldn't be a bad thing to take back.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • PRASH on December 21, 2008, 7:11 GMT

    Well Done Dravid! good innings, but I stand by my previous statement, he should retire or face being dropped. I am not convinced by this innings and think he got lucky. I'm fortunate to have seen Dravid play when he first came on the scene, and have continued to watch and support him over the years, but he is no way as good as he used to be. Yes he scored a century, but i'm not convinced. To all those who think his form has returned....stop blinding yourself

  • Deran on December 21, 2008, 6:41 GMT

    Oh he is a superb cricketer.... Being a Sri Lankan...I know that most of the fans over here hate Indian cricketers like Yuvraj, Harbajan, Ganguly and many more simply because they're big headed and are disgusting to see in this game of gentlemen....

    But Dravid is as cool as cucumber.... and he was and is the "WALL" of Indian Cricket.... Really happy to see him back in hundreds... I'm sure he would carry on from here.... I think he's still got a good couple of years in International Cricket left within him....

  • Vipul on December 21, 2008, 4:37 GMT

    "I was just happy. I'm older and wiser now. I don't jump around and get excited." Wow! what composure... This statement itself speaks volume about RD's greatness. World would be a much better place if 10% more men would have such cool and correct approach towards their work. I am sure, Rahul, with all his hard work during the lean times, will emerge stronger when he strikes a rich vein of form. Ominous signs these, for the opposition!

  • Rajasundram on December 21, 2008, 2:13 GMT

    It was great to see Rahul silencing his critics in the mildest manner - like a Headmaster rebuking a naughty child with a stare! There were those who said that their grandfather could have scored more (maybe against the Blind and the Lame) but look what happened when he got out! The most important thing was that Rahul knew that there was nothing wrong with his technichque and batted the way that brought him more than 10,000 runs. Credit must also be given to Dhoni, Tendulkar and the selectors for having faith that Rahul was not over the hill yet. Long may the WALL last! Siva from Singapore

  • Upendra on December 21, 2008, 1:38 GMT

    Finally!! Classy is classy does.... it's been long time coming but hope Dravid gets many more & continues to delight his fans all over the world...For once the selectors did not indulge in a knee jerk reaction and stuck with someone who will surely go down in history as one of the World's greatest batsman.

  • Raj on December 21, 2008, 1:35 GMT

    It was extremely infuriating to hear that the Indian media was going all berserk on Dravid, questioning his place in the team. I didn't hear the media myself but I have seen it in the past. And frankly, I literally feel like strangling them. They change from praise to insults in a matter of series. On one day they're treating the Indian team like a heaven sent, and on the next the tables turn completely. It really is pathetic and annoying. The Indian Media really needs to learn a thing or two about cricket, players and the cycle a player/team has from in-form to out-of-form. Dravid deserves a place in the side and he still has a lot of runs to make. The ignorant media can keep up with their shenanigans.

  • Muneesh on December 21, 2008, 0:01 GMT

    You and Sachin and Ganguly are my heros when it comes to learning what it means my mental toughness...Cheers!!

  • Mahesh on December 20, 2008, 23:20 GMT

    as much as i'm rapt to see dravid finally nail a century, there is so much more left for him to do to stay ahead of the pack of the young batsmen demanding selection. let's hope that 2009 is a really big year for him. nz pitches in late summer/early spring are generally very good for batting, so there's more runs on offer there. and then against an ever-weakening west indies team he will hopefully really pile on the runs.

    on another note, its kind of ironic that ganguly's retirement has actually helped dravid keep his spot in the team for longer. with huge uncertainty hanging over the no.6 position, it is just not possible for the selectors to drop dravid and create more uncertainty in the batting order.

  • Sandeep on December 20, 2008, 20:26 GMT

    Form is temporary. Class is permanent!!!! Enough said...go on have many more years in you

  • Raghuram on December 20, 2008, 20:21 GMT

    As usual, people forget how important Dravid is when other batsmen in the Indian team go bham! Wham! on docile Indian pitches. Just wait till Indian team goes to New Zealand next year. Dravids worth will be all the more visible. Hopefully, the confidence built up by playing positive cricket in the past months helps other batsmen on the seaming & swinging pitches of New Zealand.

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