India v South Africa, 1st Test, Chennai, 4th day March 29, 2008

'The last 1000 have been a learning curve' - Dravid

Rahul Dravid: "As a young kid, to be honest, I didn't have the self-belief I could do it. When I look back, I probably I exceeded my expectations with what I have done over the last 10-12 years" © AFP

March 7, 1987 remains an iconic date in Indian cricket and Rahul Dravid remembered it clearly. It was the day when Sunil Gavaskar late-cut an innocuous ball to third man to become the first batsman to get to 10,000 runs in Tests. For young Indian batsmen growing up, the figure was some sort of a holy grail.

At the time, all Rahul Dravid dreamt of was to play for India and he admitted that by joining the elite club he had, in some way, exceeded his own expectations. "I can see that picture in my mind, watching it on television - Gavaskar late-cutting in Ahmedabad and raising his bat for his 10,000. I never had an ambition to do it, because I never believed.

"As a young kid, to be honest, I didn't have the self-belief I could do it. When I look back, I probably I exceeded my expectations with what I have done over the last 10-12 years. I can look back and reflect that I maximised my potential over these years."

What would be particularly heartening is that it comes on the back of probably his toughest year in Test cricket. Excluding matches against Bangladesh, he had gone 15 Tests without a century, a trot few would have envisaged during his glorious run between 2002 and 2004. He's relinquished his captaincy and lost his one-day spot.

"I pretty much coasted for the last five-six years through my career," he said. "I had to work pretty hard from 9000 to 10,000. In some ways, it was a sign for me to learn to enjoy these things, learn to reflect on these moments. The last 1000 has been a learning curve for me.

"It has been a tough year in some ways. I have been playing well in patches. I have been fighting through it. I felt at phases it was coming back and probably just breaking my finger in the last game in Adelaide [gave me a break]. I was completely off for six weeks. I picked up the bat two or three days before the Deodhar Trophy game. I got a couple of good scores - a hundred and a fifty. I came into this Test feeling really good."

This hundred won't be remembered for its fluency, neither was it made in demanding conditions. In fact he took just six balls less to reach his hundred than Virender Sehwag had done to get three times as much. He wasn't in too much trouble but he did get into phases where he was bogged down.

Where would he place this innings among the 25 he's made? "I place the ones higher when I end up winning those games. Even the 90 at Perth is a lot more significant for me than some hundreds I have got. The South Africans bowled well today - tighter lines and they also got the ball to reverse-swing. I think I just felt happy I was solid and in control right through the innings."

Dravid joined Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara as the only two players with 10,000 runs in both Tests and one-dayers. It's a particularly significant achievement for Dravid, because of the number of challenges he needed to overcome in ODIs. He maintained the one-day milestone was special but was clear about valuing his Test runs more.

"Test cricket is much tougher in the end. You look back on that and you recognise they are the toughest ones to get. You will always cherish you Test performances a bit more than the one-day ones. You know the 10,000 you got in Test cricket has probably been a bit tougher."

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo