India v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Ahmedabad, 1st day November 16, 2009

'One of my most fluent efforts' - Rahul Dravid

Cricinfo staff
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Click here to listen to Dravid's press conference.

On the opening day of the Ashes in 2002-03, after Nasser Hussain had sent Australia in to bat, Matthew Hayden set the agenda for an utterly one-sided contest, powering his way to an unbeaten 186 out of 364 for 2. On the first day at Motera, Rahul Dravid finished with 177 of the 371 runs that India scored after he arrived at the crease. Hayden faced 255 balls at the Gabba that day. Dravid faced four fewer. Hayden scored 104 of his runs in boundaries (23 fours and two sixes), while Dravid took 110 from strokes to or over the fence (26 fours and a six).

As batsmen, they couldn't be more different. Hayden was the colossus who stood outside his crease, walked down the pitch and generally bullied bowlers into submission. Every ball was a confrontation, one more opportunity to assert his dominance over the opposition. Dravid, one of the cornerstones of India's batting strength over the past decade, has made his runs far more sedately, with greater subtlety. Where Hayden went for the first-round knockout, sheer persistence was the Dravid way. On occasions, even mighty Australian sides were worn down to the point of exhaustion.

This was a very different Dravid. From the moment he placed one from Dammika Prasad through the covers, the positive intent was evident. But unlike many of his modern-day contemporaries, who use bats as thick as arks and prefer to stand-and-deliver, there was nothing frenetic or brutal about his methods. Dravid bats the old-fashioned way, bending his knee and transferring the body weight at just the right time. Each of the 13 fours he drove in the arc between point and long off was crowned with the perfect follow-through.

Even late in the day, with the second new-ball taken, he chose his battles carefully. He invariably got into line for each delivery, and was perfectly content to leave off-stump bait well alone. "I knew we needed a partnership," he said later, having spent some time in the ice-bath to recover from the day's exertions. "I had that South African game [April 2008] at the back of my mind, where we were bowled out in 20 overs and the wicket became good later on.

"I knew that if we could get through to lunch, batting would get a lot easier. Yuvi [Yuvraj Singh] came and batted really well. He was very positive and played some good shots. We were able to put on a 100-run partnership and that set the platform for me and Mahi [MS Dhoni]. We showed character today to be able to fight back."

More than his powers of concentration, always a hallmark of his game, what was most impressive was his ability to find the gaps. At one point, Kumar Sangakkara had a short cover and a sweeper in place, in addition to the mid-off fielder. He still threaded the ball through. Late on, with square leg and fine leg in position, he pulled Chanaka Welegedara so precisely that neither man moved more than a five yards before the ball crossed the rope.

He made four half-centuries in New Zealand earlier this year, including match-saving efforts of 83 and 62 in Napier, but this was an innings played at an altogether different tempo. Not since The Oval in 2007, when he eased to a half-century before being castled by James Anderson, had he played with such freedom.

He admitted as much. "It's nice to get this feeling of batting the way I have. I've been through some tough times for a couple of seasons. I thought the flow's sort of come back this year, in various forms of the game. It was probably one of my most fluent efforts over the last few seasons."

With the pitch conducive to run-scoring, Dravid reckoned that India would need around 500 to put some pressure on the Sri Lankans. And he was in no hurry to critique this particular innings. "It'll be a good question to answer at the end of a game," he said. "I always rate an innings in the context of the game. From 32 for 4, at the end of the day I'm really happy with what we've achieved. If we go on to win this Test match, you'd say it's somewhere up there.

"That's why the innings I've played in Kolkata [v Australia, 2001], in Adelaide [v Australia, 2003] or in Rawalpindi [v Pakistan, 2004] ... when you go on to win, that's when you realise the value. In terms of shot-making, this was a good one. It was a pretty flat wicket. I've played on much tougher ones. If it ends up being a draw, it's a great knock, but not as meaningful as some of the other ones."

After scoring 11,000 runs and 27 centuries, he really has nothing left to prove to anyone. But on a day when he frequently put two far more aggressive strokemakers in the shade, there was plenty for selectors and supporters to ponder. Instead of a Wall-like immoveable object, this was a free-flowing stream of an innings. "I'm not even thinking of selection," he said when asked a question that alluded to his exclusion from the one-day scheme of things. "I'm just trying to play every single game."

There could well be a few more if this latest uptempo back-to-the-wall effort produces a result.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • timus6778 on November 17, 2009, 12:59 GMT

    I feel that the INDIAN MEDIA is completely biased towards Sachin Tendulkar.you just can't take credit from Dravid who has been by far the most reliable batsman,India has had(talk test Cricket).The 177 he scored was a true testimony to the fact that and probably a slap on the selectors face that he can't score at a brisk rate.Tendulkar at 20 had its share of attention,it deserved to be.but Dravid's 11000 perhaps should have got the same recognition.But that lack of enthusiasm shown by the media does not deter Dravid from scoring freely.The emergence of India as a potential threat in Test Cricket under the able leadership of Sourav GAnguly has been largely possible due to Dravid(just check his averages in the match which india won under sourav). kudos dravid.

  • MAK123 on November 17, 2009, 6:16 GMT

    It's so amazing when one looks at the number centuries Dravid has scored and suddenly realizes that he is not too far behind Sachin! While Sachin has been fittingly glorified, Dravid unfortunately, has escaped the kind attention of writers and critics. I thought he has not got his share of applause which is quite evident from the way the selectors have treated him thus far - I call it unfair treatment. Unfortunately, the class of all greats like Dravid is being determined by an extremely ugly format called T-20. It is really sad that T-20 (the format is already getting to a point of being monotonous) is being set as a benchmark for greats like Sachin and Dravid. His innings of 177 yesterday cannot be exchanged for a 100 innings played by Loots Bosman the other day, against England.

  • sandy_km on November 17, 2009, 6:15 GMT

    Well done Dravid.You let your bat do the talking.It was an Outstanding innings technically correct and was a world class effort. Only sad part is you missed your double hundred which you deserved. All the best.

  • dandesilva on November 17, 2009, 5:56 GMT

    It was an amazing Innings by Dravid. Never seen him playing with such a strike rate with so much confidence. Being a Sri Lankan I enjoyed it as much as I enjoy watching Mahela Or Sanga playing a big one..! Superb Performance..! Hats down!!

  • replyramdas on November 17, 2009, 5:55 GMT

    Everyone's keep saying Ponting is after Sachin for highest run getter in Tests...watch out for "The Wall"....I hope he overtakes Ponting in this race....

  • sandman2203 on November 17, 2009, 4:45 GMT

    the only set back thing for him is to be playing in the sachin era... an ever overshadowing performer... he makes sachin look like a lot more smaller on winning grounds...

  • Sush08 on November 17, 2009, 4:24 GMT

    Well done Rahul,U have again shut up the mouths of ur critics by ur hardwork,sincerity,selfless attitude n true sportsmanship......I didn't know wat's the wrong is wid selector's and captain....no doubt Dravid is one of the best test cricketer in the world but his critics didn't know how much he had given 2 ODI's as well....the most ridiculous decision 2 drop him 4m australian tour 2 India....to me if he had been there the results wud hav been different atleast in the matches where virat kohli played.......I will b heartiest thankful 4 this greatsportsman 4 this delightful innings....n best of luck 4 ur another feat...

  • vasu16 on November 17, 2009, 4:02 GMT

    Dravid's innings was a display of great class and courage. Considering the fact that India were 32-4 at one stage Dravid showed great character to put India in a commanding position....Its a matter of shame that a batsman of his caliber is dropped from the one day side, hope this innings has caught the selectors eye.

  • mohammis on November 17, 2009, 3:42 GMT

    Dravid,

    He is not wall, He is GREAT WALL OF INDIA.

  • venkatm on November 17, 2009, 3:40 GMT

    Outstanding innings from a brillint player player, thorough gentleman and a great ambassador for the game and country. Always was and will remain world class. However, he is not fit for the limited over format of the game. The selectors made the right decision by dropping him from that format. No doubt about that.

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