West Indies v India, 4th Test, Jamaica, 2006 March 14, 2010

Thou shalt not pass

Rahul Dravid gives a lesson in the art of defence on a minefield of a pitch with the series at stake

I don't remember this innings vividly. I wasn't even in the press box for most of it; instead I was sipping Appleton rum near the point boundary and talking to Ray Wynter about his rebel tour to South Africa.

There was a series at stake, but on this steamy July afternoon, Sabina Park was anything but tense. The music blared and the fans jived. The party kept getting louder.

Out in the middle, on a pitch that appeared to have landmines buried on a good length, Rahul Dravid was waging a war. Ducking, weaving, blocking, watching partners come and go, jabbing, leaving, ducking, weaving…

Jerome Taylor used lightning speed - I couldn't spot the ball in mid-air - to create thunder off the pitch. At the other end was Corey Collymore, hitting a near-perfect length and luring the drive. Both VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Singh fell for the bait.

Watching from the point boundary, I could see how still Dravid was at the crease, waiting till the last moment before reacting. With every ball he seemed to be waiting a fraction of a second longer; but the later he reacted, the more decisive he appeared.

When at the non-striker's end, he wasn't his usual shadow-practising, jumpy self. He simply leaned on his bat and stood calm, his sweaty shirt fluttering in the wind.

On a day where every other batsman - Lara, Laxman, Sehwag, Chanderpaul included - shrivelled, Dravid was beaten, hold your breath, once. And even on that occasion he softened his grip so the edge wouldn't carry to first slip.

Two overs after cleaning up MS Dhoni, with a straight ball that kept low after it hit a crack, Taylor hit the same crevice. Dravid, though, was ready, bolting the bat down ramrod-straight and patting it down the ground. Taylor stood transfixed. The wall had turned fortress.

He would keep out another 36 deliveries the next morning before missing a shooter. Back in the dressing room, having chiselled out two monumental fifties in the game and put India on the verge of a historic series win, he would curse himself for not getting the bat down in time.

A match-winning captain's hand in the second-innings of a historic away-series deciding Test on a minefield. Now beat that.

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