November 5, 2010

A second wind for Dravid?

Watching his innings of two halves in Ahmedabad prompted the question: is Dravid too aware of his own mortality?

By playing with a bat Michael Hussey called "three metres wide", and doing so in his 38th year, Sachin Tendulkar doesn't only continue to give people a hard time, he gives hope to many others that if you stay around long enough, a second wind is possible. Of course it assumes that you will be picked in that period - some teams cull ruthlessly while others enforce temporary bans - and be fit enough to scour the horizon for that second coming.

I thought of that as I watched Rahul Dravid struggle his way through his first hundred balls in Ahmedabad. My mind, so full of admiration for a great cricketer, was willing him on, but younger, more irreverent, observers on my Twitter feed were calling for his head. Apart from a little purple patch in 2009, Dravid has been averaging in the thirties over three years (interestingly these numbers are very similar to those Tendulkar generated during his lean phase in the middle of this decade) and didn't always look like the great player he is.

Surely on a cruelly flat deck and against an attack that wasn't likely to scare a top team, he could have batted like the player we knew, or indeed like the player we saw after the shackles he had imposed on himself were broken and a century appeared. Or was it that Dravid was building bunkers around him, creating defences against every possible dismissal? Was he getting so caught up with survival that not getting out would seem a success?

A couple of days earlier I heard Sourav Ganguly say, on a news channel, that as a player moves past the mid-thirties he loses his confidence far more than he does his ability. And I wondered if that was the case with Dravid, surrounded as he is by young batsmen, who admire him but challenge him nonetheless. Was he so increasingly aware of his mortality, I wondered, that he was guarding himself against every possibility?

Sometimes players, like managers, can analyse in such detail that they end up thinking of weaknesses that may or may not exist. Batsmen can start preparing for every possible way in which they can get out. As patients get older, they worry about infections cropping up from just about anywhere, where in younger days they might have drunk water out of a tap at a railway station, or jumped out of a tree oblivious to injury. Batsmen can therefore start focusing too much on not getting out rather than on scoring runs.

Indeed, watching cricket in that phase you couldn't help thinking that one player, Virender Sehwag, was looking for an opportunity to score, while another, Dravid, was searching for safety. One seemed to enjoy being out in the middle, like a kid might on a rollercoaster, while the other was gritting his teeth like he was preparing for an assignment on the implications of Bernoulli's Principle. (And given that the passage of a ball through air tends to be governed by the work of the aforementioned gentleman, he probably wasn't too far away anyway!)

Having said that, Dravid could well counter the point saying that he has addressed every match the same way in the last 14 years, and has an extraordinary body of work to support his thesis; that on another day Sehwag might look flippant and the gravitas that Dravid exudes might be more reassuring; that being a man of erudition, a deep thinker and an analyst, has always worked for him.

As it turned out, a century duly arrived, one that took him past Bradman's 29 - once considered as unattainable as a four-minute mile was - at a strike rate better than that achieved over his career. The second half of his innings, in terms of balls faced, produced 80% of his runs. The certainty that Dravid exuded through a glittering career was back, the feet had started to glide, and the bat was searching for runs where it had been intent on guarding the wicket.

Did the confidence that Ganguly was talking about return? Did a voice tell him that putting money in a locker was not much good in a bull market? And will this century, and the accompanying confidence, lead to the second wind, the kind Tendulkar has shown?

I do not know. But what I do know is that beyond a point, the more you analyse, the more you budget for failure. Now that may be good for Obama's security entourage but not necessarily so for quality cricketers.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Pavan on November 8, 2010, 19:48 GMT

    Agreed Dravid is struggling a bit now. But if you look at his dismissals, you can see that most of them have been caught behind while playing away from the body. If he corrects this mistake he will definitely start scoring a lot more runs. He definitely can bounce back although slow and steady.

    I just don't want to miss him at Lord's when India tours England next year. I wish him all the best and hope he will bounce back and score a century at Lord's.

    All the best Dravid!!!

  • SYED on November 8, 2010, 15:18 GMT

    Do you think any other cricketer can do that?

  • Andrew on November 8, 2010, 11:04 GMT

    Dravid did what SRT has learned to do so well, that is find a way to stay in even when your not playing well, then cash in when the form returns. This is what makes SRT a true legend. Dravid may find it harder & harder now to get past the first 30 runs, to stay relevant he then needs to convert the 30s into 100s, I think a few chats with SRT might do the trick.

  • Pradeep on November 8, 2010, 9:33 GMT

    Looks like we have comments here of people who have played less or no cricket and watched more of it. Most of them are obessed with T-20 that they don't understand the game of Test cricket. @Mahesh Thiagarajan - Yuvraj and Rohit in test team in place of Dravid? Buddy, let Yuvraj first get back into shape and the ODI team. Rohit? I am not sure he plays better for any team except Deccan Chargers. SA tour is not too far and the day is not too far as well when we'll see more posts of Dravid's accolades and none of his critics.

  • Pradeep on November 8, 2010, 9:16 GMT

    @TRAM When Gambhir was going all blazing in the first 2 years of his international cricket, they called him the next wall. When Raina scored that wonderful century followed by his marvelous couple of innings against Sri Lanka, they called him the next best thing in the middle order. But what are we seeing now? People like Ajay Jadeja are asking for Gambhir's head now. If Raina fails in the next match, I'll not be surprised if there are more cries for his head too. New parts are good, but will the new parts be of the same quality as the old ones? This is TEST cricket my friend. A totally different ball game. He is only next to Tendulkar in this country of great cricketers. He is one among the only 5 to have scored more than 10,000 runs in the history of both Test and ODIs. They said that 20-20 is not for Dravid. He proved everybody wrong. Check Not long ago Wasim Akram had said that Dravid has a lot of offer in ODIs too. Dravid is an unselfish assiduous fighter. Don't write off Dravid.

  • Dummy4 on November 8, 2010, 5:48 GMT

    @TRAM- How many catches Dravid dropped?- The catches he could not take in this match were impossible to say the least- half chances that barely touched his fingers. Look at his catching record- he holds the world record for the most number of catches in Test Matches- so if you want to go by stats, he is one of the best. And as for his ability and energy, we'll see how able and energetic the "Young Guns" are against Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel when India tour SA- I would like to see Raina face some chin music from Steyn and see how he stands up to it!! If he can- I'll admit his greatness. But otherwise, we know that only 3 people can save India. Even the recent series against Aus, who scored key innings that helped India to win- Sachin, Laxman and Dravid. India cannot win unless these 3 guys fire at least once in each series and they have been winning in the last 5 years only because these 3 and Saurav Ganguly have consistently hit at least one important innings in each series.

  • Sundar on November 8, 2010, 3:22 GMT

    @zero_knowledge, completely agree with your assessment. if there was one guy who we could rely on to save India's grace in away test matches it is rahul dravid. Cannot believe people will have such short term memory and forget Dravid's contributions to Team India. If there was one guy who was completely overlooked because of Yuvraj Singh being favored in Test team, it is Subramaniam Badrinath. He was much more qualified, has better test temperament and excellent domestic credentials to back his place in the Test team. Instead BCCI backed Yuvraj to succeed in Test cricket based on his ODI successes and that proved out to be an utter failure.

  • TR on November 8, 2010, 1:27 GMT

    For those who think Dravid has been only very **cautious**, please understand. If a player is merely **cautious**, he would not be beaten by the deliveries umpteen number of times... He would not be OUT tamely outside off stump 90% of times in last 3 years. He would not stare blank and get his partner run-out, when there was an easy run in the shot. Understand cricket please...

  • TR on November 8, 2010, 1:15 GMT

    If you want to win the car race, REPLACE the old parts with new ones in time. Your love to the old part will kill you. Old is NOT gold in a competition where energy matters. Those who blindly look only at Dravid's centuries, look at (i) the number of catches he has DROPPED or NOT TRIED (ii) the number of his partners he has run out (something like 104? He is one of the top worst in the world?). Tell me where should Dhoni field him? Dravid is (i) the one who creates panic in the batting even if the Sehwag /Gambhir score 200 @ 6 runs an over (ii) makes the team 10 member fielding team.

  • Dummy4 on November 8, 2010, 1:07 GMT

    Pujara is a star....Dravid is fading....Dravid is a match saver or 2nd role batsmen, he seldom wins matches. We want people that win since we are number 1. Selectors didnt want him out as they can see South african green pitches coming up. WE SHALL SEE WHAT HAPPENS. and stop being so predictable Mr Transplant and have some ball$ to challenge someone in your media life....U SO DIPLOMATIC MR TRANSPLANT....NO GOOD TO INDIA

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