June 24, 2011

Dravid's flame still burns

Rahul Dravid's passion for and approach to cricket haven't changed in the last decade and a half. He is still intense, patient, and willing to work hard to prepare for each game

It is already 15 years since a simple, elegant, studious and very likeable young man walked out to bat for India at Lord's. That was an appropriate setting. Rahul Dravid is neatly turned out, plays the game correctly, likes the traditions associated with the game and is respectful of them. It is not difficult to see why the English would like him. In 1996, though, he was significantly more humble and courteous than those I seemed to run into at the ground.

Not much has changed since then. He is still as intense as ever, still unlikely to sport the ponytail he rejected in one of his earliest commercials, still deeply enamoured by the idea of playing for India, still very out of place in the Kingfisher jingle. That intensity is worth studying, though, for Dravid knows no other way of playing the game. Like a good student would, he assimilates data, works out what he is going to do, and focuses as intently as anyone who has played the game. Patience has been a childhood friend, and it has allowed him to retain the intensity. Impatience is the hallmark of youth, and while Dravid has been young in years, he has always sported a maturity that belies them.

There have been times when some of us feared that intensity; when we wondered if the fire within would singe him, and whether he just needed to get his mind off the game and relax a bit. We feared every ball would become a battle to be fought, a storm to be withstood. But as he often told me in those days, it was the same method that had brought him so many runs. It was the person he was; the challenge he relished that defined the way he played the game. He knew, as he repeatedly said, that he wasn't a Sehwag, that he had to bat longer to score the same number of runs; that therefore, he needed to focus strongly and prepare well for a game. It was a debate he was willing to get into but it was a solution he had to find himself. As it turns out, the way he knew best has so far brought him 12,215 runs in Test cricket, and that number tends to seal most debates.

We need to let that number roll off our tongues a bit more often because it is a colossal figure. It is not a number you dream of achieving, because it is too distant. It is a product of extraordinary ability and dedication. In 1994 his father would call to request, for class runs in the family, if he could get a video of his son playing in domestic cricket. Dravid's father can be very proud of the way his son has graced the game and scored runs.

There are other reasons too; reasons apart from the tenacity, the fire, the cover drive and the catches at slip. In the 16 years that I have had the pleasure of knowing him, I have rarely encountered ego or anger. Maybe the dressing room, a place I stay away from, has seen the odd outburst, but ego and anger are like cholesterol and sugar in the blood; eventually they will get you.

In a way it is good that Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar have had an extended run, for there must be a gradual handing over of the baton. Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Suresh Raina or Rohit Sharma must know what it takes to seek greatness, and maybe then achieve it. They will have to fight their own battles but a live example would help. That is why I am particularly delighted that Dravid plays in the Ranji Trophy whenever he can. He has often spoken of hanging on to every word that people like Gundappa Viswanath spoke to youngsters in Karnataka. And now that the time has come to carry forward that tradition, he is doing his bit. Cricket could do with more Johnny Appleseeds.

I don't know how much longer he will play for India, for by the time he plays at Lord's next, he will be closer to 39 than 38. But what I do know is that whenever an all-time Indian XI gets picked, Nos. 1, 3 and 4 will be written simultaneously.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Prashant on June 27, 2011, 22:29 GMT

    And I don't understand why the mere mention of RSD and SRT in a sentence immediately makes people think there is a comparison in place. Or for that matter any 2 players. Stop thinking that everyone out there is trying to compare players and single out one as the greatest!

  • Dummy4 on June 27, 2011, 18:10 GMT

    It feels gr8 to be in era where Dravid has given evrything for his team... Wicket keeping, opening, one-down, his mastery in slip region, captaincy.. all sacrifices he had done for his team... No1 can match his class, his concentration.. He has won many matches for india more than nay1 else.. I feel he should get more such appreciations.. Grateful to Harsha for his gr8 article...

  • sean on June 27, 2011, 16:52 GMT

    for those of you blind sachin haters,sachin played with tailenders a lot of times and he very well knows how to play along with them.. 111 at jhonsburg when added around 100 with last 3

    114 at perth he had partner ship of around 100 runs for 9th wicket..

    85 vs WI in 94 had partnership of 70+ with srinath...

    122 at edgbaston next highest was 18 in this match... had partnership of around 100 with last 3 and around 140 for with last 4

    169 vs SA sachin was last man to be dismissed... added around 70+ runs for last 3 wickets...

    116 vs aus had partnership of around 50 for 9th wicket... and added around 75 with last 3.

    dravid can only dream of such innings.

  • sreekumar on June 27, 2011, 15:10 GMT

    I dont understand why peoples compare SRT and Dravid. Both have played good innings, different styles. Sachin is the complete treat to watch wereas RD is a strong wall before the stumps. Sachin bats/runs aggressively and drains off energy wereas dravid stay at crease and keep his energy for a long time.

  • sreekumar on June 27, 2011, 15:10 GMT

    I dont understand why peoples compare SRT and Dravid. Both have played good innings, different styles. Sachin is the complete treat to watch wereas RD is a strong wall before the stumps. Sachin bats/runs aggressively and drains off energy wereas dravid stay at crease and keep his energy for a long time.

  • Rajesh on June 27, 2011, 15:05 GMT

    @Bollo- From your Parlance of " dominating attacks", I think only 2 guys qualify as great batsmen for their ability to do it convincingly and with regularity- Sir Viv and Shewag.Why do you tend to use Strike Rate as the ability to judge a Test Batsman's calibre when the fact that Dravid has had a Test career equivalent 2 Greg Chappells in terms of Runs and tests and nothing really to separate in the average, seals the point in this favour. As Gravitas said, going by your argument, Afridi and Gilchrist will rank high in the pecking order of great test batsmen

  • Dummy4 on June 27, 2011, 14:56 GMT

    All time best RAHUL dRAVID sir. Without him INDIA cant deserves this place.

  • Dummy4 on June 27, 2011, 14:17 GMT

    guys stop it we r supporting the same team i.e Team India why can't u guys stop comparing one legend to another it's ridiculous actually we should be proud tht most of them play together and dravid sachin who u guys were comparing with together shares the world record for the most no. of century partnerships in test so appreciate tht :) and both r gud in their own ways , it's a team game for god's sake damn it when will the indian cricket fan mature ?? Never in my opinion,sadly :(

  • sean on June 27, 2011, 14:04 GMT

    Dravid - 1 century in lost matches Sachin - 11 centuries lara - 12 centuries So,dravid is just like jayawardene,mohammad yousuf who score when the wicket is easy to bat on.Which tells the story why dravid has less average in SA and AUS.He improved his average in WI against depleted WI side when all those bowlers - walsh,ambrose,bishop retired.He couldn't even bat in SL and was bunny to murali. When all our indian batsmen wacked shane warne,dravid was the one who struggled against him. The centuries he scored in england he had plenty of support with centuries from sachin,ganguly and sehwag.While sachin scored his 119* and 122 vs eng with minimal support. If you see the partnership % of runs scored...dravid only has 41% while sachin has 51% of the run scored which says there was a lot of contribution from the team which wasn't the case with sachin.That's why experts talk about sachin not dravid when talking about greats.They speak of lara,sachin,ponting,kallis.not dravid.

  • Dummy4 on June 27, 2011, 13:20 GMT

    I still don't get the point of such immature debates.. Sachin (99 100s) and highest run scorer in all forms.. Sharjah, Chennai, Bangalore Dravid (32,000+ intnl runs)... Kolkota, Adelaide, Jamaica.. Ganguly (21 Test Wins.. Revolutionary Captain).. WC 03, Natwest, Mohail, Kolkota VVS (Perhaps the greatest Clutch batsman ever).. Kolkota, Adelaide, Durban, Mohali

    Are all great in their own respects! Why demean one to praise the other?! We are ONE Team.. Team India!

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