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Sriram Veera at Sabina Park
June 22, 2011
There is an element of gravitas about Rahul Dravid that escalates on days like this. The hands hold the bat tighter, his visage gets more determined, the eyes drip with intensity, the self-admonishments when he plays a shot he thinks he shouldn't have increase, and he drags you with him into the match. You can feel the pressure of the scoreboard, the match situation, the misbehaving pitch, and the whole drama. It's his battle, but you can feel the intensity.
"I love a contest," Dravid said. "It's because I love the contest [that] I still enjoy the sport. It's also good for me because we found ourselves a bit against the wall, and I had to fight my way through it … at this stage of your career you play because you love the contest, and [want] to make an important contribution to the team. It's a satisfactory feeling when you are in the middle of a situation [like this] and make a difference."
Early in the morning, Ravi Rampaul tested Dravid's patience and skill. Some deliveries cut in from outside off, some straightened and a few reared up. "He kept things tight for me and it was a good contest. I knew I had to get through that 7-8 over [period] of good quality from him. But you need to back yourself to fight through it rather than throwing it away."
He also had to take care the younger batsmen didn't throw it away. Late last evening, Dravid had to watch Virat Kohli being hustled by Fidel Edwards' bouncers. He repeatedly walked across to chat with his younger partner. He did that today as well with Kohli - who didn't last long - and the others that followed. "One of the things I tell these guys [the young players] is that you have to weather the storm, the intensity of a particular spell, that will last for 6-10 overs. In Test cricket you need to fight your way through that, and then things will become easier. You can get caught up a bit with things happening in the middle, people making a lot of noise, the ball flying around or spinning past you … I have committed that mistake, and thinking becomes really hard. But if you fight your way through that period, things will become a bit easier, like a bowling change or the bowlers will get tired."
That he did. In the end, West Indies had to find a way around him to get at India. Dravid was the last man to fall. It was an observation from Ravi Rampaul, that was shared by Darren Sammy at the press conference, that told the tale of Dravid's determination. "Ravi told me that Dravid played just one pull shot. That too, when he was on 98." And it came at a time when he was in danger of running out of partners. Even then, it was followed by self-admonishment. "Yeah, obviously it was partly because of the pitch, and also because of the situation we found ourselves in," Dravid said, about playing just one pull. "We knew that we have to set up a pretty decent score from [where we were at] 50-odd for three. They bowled pretty well also. So it was a combination of factors that made me a bit circumspect; I had to ensure that I was there till the end, and make sure that we got a competitive score."
Dravid is not getting any younger - how taxing does it get, especially when there are long breaks between Test series'? "It was tough physically, especially coming off after a long journey and getting up early in the morning," he said. "It was pretty hot out there, and I have not played a Test in a long time. You can do as much training as possible: sit on a bike in gym and run laps around the ground. But for [complete] batting and fielding fitness … you need to have practice.
"Yes, it has been very challenging. If you do it consistently then you'll get a rhythm. With these breaks, I guess it takes some more time to get into it [the rhythm]. But it's not easy for someone like me who needs to bat long - I sweat a lot - so physically and mentally, it has always been a good contest. That's why I work hard on my fitness. I have the past experience to fall back upon", Dravid said.
Sammy was lavish in his praise. "Dravid has scored over 10,000 [Test] runs. He knows exactly what to do in these kinds of situations." Dravid hoped that his effort will culminate in a win. "It's [Sabina Park] a lovely place to tour, I have had some very good experiences as we won a Test match last time. So I hope this innings helps us to win this as well."
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