Rahul Dravid did on day four of Karnataka's match against Mumbai what he's done many times for India. He dug deep and rescued his side from a spot of bother, watchfully playing himself in before turning on the aggression, without letting it get in the way of the team's cause. And as debates rage over his role in the Indian one-day side, Dravid did himself no harm by running into great form with a double-hundred that acted as a perfect exhibition for his experience and technique - and a timely message to the selectors.
"I told my boys, idhar udhar nahi hone ka, uski batting close se dekho, [focus on how he is batting] ... you are not going to get a better education in pacing an innings than this," Amol Muzumdar, the Mumbai captain, later told Cricinfo. "He didn't let anything affect him. The match situation, the humid weather, the bowling ... it was a treat to watch him bat."
It was a two-paced innings. On the third day Dravid chose safety, focusing on taking Karnataka, 142 runs in arrears, into a position of strength on a slow track, before changing gears on the fourth. He scored 77 runs off 178 balls on Monday; today, 137 runs were whipped off 152 balls as Dravid ensured his state side emerged with a creditable draw.
When he walked out to bat yesterday Karnataka were 73 runs behind, with a day and a half to go. It was not an unfamiliar situation; his experience came into play as he resisted any temptation to attack - he had seen the side collapse after his dismissal for 40 in the first innings - and his technique helped him ward off the spin threat of Ramesh Powar.
Powar attacked with men around the bat but Dravid showed nifty footwork, going forward or back to keep him at bay. Powar turned a few in from outside off before attempting to reprise the first-innings dismissal. This one also spun in from a middle and off stump line as Dravid looked to lean onto the front foot. No repeat, though, as Dravid played it down, short of the backward short-leg fielder. The next one was a flighted delivery that dipped rapidly but Dravid quickly adjusted and didn't push at it. He continued to bat cautiously but never tentatively, as he eased into his groove.
Once he was set, he skipped down the track to heave Powar for consecutive sixes over the long-on boundary - the second one crashed against the glass panel of the media box. The result? Powar, the five-wicket hero of the first innings, was taken out of the attack.
Dravid slowed down in the third session but it showed awareness of the situation. Had he been playing for India, with better middle-order batsmen to follow, he would have gone onto the attack during that session, but here, realising the onus was on him, he chose to pull down the shutter.
On the final day, he started off with positive intent, dismantling the Mumbai bowlers one by one. Each presented a different challenge. Ajit Agarkar served him a series of bouncers which were hooked and pulled away; Iqbal Abdulla, who went over the wicket and bowled outside leg stump into the rough, was dealt with nifty footwork - he ran down the track and walloped one out of the ground over the long-on boundary.
Powar flighted a majority of his deliveries, pushed a few through and varied his line and pace but Dravid was on the ball. He used his feet well, going either forward or back as per the demand of the length and at times, made his own length by rocking back or waltzing down the track. Twice he deposited balls into the vacant stands beyond the deep midwicket boundary and Muzumdar had run out of ideas to rein him in.
By the end, Dravid had compiled a classy 214, one short of his Ranji Trophy best. "I am just focusing on doing well for Karnataka and on putting in good performances," he said at the end of the day.