On June 20, 1996 Father Michael John, the principal of St Joseph's Boys' High School in Bangalore, ended the morning assembly with an announcement: "One of our own, Rahul Dravid, will be making his Test debut at Lord's today. There is no better place for a cricketer to play his first match." Come Thursday, Dravid will walk out for his third, and possibly last, Lord's Test, hoping to match Kapil Dev's side of 1986, who remain the only Indian team to triumph at Lord's, and the last to return home with a series win in England.
A bit of a purple patch: Rahul Dravid's career peak came on the 2002 tour to England, with three centuries, one of them a double
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A few hours after Father John's announcement, Dravid was on the field, all neat and dapper, getting a taste of playing Test cricket for India. On the third day, when he got his chance to bat, he duly made a half-century; on the fourth, with only the tail for company, he neared his century. On 95, with a chance to become only the fourth cricketer to manage a century on debut at Lord's, he nicked to the wicketkeeper and, this is the most memorable part, walked. It prompted Father John to make another announcement: "The school congratulates Rahul Dravid on making such a fine debut. Not many batsmen walk on 95 in their debut innings, and we're proud he did so."
Dravid remembers the goosebumps he felt as he walked through the Long Room at Lord's for the first time. "I couldn't have scripted it better," he told Cricinfo. "Just playing for India would have been special, to be honest with you - whether it had been in Chittagong or at Lord's. But for it to have happened at Lord's - really the home of cricket ... To have known that so many great cricketers had played at that ground - the tradition, history. They really have maintained the culture and traditions in the ground.
"And whatever people may say, you do feel it. There's something about walking down those steps at Lord's. I do feel it definitely. So for me it was special to have played at Lord's and to have actually done well there. Every time I've gone there, I've always felt nice in some ways."
For most Indian cricketers, Australia is the team to beat and England the country to tour. Dravid agrees, listing the reasons why playing in England has often brought out the best in him. "I guess it's got to do with the common history that India and England share," he says. "It's got to do with some of the fascinating tours that Indian teams have had in England, and English teams have had in India. There is a connection. So many Indian cricketers go to England to play every year - whether it's in the leagues or counties. We had a rich tradition of some of our greats playing in England.
"A summer tour to England is something you always grew up hearing about even before you actually got a chance to play at grounds like Lord's, The Oval, Trent Bridge, Headingley. You've heard these names on commentary, you've heard about Indian teams that have gone there, and people who have performed in those places."
The 95 on debut was followed by an equally proficient 84 in the third Test at Nottingham, but it was six years later, when India toured in 2002, that Dravid came of age as a batsman. A series when he went from being a very good batsman to a great batsman.
"I must admit that during the last tour I went through a bit of a purple patch. I think it was the beginning of a very successful run which lasted almost two and a half years. I felt my game peaked at that stage, I was playing at the top of my game, playing really well. What made me happy was that we all played some good cricket on that trip - to win the Headingley Test after taking a decision to bat first on that wicket ... that century was the highlight of the tour. It set the tone for us, allowed us to fight back in the series.
"I think all those three innings were special. At Trent Bridge we were trying to draw, at The Oval England had made more than 500 runs. I just felt in really good batting form. I was happy with where I was physically, I was relaxed mentally. Playing in England helps me relax."
Surely there must be more to Dravid's phenomenal average of 87.66 in England - a figure that surpasses his numbers in all other countries, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe included? "There's not as much travel, there's so much stuff to do. There are shows to be seen, people to meet, friends who I've known for so many years now. I guess there's a nice feeling about the place that, so far, has brought the best out of me. I hope this time is no different. Being a captain is probably going to be different in that sense. I may not have the kind of time I had earlier, but I hope I'll be able to relax, enjoy myself, and play some good cricket.
"I know I'm not going to go back [to England] as an Indian cricketer, so I'm looking at this as an opportunity to go out there and do well in front of a public that really appreciates the sport, knows their cricket. There's a charm to that as well - playing in front of people who appreciate the game and the cricketers."
Eleven years on, there may be no announcement at St Joseph's Boys', but the anticipation at watching one of their own will not have diminished a bit. As Father John was to say several years later, "The school's motto is 'Faith and Toil'. Nobody stood by it more religiously than Dravid."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is assistant editor of Cricinfo