By Boria Majumdar
To try and pick five of Dravid’s best knocks is like picking five needles from a hay stack. But such indulgences are a cricket analysts’ fantasy and here I am trying to select five of Rahul Dravid’s best over a distinguished cricket career spanning 16 long years.
Interestingly, Rahul had mentioned the same five in the course of his press conference in Bengaluru reviving the urge to watch these knocks over and over again on DVD now that the protagonist will no longer grace the 22 yards.
232 at Adelaide in 2003-4
The first and the best will have to be the double hundred against Australia in Adelaide in 2003-4. It was the first-ever occasion when the touring Indians managed to take a lead against the Australians at home in a Test series. And this was after the Australians had amassed a colossal 556 in the first innings. It was absolutely essential that the Indians replied with a big score and Dravid helped do just that.
His 232 was an innings of class, poise and, of course, determination, which you need in heaps in Australia. It propelled India to a five hundred-plus first innings score and helped Ajit Agarkar and company to set up the match by triggering an expected Australian collapse in the second innings. But yet again, it was Dravid with an unbeaten 72 who helped close out the match. A trademark punch in the air and a kiss at the BCCI logo on his India cap and all of India had erupted in joy, thanks to his heroics.
148 at Headingley in 2002
Headingley 2002, yet another of India’s famous away victories of all time. India decided on batting first after winning the toss on a more than lively track and survival, more than anything else, was the key on Day 1. Dravid in the company of Sanjay Bangar played the role to perfection and his 148 will certainly rank as one of the best Test hundreds scored on English soil.
The innings was full of fight and the doggedness of not giving up when faced with tremendous adversity. It helped set up the match for Sachin and Sourav and India eventually pushed home the advantage to score a series leveling win.
180 at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata in 2001.
While most remember the Test match for VVS Laxman’s magical 281 and Harbhajan Singh’s hattrick, it was Rahul Dravid’s 180 that had helped Laxman achieve the impossible. Had there been no Dravid, there wouldn’t be a Laxman. 335 runs on Day 4 without losing a wicket and the Indians had scripted history and in the process stopped Steve Waugh’s juggernaut of 16 straight Test wins on the trot.
Dravid’s reaction on reaching the hundred summed it up nicely. A pump of the fist, a show of the bat to the Eden press box, to the mediamen and women who had hounded him for a while and a steely look on his face before taking guard again, it was vintage Dravid. Like a few of his other knocks, he was the lead support cast in Kolkata in what was one of the best Test matches of all time.
The heroes may have changed over time but the lead support cast for India has been a constant for the past 16 years, a testimony to Dravid’s consistency and commitment.
270 at Rawalpindi in 2004.
With the series locked one apiece, there was all to play for in Karachi in the third and final Test of the series. And it was Dravid who sealed the issue for India making sure that the Indians recorded their first ever Test series win against Pakistan in Pakistan. Against a resurgent Pakistani attack, encouraged by their success in the second Test, India needed the resilience and patience that Dravid epitomized to seal the issue.
Showing unrivaled resolve, Dravid almost single-handedly propelled India beyond the line and scripted one of the most memorable Indian Test victories of all time.
81 and 68 at Kingston Jamaica in 2006.
India had not won an away series in the Caribbean for 35 long years and the jinx was finally broken under captain Dravid at Kingston, Jamaica in 2006. And the skipper led from the front in dodgy batting conditions with scores of 81 and 68 in the two innings.
Scoring close to half the Indian runs in each innings, he ensured that the Indian bowlers had runs to play with in the final innings of the Test and it was certainly his highest moment as captain of the Indian team. Critics were unanimous that the difference between the two sides was Dravid and Dravid alone.