A month ago, he wasn’t good enough for India’s one-day side, despite having top-scored in the only completed game of consequence that the team played at the Champions Trophy. Having then enjoyed some decent form in two Ranji Trophy outings, Rahul Dravid came out and proved a point or two on the opening day of this Test series. By day’s end, he had made 177 from just 251 balls, scoring at a faster clip than MS Dhoni. Earlier in the day, he had matched Yuvraj Singh stroke for stroke as India rebuilt from the wreckage of 32 for 4.
It’s been at least two or three years since Dravid timed the ball as sweetly as he did today, and he admitted as much afterwards. With the outfield really quick, the trademark flicks through midwicket and the eased drives through cover and straight down the ground sped to the rope. And when the bowlers pitched too wide, the cut was both severe and perfectly placed. Chanaka Welegedara, who had cut down the rest of the top order, was taken for 44 from the 40 balls he bowled to Dravid, and there were some majestic off-drives off Murali. But if ever there was a stroke that revealed intent, it came 10 minutes before lunch, as Rangana Herath, just introduced into the attack, saw a ball disappear over long-on for six.
By day’s end, he had gone past 11,000 runs, and past Steve Waugh into fifth place on the all-time list. He added 125 with Yuvraj, and 224 with Dhoni, both at terrific pace, and was rarely beaten. And though there were 26 fours and a six in the 177, what really stood out was the ease with which India picked up singles. Dravid and Dhoni, in particular, found the gaps effortlessly as the pitch eased and the bowling lost its sting.
With the odd ball keeping low, a total in the region of 500 will put India firmly in control of proceedings. The pitch is placid, but the sheer weight of runs will create its own pressure. And once again, when the time came for someone to stand up and be counted, it was Dravid that answered the call. He’s been doing it for years. No fuss, no frills, and perhaps not the appreciation he deserves.