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Posts Tagged ‘Rahul Dravid’

The mild maestro

In the pantheon of Indian cricket, Rahul Sharad Dravid stands tall alongside Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar. Yet, despite more than 21,000 international runs, he has never been one for trumpet solos. A flamboyant 177 in Ahmedabad last November became the launchpad for India to win the series against Sri Lanka. It also raised many a surprised eyebrow, especially amongst those who had thought that the sun had set on Dravid’s pitch. He followed it up with 144 in Kanpur, becoming the second-highest scorer in the series after Virender Sehwag.

From a player living on the edge after being dropped from the ODI team, one would have expected a triumphant swagger. But Dravid is a man of few words. And when he does talk, he is as watchful and circumspect as he is with bat in hand.  Today’s fast-track media detests sportsmen that aren’t quote machines. When a subject is neither florid nor effusive, reporters have to take the trouble to dig deep. Dravid doesn’t come giftwrapped with sound bytes. With such individuals, even the smallest gesture tends to be deconstructed for clues. Often, motives are ascribed where none exist.

Was Dravid’s uncharacteristic exuberance on field after his century in Ahmedabad—which reminded one of his exultation after a hundred in the match against Australia at Eden Gardens in 2001—a response to some of his detractors? He laughs and shakes his head. (more…)

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Last Sunday, Bollywood luminaries and team-mates, his childhood coach, Ramakant Achrekar, and those he grew up admiring gathered at the south Mumbai residence of Mukesh and Nita Ambani, owners of the Mumbai Indians IPL franchise, to celebrate two decades of Sachin Tendulkar in Test cricket. There was even Asha Bhosle – of Cornershop’s Brimful of Asha fame – to sing that classic from Umrao Jaan, Aankhon ki Masti (The Magic of these eyes).

Tendulkar was a John McEnroe-admiring curly-haired bully of eight when the movie was released in 1981. But as much as he would have enjoyed the evening, it wouldn’t have been a patch on what had happened earlier in the day, as victory by an innings and 24 runs over Sri Lanka at the Brabourne Stadium took India to the top of the Test rankings for the first time.

To understand what it meant to Tendulkar, you perhaps need to go back a decade, to a Test tour of Australia when he was captain.

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Spare a thought for Rahul Dravid. Even on the day that he made one of his finest Test centuries against Sri Lanka, most of the news headlines were given over to comments made by a cartoonist-turned-right-wing ideologue. But Bal Thackeray’s critical remarks were aimed at Sachin Tendulkar, and nothing gets India into a lather quite like unkind words about its cricketing Peter Pan. So, though Tendulkar’s first innings of a third decade in Test cricket lasted just three balls, Dravid’s magnificent 177, which led the team from the wilderness of 32 for four to 426 and included his 11,000th Test run, became “in other news”.

He’s had enough time to get used to it though. Cults of personality are rare in team sport but when present, they can be especially fanatical. Most people can name only one player from the Argentina team that won football’s World Cup in 1986. With El Diego around, who could spare the time for Jorge Valdano’s finishing or Sergio Batista’s tackling? It was always the No10 and the rest.

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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. (more…)

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A couple of weeks ago, a magazine asked me to pick my top 10, along with a brief explanation why they had been picked.

This was my list:

Sunil Gavaskar

Sachin Tendulkar

Kapil Dev

Anil Kumble

Rahul Dravid

Vijay Merchant

Bishan Singh Bedi

CK Nayudu

Bhagwat Chandrasekhar

Sourav Ganguly

The top five are straightforward picks. No debate there. Merchant was the first recognised titan of the Mumbai school of batsmanship, while Bedi and Chandra were the most successful spinners of the pre-Kumble era. Ganguly makes it because of how he transformed Indian fortunes abroad as captain, while Nayudu was instrumental in the game gaining such a captive audience in the 1920s and ’30s. With those two, the impact that they had far outstrips any statistical shortcomings.

What do you think? How would your list differ? Also, which cricketers would make the list if the same exercise was carried out for Pakistan and Sri Lanka?

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Rahul Dravid and Vinod Kambli played 27 one-day matches together over a four-year period. One made his debut at the age of 19, the half of the high-school duo that had “taken the stairs” while Sachin Tendulkar“took the elevator”. The other had played more than 50 first-class matches before getting the India cap. One’s stolid style was considered unsuitable for the slam-bang version of the game. The other, all flair and Caribbean-style flamboyance, seemed perfect for it. The natural finished with 2,477 runs at a modest average of 32.59, while the misfit has been recalled at the age of 36, having scored 8,000 runs more.

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