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A player who thrives on additional responsibility
By V Ramnarayan

The historic Kolkata Test, in which India turned the tables on the mighty Aussies, was as much of a watershed in Rahul Dravid's career as it was in VVS Laxman's. For, as it so often happens in Indian cricket, a class player's sacking was being demanded by critics who ought to know better. Twice in the Mumbai Test, the Indian vice-captain had done the hard work and then lost his wicket. This came on top of his alleged inability to push the scoring along in one-day cricket, and Dravid was increasingly coming under fire. The call for his head was becoming more and more strident.

So it was that when Dravid punched the air and pointed his bat in a defiant gesture towards the press box, after completing a magnificent hundred at Eden Gardens, your heart went out to him, even if one part of you was slightly disappointed this role model for young cricketers was for once allowing pent-up anger to dominate his on-field behaviour.

It had been a masterly performance by a man under extreme pressure, in the most challenging circumstances, against the best attack in the world, on the biggest stage in world cricket.

There was a new spring to the Karnataka batsman's step as he walked out to bat in the Chennai Test that followed that epoch-making victory. The strokes flowed from his bat in a seemingly never-ending flow. As he did at Kolkata, he decided to take the battle to his earlier nemesis, Shane Warne, against whom he was using his feet more decisively than ever before. Watchful against Glenn McGrath, he was nevertheless hardly overawed, and when the tall Australian erred in length or line, a rare aberration for him, he punished him mercilessly. His onslaught against Gillespie was breathtaking, though he eventually perished to him. Here was Dravid at his best, a Samson unchained.

Dravid continued in the same vein on India's recent Zimbabwe tour. While Ganguly struggled to rediscover his lost touch, and Tendulkar steeled himself to concentrate harder in conditions different from those obtaining in India, Dravid it was who looked completely in control. His batting was positive, focused and productive, his immaculate strokes increasingly finding the gaps rather than the fielders.

This newfound ability to place the ball will elevate Dravid's batting to new heights in the days and months to come. I will be surprised if he does not play a major role in the ongoing series in Sri Lanka. He is just the kind of player to thrive on the additional responsibility thrust on him by Tendulkar's absence.

Should Dravid open in Test matches?
Yes
No
Can't say

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Date-stamped : 20 Jul2001 - 14:23