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.