An ode to The Wall

Nishad Vellur

Writing about India`s performance in the recently concluded Test series in England is not a pleasant thing. Also, it was a series people would like to remember to forget or forget to remember, but for one man - Rahul Dravid.

Moving on from the debacle in England without appreciating the performance of `Mr Dependable` Dravid will not at all be the right thing to do. With thirty five Test centuries under his belt, after the three centuries he scored during this series, he has now surpassed Sunil Gavaskar to stand second in the list of century makers from India, Sachin Tendulkar being the first.

When all the other batsmen infamously knelt down before the fiery English bowlers, Rahul Dravid was the last man standing--he defied them all. His three centuries bear testimony to the fact that he has been called The Wall for a reason. He scored 461 runs facing 965 balls in the whole series.

Had Sachin Tendulkar completed his 100th century in the final Test at the Oval, Dravid`s story would not have been noticed, let alone praised. In fact, he has always been the man the country`s die-hard fans failed to appreciate. Dravid has always been as vital to India`s batting as Sachin Tendulkar, but no one seems to attribute him with legacy or greatness (not that Dravid is complaining).

Very rarely does Dravid fight for a losing cause. Before going into the England series, he had 32 centuries, out of which only one did not bear fruit. That was against Zimbabwe 13 years ago in Harare, where he made 128. Unfortunately, the three hundreds that came after it were all for a losing cause. It is now four defeats out of 35 hundreds.

"When you get a hundred and don`t end up winning, it doesn`t feel nice. I hadn`t experienced it too much in my career [until this tour], so you experience something new all the time," he says.

India might have been humbled by the ruthless English team, but they have also failed to win before The Wall. He was outstanding throughout the series scoring runs when his good friends in the team were losing their heads.

Century number 35 hasn`t exactly been an easy feat for Dravid, especially after a lean period of his career. But once again he showed our youngsters how to play cricket on foreign soil. This Test century proves that Dravid has not just been around for ages, but that he plays exceptionally good cricket. Now that he is 38, he will never be back in England to play for India. However, it has been a good tour for him at least on the personal front, though it left him with what he describes as `mixed feelings`.

"There`s a sense of satisfaction at the quality of the way I`ve played, because I`ve always enjoyed batting and playing cricket, and competing and getting the best of myself. I continue to try to do that, irrespective of my age and the situation," Dravid says.

The most reliable man of Indian cricket is, sadly, officially leaving the ODI avenues to dedicate more time to his Test aspirations. He lost the ODI place two years ago and was not even considered for the World Cup squad. However, he has done and excelled in whatever role the team has given him. This includes batting in the middle-order, wicketkeeping and his role as an opener.

With 10765 runs in 339 matches, this ODI series in England will bring down the curtain on his career as a One-day player. This last minute inclusion in the One-Day squad appears to be a tribute to his skills. However, he deserves greater respect from the selectors who have unceremoniously used and discarded him according to their whims. And now that he has scored three centuries in the series, he deserves much more.

At the threshold of the Test summit now, Rahul Dravid has forever carved himself in the highest echelons of batting history. He should stay longer on the grass and give more to cricket and to himself.

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