London: India`s batting great Rahul Dravid is back to his best form with an unbeaten ton against England in the first Test but he admitted that he doubted himself after he had a dismal series in South Africa last year.
"When runs don`t come you do doubt yourself. It`s natural occupational (hazard) for sportspersons," stated Dravid whose typically back-to-wall unbeaten 103 - his 33rd Test ton avert the follow-on for India against England.
Dravid made 120 runs from six innings of three Tests at 20 apiece in South Africa but is now back to his best with two centuries in one month - 116 in Jamaica last month and at Lord`s on Saturday.
"I think this one is one of my best ever. Jamaica was special because we won the Test and it was not easy wicket to bat on. And now this one, given the context of the game and conditions, has been most satisfying and fulfilling," he said.
"I always love touring England. You just look at this Test, the packed stands, Test cricket is still supported here and as a Test player who loves Test cricket, there is no better place. They support and clap irrespective of who takes wickets or makes runs. It`s a lovely tour to play because you know you will be playing in front of packed houses."
Dravid missed out on a century in his maiden innings in Test cricket at this very venue in 1996 but made up for it this time, 15 years on.
"I must admit it did stay with me (missing out on century in 1996). But it was not the end of the world - I felt if it happened here good otherwise there are a lot of great cricketers who have not got it.
"But it was at the back of my mind, I knew I had one more go. Now having done so in circumstances like this makes it feel special. It`s good to have your name on the honours board for this is one honour which is still talked about the most among international cricketers," he said.
"At that time (in 1996), I never understood significance (of missing out on hundred at debut). I was a young man just happy to get a game. To end up with 95 runs I couldn`t have asked for a better start. 15 years later, I know the game has given me so much and changed me as a person. I was a really shy young man in 1996," Dravid said.
The 38-year-old batsman was not as much pleased that he had now moved into number two spot among top run getters as he was with the contribution which his knock did to the team.
"I don`t look at it that way. It`s the longevity, the fact that after 15 years I can still make a contribution, still play knocks I want to play for India in situations such as this, I felt good and really enjoyed it today," he said.
The entire focus in the build-up to the Test was on Tendulkar`s 100th international hundred and Dravid said, in a way, it was ideal for him.
"He is talked about the most and probably rightly so. He is the true legend of the game and was batting well today. He has another innings coming up for me. (But to not have the attention) suits me, when all the pressure is on him, I can slip by quietly and do my business," he said.
"I have been privileged to have played with Sachin and Laxman, the true legends of the game. Having played with them and those stands, these are great memories who would stay with us even when we are finished with the game."
Dravid said he did not try to farm the strike with tailenders for his individual hundred because the only thing he was worried about was the follow-on target.
"The only thing important at that stage was how to get to 275. I spoke to Praveen and said let`s take every run. I backed him to play some shots, to hit a few and he contributed 17 runs even though he was lucky at times.
"It was only when 275 runs were reached and I was left with only 6-7 runs to get to my century, that I started thinking about it," said Dravid.
The ball swung all day and batting was very challenging, said Dravid.
"It swung all day. It was cloudy as well. I remember speaking to Dhoni perhaps that let`s hope some sun comes out."
Whenever Dravid has scored a century, India has never lost a Test except once in Zimbabwe in 2001.
"It`s a good omen though I must say it`s got to be a challenge to fight back from this situation. But we have been fighting from tight situations in the last 2-3 years and hopefully we would do it again," he said.
Dravid felt it was important to take early wickets on the fourth day to keep England`s charge in check.
"We would try to take early wickets. May be 4-5 wickets in the first session. If it`s not so, we would be on backfoot and trying to draw the game."
The two recent hundreds have given Dravid a new lease of life but the batsman was not willing to commit himself if he believes he has now secured another two years of his with the Indian team.
"I don`t think so, it`s something I learnt from Sachin. He does not talk about future, he tries to live in present. He has been a great inspiration for me. I am only going to stick to my next innings and not about anything else."