On August 22, 2011, India were whitewashed 4-0 in a Test series by England. Through those ruins, Rahul Dravid stood tall and battled against the hosts. During the first innings of the fourth Test at The Oval, he carried his bat through the innings. Nishad Pai Vaidya looks back at that knock.
During a disastrous summer in England in 2011, Rahul Dravid stood like a warrior fighting in the midst of ruins. While the Indian team surrendered abjectly, Dravid held on to every bit of his ability and tried his best to keep a rampant England at bay. In the end, his magnificent efforts went in vain as the others let him down. That was India’s sorry tale on that nightmarish tour. When they travelled to The Oval for the fourth and final Test of the series, they were already 0-3 down and had been robbed off the number one spot in the Test rankings. The best India could hope for was a draw.
England won the toss on Day One (August 18) and batting first was a no brainer. The Indian bowling had been mauled by the English batsmen throughout the series and they were also without their best bowler on tour, Praveen Kumar. An out of shape Rudra Pratap Singh was summoned to take Praveen’s place from near obscurity. Rain intervened on Day One and reduced India’s agony to some extent. The English openers however finished the day on 75 for no loss off the 26 overs bowled. The next day, a 350-run partnership between Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen took them to 457 for three at the end of the day. Pietersen chipped in with an attacking 175 and Bell was unbeaten on 181.
On Day Three (August 20), England continued to pile on the misery with Bell completing his double ton and the lower order wielding their willows. Rain intervened again and a lot of time was lost. Ultimately, England declared on 591 for six with Bell contributing 235. India started their innings after Tea and Dravid had to open the batting. The selfless campaigner had to step into the role after Gautam Gambhir suffered a concussion during fielding. Even during the second Test, he opened the batting with both Gambhir and Virender Sehwag on the sidelines — scoring a fighting hundred.
The setting was gloomier this time. India had hope at Trent Bridge, but it was only about survival now. Dravid walked out with Virender Sehwag, who made a pair on his comeback during the previous Test. In his typical idiosyncratic manner, Sehwag started off by attacking the bowling with two boundaries in the first over. However, James Anderson came back off the final delivery of the over by trapping him in front of the stumps. Dravid’s famous partner in crime, VVS Laxman joined him.
The English bowlers had troubled Laxman throughout the series. He did not last long as he edged one from Stuart Broad into Matt Prior’s gloves. The ball came off a length and Laxman merely poked at it with his feet rooted to the crease. In the face of 591, India were 13 for two and Sachin Tendulkar walked in with the talk of the impending 100th ton still alive.
When compared to his teammates, Dravid was on a different planet. While they kept poking at deliveries outside the off-stump and edging it to the slip cordon, Dravid dispatched anything in that corridor with conviction. Anderson gave him a little bit of room and he punched it behind square on the off-side to pick up his first boundary. Anything on the pads was bread and butter for him and Anderson was punished through mid-wicket for four more. Dravid was off and running.
The most prominent aspect of his batting was the way he guided deliveries through third man. Although, England had men packing the slip-cordon, Dravid would invariably find the gap by opening the face of the bat and playing it along the ground. As was the case during the series, Tendulkar looked in good touch but lost his wicket against the run of play. A glorious on-drive off Broad was proof that he was in his elements. However, after stroking a few boundaries and speeding to 23, he top-edged a Swann delivery while attempting the paddle-sweep and was caught by first-slip. The 55-run partnership was gradually growing, but was nipped in the bud.
Dravid was in complete control and showed why he was an epitome of copybook batting. If they pitched it short, he was alert, rising to his feet and clipping it with his wrists towards the on-side. However, the off-side was laced with classical strokes carpeting along the ground. He brought up his half-century of 93 balls and was largely untroubled during his stay.
The sublime show at one end was a joy to watch. But, at the opposite end, it was a contrasting story. Suresh Raina’s horrific tour continued as he struggled for 29 deliveries without scoring a run. His painstaking innings came to an end when he overbalanced to Swann and Matt Prior whipped the bails to find him short.
Ishant Sharma was sent in as a night-watchman, but was dismissed for a solitary run as he edged one onto his pads off Swann and was caught at short-leg. With the sun setting and the shadows enveloping the square at The Oval, the under-pressure captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni strode out to tackle a hopeless situation. He saw it out to the end of the day, smashing the last ball behind square for four. At the close of Day Three, India were 103 for five.
Dravid and Dhoni resumed the battle on Day Four. The former got into his rhythm by working one off his pads to the square-leg boundary. There was a small scare though as he tried to chase an over-pitched delivery and got it past the diving point fielder for four. Meanwhile, Dhoni was showing intent with a few positive strokes, but got an edge to Matt Prior as Anderson got it to move a little bit. The captain returned to the hut for 17. India were now 137 for six.
A screenshot from Star Cricket’s telecast shows Rahul Dravid’s feat
Amit Mishra has always been a combative batsman and looked determined to support Dravid. Early in his innings, he charged to Swann and carted him for four over mid-wicket. Dravid continued to show great technique against the off-spinner. Even when he changed his angle and went from around the wicket, Dravid was ready. For one that was pitched short, Dravid rocked back and placed it through third-man to pick up four — a stroke that took him into the 90s. Swann was also penalised if he over-pitched. Dravid covered the angle and worked it away to the mid-wicket boundary.
With Dravid on 99, Tim Bresnan was brought into the attack. In appropriate fashion, Dravid worked him towards third-man and ran two to get to his third hundred of the series. The arms went up in celebration as it was his 35th Test hundred and it put him past the great Sunil Gavaskar. Dravid has always been a dedicated team-man and in this celebration, one could sense a bit of disappointment in his expression.
Mishra then got into the act by stroking a few fours. However, the shot that stood out was a six off Swann. Mishra danced down the track and lofted him with disdain over mid-wicket for maximum. It was the last ball before lunch and India went in at 218 for six. Soon after resumption of play after lunch, Mishra pulled one from Bresnan into the hands of Bell at short square-leg. He was specifically placed for that and it ended Mishra’s brave innings of 43. Dravid patted him on his back as it was some fight he was looking for.
A concussed Gambhir joined Dravid and it was too big an ask for him. Dravid battled on; Swann was beautifully cover-driven for four. The fast-bowlers rarely pitched it outside the off-stump now. All their energies were now focused on Gambhir. The Delhi southpaw fought his condition and the bowlers. His effort was admirable as he survived for 61 balls before a short-one from Broad caught him unaware.
RP Singh wielded his willow with his unique technique and slammed a few boundaries. Dravid moved to 145 with that typical guide through third man off Bresnan and a 150 was now in sight. By then, India had moved to 300 and things had started looking a little better. After all, it was the first time they reached that score on this tour. However, Bresnan induced an edge off RP Singh’s bat and then had Shanthakumaran Sreesanth caught at cover to end India’s innings on 300. The ever dependable Dravid was stranded on 146 not out.
While there was talk about India’s shoddy display, one couldn’t ignore Dravid’s magnificent effort. In this series, the team had let him down and it was obvious. He became the third Indian after Sunil Gavaskar and Virender Sehwag to carry his bat through the innings. In many ways, it highlighted India’s struggle on the tour as Dravid was the only one who looked up for the challenge.
Sadly, his last tour to England ended in slightly controversial circumstances. India were made to follow-on and there was a bat-pad appeal for him when he was on 13. The umpire was unmoved and England called for the review. Hot Spot did not show any marking from the front angle as the side was blocked by the short-leg fielder. In the end, the third-umpire went for video evidence and ruled him out on the basis of the deflection. The Decision Review System (DRS) was under the scanner. Dravid did confess that he got a feather on it.
Tendulkar (91) and Mishra (84) fought hard on Day Five to try and save India, but it was too much. All the focus was on Tendulkar’s probable milestone which never came. Once that pair was separated, India collapsed like a pack of cards and handed England a victory by an innings an eight runs. Not only that, but they were also whitewashed 4-0.
Dravid went up to collect his Man of the Series award on Day Five and when Michael Atherton asked him if he would play again in England, he said, “One series at a time, Michael!” It was a sad end to Dravid’s campaign in a country where it all started for him. A legend was let down that day.
England 591 for 6 decl. (Ian Bell 235, Kevin Pietersen 175; S Sreesanth 3 for 123) beat India 300 (Rahul Dravid 146*; Tim Bresnan 3 for 54, Graeme Swann 3 for 102) and 283 (Sachin Tendulkar 91, Amit Mishra 84; Graeme Swann 6 for 106) by an innings and 8 runs.