By David Green
Unsurprisingly a plethora of eulogies have been written about Rahul Dravid following his marvellous performances this summer – we particularly enjoyed those penned by King Cricket and Rob Smyth on the Guardian’s excellent weekly cricket blog ‘The Spin’.
India’s house of straw may have been blown down by England’s big bad wolves, but the little piggy Dravid built his wall of bricks even higher than usual and was consequently more impenetrable than ever.
Indeed we’ve always had a sense that Dravid is the most important of India’s quartet of stellar batsmen.
All of them are great players: Virender Sehwag can turn or take a game away from the opposition in an instant, the elegant VVS Laxman has developed a penchant for delivering in tricky run-chases and Sachin Tendulkar is, well Tendulkar is Tendulkar. But it is Dravid who invariably gets the runs at the most crucial times most notably when conditions favour the bowlers and when India’s backs are up against the wall.
On India’s featherbed pitches, Dravid averages a respectable but hardly earth shattering 50.75. However, this increases to 54.71 away and a Bradmanesque 68.80 in England where Dravid has scored six centuries in 13 Tests.
At home, it’s almost as if Dravid subconsciously relaxes in the knowledge that others are going to fill their boots in favourable conditions. However, when the pitches are bouncier and more conducive to swing and seam, Dravid knows that India’s hopes generally rest with him and his sense of purpose is imbued accordingly.
Make no mistake, India were absolutely hammered in this series. In our view that makes Dravid’s performance all the more extraordinary. Three hundreds in four Tests including two in the emergency opener role he despises tell you everything you need to know. No other Indian batsman reached 100 even once and Dravid scored nearly a quarter of his side’s runs in the series.
He may not have added to his long roll of honour of playing a key role in significant Indian victories overseas – such as he did at Johannesburg in 1997, Headingley in 2002 and Adelaide in 2003 – but he showed once and for all that rumours of his demise had been completely exaggerated.
Tendulkar may have the more glamorous Test batting records for most runs and most centuries, but it is typical of Dravid that he has the blue collar rolled up sleeves record of being the batsman that has faced the most balls in the history of Test cricket after being the first to pass the 30,000 barrier during the England series.
Rahul Dravid – for discipline, application and sheer-bloody minded stubbornness in the face of England’s blitzkrieg attack - is belatedly given the accolade of a Reverse Sweep cricket hero. May his wall stand as long as Hadrian’s.
(David Green is the brain behind the irreverent The Reverse Sweep blog and also writes for a number of cricket publications and sites such as World Cricket Watch. You can follow him on Twitter also @TheReverseSweep. David was a decent schoolboy and club cricketer (and scored his maiden 100 the same week that Sachin Tendulkar scored his first Test ton) but not good enough to fulfil his childhood dream of emulating Douglas Jardine by winning the Ashes in Australia and annoying the locals into the bargain. He now lives with his wife and two young children in the South of France and will one day write the definitive biography of Hedley Verity)