By Faisal Caesar
The wickets were falling, the track was tricky and the team had a sprinkling of young guns, still not mature enough to handle the pressures of Test cricket. The situation at Jamaica in the recently-concluded first Test against the West Indies called for a player of character, a player with immense patience and skill to ensure that the team does not fall apart. In modern day cricket Rahul Dravid - alongside VVS Laxman – is a master in such crisis situations.
The bricks in Dravid’s cricketing wall may seem old, but it’s still strong. It’s a fortress that stands impregnable against any attack, anywhere in the world, in any conditions. The quiet, no-nonsense Dravid carries on as efficiently as he has over a decade and half at the very top. His flawless technique, top class temperament and granite arel his principal allies. It was a quiet message to doomsday prophets who were writing his obit in an foolish hurry.
On a Sabina Park track that afforded copious turn and unpredictable bounce, Dravid gave a vivid example of triumphing under adverse circumstances by scoring a value-based, match-winning 32nd Test century.
In an innings where the next highest scorer was No. 10 Amit Mishra’s 28, Dravid succeeded with the method that has worked so well for him over the past 150 Tests: playing old-school defensive cricket, shunning the fancy strokes and grinding down the opposition.
Throughout the morning Dravid had been quite and patient. His partner of the previous afternoon, Virat Kohli, was hampered by the short stuff and left. Raina stayed longer but fell a victim to Devendra Bishoo. Mahendra Singh Dhoni and first innings batting hero Harbhajan Singh also did not last long. When Praveen Kumar was bowled by Darren Sammy for a second-ball duck, India were eight down with the lead 256.
The West Indies hoped of an early end of the Indian innings. Instead they were flattened by Dravid, who added 56 vital runs for the ninth wicket with Mishra. He mentored the tail-ender in manner that instilled confidence in Mishra to play some top-quality shots. India took a lead of 325, thanks largely to Dravid’s 112. But for his hundred, India would have been in a mess.
Ravi Rampaul did pose some uncomfortable questions to Dravid early on. Some of his deliveries cut in from outside off, some straightened and a few reared up. But Dravid’s solidity in technique counter had counter for each of the probings.
Kingston seems to bring out the best in Dravid as he had played two epic innings four years ago to help India to victory.
Dravid is still one of the finest batsmen in modern Test cricket – an ornament to the game, on and off the field.
(Faisal Caesar is a doctor by profession whose dream of becoming a cricketer remained a dream. But his passion is very much alive and he translates that passion in writing about the game)