Rahul Dravid has been bowled five times in his last six Test innings. Here Dravid is bowled by Peter Siddle of Australia in the first Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground © Getty Images
Rahul Dravid has been bowled five times in his last six Test innings. Here Dravid is bowled by Peter Siddle of Australia in the first Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground © Getty Images

 

By Madan Mohan

 

Maybe it’s a case of two more bricks in the wall to fill that hole – Ian Chappell on Rahul “The Wall” Dravid getting bowled three times in the Melbourne Test.

 

On Thursday, James Pattinson bowled Rahul Dravid neck and crop to deal a knockout blow to India’s thin hopes of pulling off a steep chase. It was the fifth time in six innings that Dravid was bowled – six times, if the bowled off a no ball in the MCG first innings is also factored.

 

A legendary batsman getting bowled so frequently surely won’t go unnoticed and will figure in the plans of opposition bowlers. It would also be a matter of concern for a batsman of Dravid’s solidity because it hints at some technical lacuna that may have to be addressed.

 

On a closer scrutiny of his dismissals, a pattern emerges. Here’s a brief note on each of them chronologically:

 

1. Against West Indies, 2nd innings at Delhi: Bowled off a 140 kmph delivery from Fidel Edwards that was full, pitched outside off and came in to make a mess of the furniture (see pix above).

 

2. Against West Indies, 1st innings at Kolkata: Bowled off Kraigg Brathwaite’s bowling, getting an under edge to a length delivery that turned in.

 

3. Against West Indies, 1st innings at Mumbai: Bowled by Marlon Samuels, dragging a length off break onto the stumps.

 

4. Against Australia, 1st innings at Melbourne: Bowled off an off cutter delivered at pace by Ben Hilfenhaus. Dravid brought his bat down to keep it away but the ball sneaked through the gap between bat and pad.

 

5. Against Australia, 2nd innings at Melbourne: Bowled off a fullish delivery that angled in from James Pattinson. It was fast and once again, penetrated the gap between bat and pad.

 

Hole in the wall

 

Dravid was also bowled off a no ball by Peter Siddle in the first innings, again off an incoming fullish delivery. Clearly, there is a pattern. I am not qualified to comment on whether these were all off cutters, but they moved in off the seam from outside off stump and beat Dravid’s defence. A yawning gap between bat and pad also seems to have been his undoing.

 

Dravid is not the only batsman to have perished to off cutters. According to former South African bowler Fanie De Villiers, the off cutter was THE delivery to bowl to Sachin Tendulkar.  Readers would recall a particularly unplayable one from Alan Donald that cleaned him up in the 1996 tour of South Africa. Ishant Sharma also got Ricky Ponting with an off cutter at Mohali in the 2008 edition of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

 

So, the off-cutter is basically THE delivery to bowl to any right-handed batsman. But it is also considered a difficult one to produce at pace. It is movement at pace that has trapped Dravid on these four occasions. He may well have countered an incoming delivery delivered at 120 kph thereabouts.

But the off cutter is not some recently-developed delivery. It has been around for a long time, so a trusted line of defence must exist to counter it.  In both the Melbourne dismissals, Dravid was shaping up to play the ball on the offside. That is, against the trajectory of the delivery. This, together with the gap between bat and pad, is what has made it tough for him to keep such deliveries out.

 

It may also suggest that he failed to read the delivery either off the bowler’s hand or through the air. The pace ensured he had no time to adjust upon realising his folly. The delivery Hilfenhaus produced was a peach to face early in the morning and nine times out of 10 may have got the unfortunate batsman. But, as I said before, Pattinson’s delivery was already shaping in and Dravid ought to have played it towards the leg side anyway. His position was too neutral for an incoming delivery and that brought about his downfall.

 

Around 2005-06, bowlers applied the same theory to Tendulkar and succeeded in frequently dismissing him with off cutters or simply ones that were angled in. He countered the ploy by going further across and playing a defensive on-drive to such deliveries. I have wondered for a long time the reason for the adjustment and looking for a pattern in Dravid’s dismissals may just have provided the answer.

 

It would not be appropriate for a mere enthusiast like me to suggest what Dravid ought to do and ought not to do. But bowlers seem to have found a chink in his armour and be sure they will target this weakness in the upcoming matches.  And I will watch with interest to see whether “The Wall” rises to this challenge presented late in his career.

 

Click to read an interesting report on Dravid’s dismissals as bowled in Test cricket

 

(Madan Mohan, a 25-year old CA from Mumbai, is passionate about writing, music and cricket. Writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake)