Another brick in the impregnable wall; the rise and rise of Rahul Dravid

While the other batting stalwarts, barring VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Singh, were unable to string together an innings of substance at Trent Bridge, Rahul Dravid yet again rose to the occasion with a characteristic hundred © Getty Images

 

By Madan Mohan

 

Before Rahul Dravid struck form on the tour of the West Indies, many India watchers felt he would have to be persisted with perforce up to the tour to England because his experience would be needed there. If he didn’t contribute on the tour, it would be time to say goodbye to one of India’s greats.

 

But, as the cliché goes, cricket is not called a game of glorious uncertainties for nothing. Three innings into the most-talked about match up this summer, Dravid seems to be making the difference between India wilting and going down fighting at the very least, if not getting back.

 

On Saturday, he compiled what should go down as one of his worthiest of 34 tons. In difficult conditions, with the rest of the batting line-up largely falling apart around him, Dravid was rock-solid and chanceless. He duly got out to his first terrible shot of the innings, a valiant attempt to push the score.

 

The term workman-like was used in the TV commentary to describe his innings. But it does not do justice to his innings, for it was not labored or scratchy as such a description would suggest – far from it. It was one of the most fluent batting I have seen from him in a Test match in a long time, especially overseas. He was in control right through the innings and the waiting game, which some other batsmen in the line-up seemed too bored to play, came easily to him. When Dravid is in full flow, his eyes get narrow as if to focus his tunnel vision. During his recent slump, his eyes were wide open and anxious. Not so on Saturday; it was the Dravid we know.

 

He left several deliveries well alone and chose his scoring shots with care, bringing all his experience into play. At the same time, and most impressively, he played behind the wicket on the offside a lot more than he usually does to capitalize on the English conditions and keep the scoreboard ticking. Trent Bridge continues to be a happy hunting ground for Dravid and that’s the way it’s most likely to stay.

 

Unfortunately for him, only two other batsmen in the line-up got amongst the runs and one of them, Yuvraj Singh, with the gift of a dropped sitter from Kevin Pietersen. VVS Laxman looked good for many more than his 54. Sachin Tendulkar suffered another uncharacteristic lapse of concentration despite looking like he had got his eye in. Suresh Raina looked woefully out of place yet again. Just when you thought his grit will help him tide over his technical problems at the Test level, a pitch like this one leaves him badly exposed. I was disappointed to see Abhinav Mukund depart first ball of the innings, but not particularly surprised. I kind of feared it would happen in such conditions and, on cue, talk of continuing with Dravid as an opener after Gambhir rejoins the team has begun. Will Mukund, like SS Das, Akash Chopra and Vikram Rathour, join the list of swiftly-discarded Indian opening options?

 

In the event, with Mahendra Singh Dhoni persistently getting out to the same shot early on in his innings, Dravid had to play a most unbecoming wild slash on the offside in a bid to score some runs before Broad knocked off the remainder of the tail. It was a shot of despair as Dravid is not predisposed to choosing the imprudent option in Test cricket. He had been left stranded, denied the support his innings begged for.

 

One hopes 117 of the most valuable runs he has scored in his career don’t go in vain. A lead of 67 is no more than handy and England can still roar right back into this match and win it. It would be a shame for such a resounding reaffirmation of Dravid’s class to end up in a losing cause. Numbers have been doing the rounds in the internet of how Dravid’s centuries have almost never gone in vain. That one already has at Lord’s and another may well follow suit at Trent Bridge perhaps signifies the end of an era in Indian 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.)