IPL 2013: Like old wine, Rahul Dravid getting better with age!

Rahul Dravid’s (above) strokeplay may not have had the dominance of a Sachin Tendulkar or the flashy brilliance of a Sourav Ganguly, but it was always effective for the team’s cause © AFP

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

Rahul Dravid believes in the principle of risk-free batting — at least, that’s the popular perception. But one can be highly effective without being spectacular. Dravid was one of the most effective one-day batsmen, who saw India home on numerous occasions. His strokeplay may not have had the dominance of a Sachin Tendulkar or the flashy brilliance of a Sourav Ganguly, but it was always effective for the team’s cause.

His strike-rate in One-Day Internationals and Indian Premier League (IPL) is good. And he has achieved that with sacrificing the class for which he is known for in the conventional format. The stereotype that stuck with him may have because of the genesis of a struggle early in his one-day career — one that he brushed aside with determination and hard-work.

Not many may recall that Dravid once scored a 50 off 22 balls in a ODI. As India bludgeoned their way to a huge total against New Zealand in 2003, it was Dravid’s clean hitting that took them past the 350 mark. He is also the same man who smashed three consecutive sixes on his T20 International debut in 2011.

In the IPL, one of his most memorable efforts came in the first edition, where he hit 75 off 36 balls against Rajasthan Royals while representing Royal Challengers Bangalore — a knock that contained six sixes. The innings is proof of his ability to hit clean and long and maintain a healthy strike-rate.

However, there was something different about his magnificent innings 65 against the Delhi Daredevils on Sunday. It wasn’t the typical Dravid innings where he upholds every value of the copybook with the odd indiscretion. When he edged his first-ball for a four through third-man, one sensed that he was there to take his chances. The moment he defended the next ball with typical balance, the immediate reaction of the TV commentator was, “that is the Dravid we know!”

There were a few shots that signified Dravid’s technical brilliance. He guided Andre Russell through point with perfect timing and balance. As the innings progressed, we witnessed something unreal. The disciplined technician was clearing his front-leg time and again to make room for himself.

Some of the boundaries Dravid hit during his innings saw him take the front-leg out and swing his way. Have the corruptions of the crude T20 format caught on with the classy Dravid? Since his Test playing days are behind him, some might say, “why can’t he have some fun after all?”

During Dravid’s innings, the commentators pointed an interesting detail. His strike-rate in the IPL is 117.24, which is a decent number. For someone who is an anchor and holds one end as the others make merry, it shows that he does score at a fairly good clip. The acceptable norm for a batsman’s strike-rate in T20 hovers around the 120 mark and Dravid is quite close to it.

At the toss the other day, the host said that Dravid wore a smile while playing the IPL, which was a rare sight when he played for India. The smiling Dravid suggested that the pressure was lesser while playing the T20 format. This 40-year-old legend is enjoying the game after years of hard work and toil for his country. His work ethic and commitment hasn’t changed as he looks very fit for the rigours of the game. Perhaps, the IPL 2013 may be the time he stamps his authority and leaves a lasting impression on the game’s youngest format.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)