Wednesday, Feb 01, 2023

Higher than The Wall

At a Thai restaurant in Islamabad,after the first day’s play in the final Test in 2004,Rahul Dravid politely declined to stay for...

At a Thai restaurant in Islamabad,after the first day’s play in the final Test in 2004,Rahul Dravid politely declined to stay for dessert,saying he needed to sleep because he had to bat the “whole day tomorrow”. Not early,not in the morning; the whole day.

It led to a few involuntary sniggers at the dinner table,but Dravid had chosen his words carefully. Ten not out overnight,he was unbeaten on 134 when stumps were drawn the following evening. And then,for good measure,he batted almost the whole of the next day as well,finishing on a career-best 270. It wasn’t the most attractive knock,and not nearly his most fluent — in fact,at 12 hours and 20 minutes it was the longest innings by an Indian player ever — but Dravid had ensured,almost single-handedly,that India won their first Test series in Pakistan.

Adelaide,Kolkata,Leeds,Kingston — he will be remembered when,years from now,people talk about what had happened in those cities at the turn of the century. For,scratch a famous Indian victory,and you will uncover a Dravid gem underneath.

Through his career,he has been associated with hard,unwavering grit with a bat in his hands and soft,natural refinement off the field of play. It’s been hard to pick between the great batsman and the perfect gentleman. But,as the French philosopher Voltaire said,“The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out.” So,while Dravid invoked deep admiration and steadfast affection,he did not immediately move fans as much as some of his more naturally attractive peers from this generation of astonishing batsmen.

Subscriber Only Stories
UPSC Key- February 1, 2023: Know about Economic Survey 2022-23, Amrit Kaa...
Budget’s good economics: No shadow of 2024, light of fiscal prudenc...
Three big takeaways of Union Budget 2023-24: Capex, fiscal prudence and n...
Scintillating sea creatures and what makes them special

Perhaps history will judge his true place in Indian cricket,and put him higher than the fifth or sixth place he occupies on the list of most experts. Perhaps history alone will finally realise that “The Wall” is too simplistic a nickname for a batsman of his ilk.

I’ve always believed that Dravid’s famous sobriquet is completely misplaced. As a batsman,he is skillful and prudent,with far more character than a block of brick and mortar. Maybe,at times,he stood firmly like a defensive barrier. But they weren’t necessarily his best moments. There were more occasions when he attacked the very heart of the opposition. “The Wall” barely begins to describe him,so how can it sum him up?

There was a time when Dravid was in grave danger of being consumed by his own quest for technical perfection. Former Australian captain Ian Chappell once said he needed to be told that matches were won not by hours but by runs or wickets.


In those days,when he did manage to get a big score,he was invariably overshadowed by a colleague. Right from his debut 95 at Lord’s in 1996 (when Ganguly cracked 131) to the 148 at Headingley in 2002 (when Tendulkar trumped him with a 193). But at The Oval in the following Test,Dravid smashed a flawless 217. The next highest score was Tendulkar’s 54. The spell was broken,and there was no looking back after that.

This week,seven years later,there were glimpses of the Dravid we know so well in his 177 at Ahmedabad. But the innings was different because it seemed to have the fluency that usually comes only with abandon. Beaten by Dammika Prasad midway through his knock,he hammered the next ball down the ground for four. The Dravid of old would’ve never done that — he would’ve scarcely scored a run for the next few minutes,cross with himself for the momentary lapse of concentration.

Treated unkindly by the national selectors with his sudden inclusion and abrupt exclusion from the one-day team in recent weeks,one might say it was Dravid’s way of showing he should not be trifled with. But,knowing him,that was perhaps the last thing on his mind. He is too clever a student of the art of batting to let anything come in the way of the next ball,next over,next session.


Dravid fell early on the second morning of the Test,having already made a statement with his most entertaining century since Adelaide 2003 — removing not just the scars of the recent one-day snub but also,to an extent,of his only modestly successful stint as captain that ended suddenly in 2007.

The innings was significant for all those reasons. But,situationally speaking,there was nothing new. India was in trouble,and Dravid,its great No 3,batted the whole day again.

First published on: 19-11-2009 at 22:27 IST
Next Story

Army to buy 600 Avalanche Victim Detectors

Latest Comment
Post Comment
Read Comments