The caption here not only refers to the fact that Rahul Dravid played in that position in almost all of his career, but his popularity among the Indian cricketers. Dravid was never given the credit he deserved in the Indian team. The lime-light was always on the other two stalwarts, Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly. This is the reason that I call him the ‘no. 3′, though literally too, he was the no 3 batsman who stood like a ‘Wall’ for the Indian team for nearly 16 years.
He was always under the shadow of Sachin, whom the whole world loved and Sourav,who was the sweetheart of Kolkata. But that didn’t affect the elegant right hander from contributing for the team’s cause. He was never bothered about praise nor criticism, taking everything in his stride and the only thing that mattered to him was his batting. He has always been a team man who puts the team’s cause ahead of his own. His quiet demeanour and his unbreakable concentration are some of the many wonderful traits that you can see in the man. His commitment to the game was so much that Mathew Hayden once said ”All this going around is not aggression. If you want to see aggression on cricket field, look into Rahul Dravid’s eyes”
Whenever he comes onto the field, he brings with him a certain aura of calmness and control over the situation and the will power to make things happen. His impeccable technique and stylish strokeplay are treat to the eye. Along with elegance and grace, he is among one of the greatest to have played the game.
Rahul was born into a Maharashtrian Brahmin family in Indore. His family shifted to Bangalore later due to his father’s work commitments where Dravid started playing cricket. He started playing from the age of 12 for his school team. He was then selected for higher league cricket and he began to learn and excel. He was a consistent performer in the domestic circuit and that earned him a call up to the Ranji team in 1991. He performed well and he soon got a call up to the Indian team for the ODI series against Srilanka. He didn’t do well and he was dropped soon after.
Fortunes changed when he was picked for the tour of England where he finally made his debut in the second test along with Sourav Ganguly. It was there it all started for him. He made a wonderful 95 at Lords, the home of cricket. Even there, he was overshadowed by a another debutant in Sourav Ganguly, who made a fine century.
Dravid was then a regular in the team. He got his first century against South Africa playing at no. 3 (a position which was going to be his own in the coming years) on a pacy, bouncy pitch is Jo’burg. He started making good progress in the test side by making some consistent scores thereby cementing his place in the test side.
But Dravid was not lucky in the ODI format. People called him a slow batsman and many people termed him as a test specialist. But Dravid proved them all wrong by playing some wonderful knocks and cementing his place in the side soon enough. He played in the 1999 world cup where he was the highest scorer (461) with two centuries to his credit of which one of them came in a mammoth partnership of 318 runs with Sourav Ganguly.
When the Indian team was engulfed in the betting scandals that was rocking the whole of India, Dravid was given the role of a senior batsman by his captain Ganguly. Dravid was asked to keep wickets by Ganguly because they were in need of an extra batsman. Navjot Singh Siddhu once said ”Rahul Dravid is a player who would walk on broken glass if his team asks him to”, That was the measure of this man and sure enough he began to don the role of wicketkeeper for his country.
One of Dravid’s best knock came in the year 2001 in Kolkata when he put up 376 runs with Laxman, making 180 in the process to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against Australia. He was selected as Wisden’s one of the five cricketers of the year 2000.
His character as a whole was a shade more than his batting and that is saying something, since his batting is one of the best in the whole world. His 48 centuries in cricket with 5 double centuries make him one of the best players to have played the game for India. He was excellent fielder too, picking up a record 210 catches in tests and 196 in ODIs.
Dravid was a completely flexible player who can bat at any position in the batting order. He was shuffled many a times in the batting order but that didn’t stop him scoring runs. For a man who was called test specialist, Dravid went to score 10,889 runs in ODI’s with 12 centuries and 83 half centuries. The highlight of Dravid’s career was the series in Australia in 2003 where he scored 619 runs in 4 matches earning the man of the series award and leading India to a historic series over Pakistan in tests by scoring a mammoth 270 in the final test.
Dravid’s captaincy stint though wasn’t as successful as his career. His captaincy record was average and he was the captain when India bowed out of the 2007 world cup in the very first round. Dravid resigned from captaincy, taking responsibility for the loss, yet another trait this man possessed. He had a bad patch in 2008 where he was average in the series in Sri Lanka. Calls came from all the corners to drop him from the team, but being the kind of player that he is, he came up with a brilliant century against the touring English side and put up a triple century partner ship with Gambhir in the process.
Dravid was the only success during the England tour in 2011, where the Indian team was white washed 4-0. Dravid saved India’a face by scoring three centuries in 4 matches, earning the man of the series award for India. He was later recalled to the limited overs side after a gap of two years which surprised everyone including Dravid. He announced his retirement from the ODIs and T20s after that series after scoring a half century in his last ODI appearance.
He had a poor series against Australia at the end of 2011, getting out bowled on as many as 7 times. After this series, Dravid announced retirement from all forms of the game, ending what was a brilliant career which spanned for almost 16 years. He was the only non-Indian to deliver the Bradman Oration in Australia before the series, an honour not bestowed upon many.
Dravid is a role-model for all of us who follow, play and live cricket. His character, game and behavior on and off field has always been a reason for people to respect him. He has been a constant source of joy for cricket lovers exhibiting his batting skills, playing those wonderful drives and cuts which were a treat to watch. His penchant for run making was one of the greatest traits of Dravid as a player. I feel proud to be born in the same country as Dravid and I am one of his greatest fans who loved watching him bat.