SK Flashback: Rahul Dravid's journey to his first and last T20 international - Oh! What a tale
In the winter of 2010-11, India set off on a 3 Tests, 5 ODIs and one T20 tour of South Africa. The tour had everybody in the cricketing fraternity in bated breath as all eyes were on Sachin Tendulkar, who was one shy off reaching his 50th Test century.
But one corner of an eye was also on another batsman, who was coming off a pretty good home series against New Zealand. Barring that series, though, in which he scored two tons, Rahul Dravid was having a below-par 2010 and there were minute whispers about whether the end for him was nearing.
Those whispers started to gain volume when Dravid didn't have a productive time with the bat in the 3 Tests in South Africa, where he scored 120 runs in 3 Tests at an average of 20 and his only real highlight turned out to be stunner of a catch he took at Durban, which, incidentally, was also his 200th.
It was obvious that with runs having dried up and age not on his side, Dravid would’ve thought about hanging up his boots. But the quality that separates champions from the rest is their ability to dig something from their reserves, even if it isn't as much as, they would like when absolutely nothing is going their way. Keeping that thought in mind, Dravid decided to give one final go, hoping to bring out whatever was left out within him.
Shades of his best start to reappear
After India’s triumphant World Cup-winning campaign at home, the team embarked on a tour of the Caribbean. The 5-match ODI series saw India win by a 3-2 scoreline. The Test series that followed saw a steely looking Dravid take the field. He just seemed to be a man who wanted to prove to himself that he still could make substantial contributions to his team’s cause. To India’s cause.
He started the series off with a century in the second innings of the Jamaica test, which helped India win and continued to show admirable determination and concentration, traits which had defined him as a player over the course of 15 years in the international game.
He finished the tour as the leading run-getter with 251 runs in 3 Tests at an average of 50.2
With that confidence under him, the right-hander began his fourth tour of England in July 2011. Throughout the course of his career, the Old Blighty was a place which had given him special moments. Test Debut in 1996, Highest run-getter in the 1999 World Cup, County stint with Kent in 2000, which helped him resurrect his career, three centuries in 2002, Captain of the side that won in 2007. So it was good for Dravid that he was going to a place which he definitely found most comfortable going and playing, after perhaps, his hometown Bangalore.
But right from the opening test, not only was the team under pressure but so was Dravid. England had been playing some exceptional cricket at home in the last 24 months or so and with the likes of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, and the rest to counter, India not just needed their WALL, they also required him to be at his very best.
And that is exactly what he gave to the team. His very best. The opening innings of the series saw him achieve a personal accomplishment of sorts as he completed an emotional hundred which he had missed out in 1996, even as the rest crumbled alongside him.
In the hosts second innings, Gautam Gambhir was hit flush on his left shoulder by a sweep shot off the bat of Matt Prior. The team man in him came to the fore once again as he opened the innings in India’s second essay, looking fluent in his 36 as India succumbed to a heavy defeat. The test confirmed one thing for all Dravid fans: While we may not be able to see the flowing cover drive with the old ease or the flick with the same comfort as the past, he still had the resources within him to pull his team out of trouble.