When Rahul Dravid first started to play 50-over cricket, not many put their money on him to succeed in the format. Perceived as a traditional, orthodox player, he found it difficult to convince everyone about his capabilities to become a limited-overs player.
But as is the case often in international cricket, it takes one competition or sometimes, even one match to change that perception. That for Dravid came in the form of the 1999 Cricket World Cup, where he finished as the highest run-getter with 461 runs in 8 matches.
After that spectacular run in England, the Indian team management could no longer him and from then, until 2007, when MS Dhoni adopted the policy of providing youth more opportunity, his place in the Indian side was always safe.
During that eight-year period, Dravid played a different role to the one he played in England in that World Cup. With Sourav Ganguly at the helm in early 2000’s, he played in the middle-order and finished several games for India, with the help of Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif etc.
In that period, he played several memorable innings for India, but the one that is remembered till date and chuckled upon by many is his 50 against New Zealand at Hyderabad, which came off 22 balls.
It was an astonishing effort by a batsman, who was not touted to play such knocks and in an overall score of 353 for 5 in 50 overs that included centuries from Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, Dravid’s contribution went somewhat unnoticed.
But looking back today, it must be said that it was that knock which gave the late impetus to the team propelled them to as big as a score as that.
However, Dravid did miss out on one thing on his way to the blazing innings, which was the record for the fastest fifty by an Indian. He made his half-century off 22 balls, while Ajit Agarkar got there in 21 balls a few years earlier in a game against Zimbabwe.
Regardless of that, it was a superb innings from Dravid and proved to all about the kind of evolution he had made and become a fine limited-overs player.India eventually won that game by 145 runs.