In Praise of Good Old Grit

Yahoo cricket editorial blogs
Rahul Dravid

It took so long coming, some of us had forgotten what a gritty Dravid hundred felt like. Here was the author of some of India’s greatest moments on a cricket field. Yet in the last five years, he had inexplicably struggled to score the hundred that would take Indian cricket and his own legend forward.

Sure, there have been several memorable performances by him in this period. Between Sabina Park 2006 and Sabina Park 2011, there was the 93 at Perth. The 177 in Ahmedabad. The 62 in Napier. But what was missing was the one innings which typified Brand Dravid: the over-my-dead-body innings at a time everybody else had surrendered to the conditions.

This was Dravid’s first Test hundred outside Asia in five years, and just his second since Adelaide. He’s had two fruitless tours of South Africa, and below-par tours of England and Australia. In recent times Dravid's overseas record had fallen from its lofty standards. With young talent waiting to break into the Test side, Dravid's clock is ticking. And as he walked out to bat after Murali Vijay fell LBW to a shooter from Ravi Rampaul, his mind wouldn't have been in a happy place.

In his autobiography, Indian Summers, India's former coach John Wright had this to say about Dravid's marathon effort in Adelaide:

Dravid made that test a personal mission. Each night, he said, he went to bed thinking about how much more there was to do. Most people, I think, would say this test proceeded at breakneck pace, but to Dravid it felt like it lasted a month. Little wonder: he was on the field for all but a couple of hours, included 835 minutes at the crease for 305 runs once out.

These last two days, Dravid was again on a personal mission. There were demons in the wicket if not in the opponent's bowling. Between a dropped catch on 6 till he got out slogging Devendra Bishoo on 112, he had played as well as anyone could have in challenging conditions made harder by heat and humidity.

As he himself said of the innings, "It was always a battle between the mind and body."

In this marathon knock of 274 balls and over six hours at the crease, Dravid batted nearly all of India's 94.5 overs. An unglamourous innings, it was built with a nudge here and a push there, and the rare loose ball put away for four.

In an age where hard graft is unfashionable, Dravid's 32nd Test hundred was more compelling than the gloss and high-paced action of 51 days of T20 cricket put together. It not only emphasised his place in Indian cricket, but also Test cricket's place in these changing times.

India's four young batsmen made 67 runs between them in this innings and often looked ill-equipped to survive the examination of their techniques by West Indies' quicks. They are young. One could still teach them footwork, defense, technique. But how will one teach them good old fashioned courage? How does one teach them patience?