Rahul Dravid, the gentleman cricketer

New Delhi, Jan 26 (IANS) Batting great Rahul Dravid tried to be perfect in everything he did, both on and off the field. The 16 years he played international cricket, he played with dignity and humility; a gentleman cricketer to the core. On Friday, he was named among the awardees of the Padma Bhushan, India's third highest civilian award, on the eve of Republic Day.

Dravid formed the 'Fab Four' of Indian batting with Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman. Tendulkar described him as the perfectionist who showed patience and willingness to build big knocks.

The 40-year-old Bangalorean ended his One-Day International (ODI) career in 2011 before retiring from all forms of international cricket after a not-so-great tour of Australia in 2012.

Dravid is the only Indian cricketer to score a century in all Test playing nations. A team man to the core, Dravid also kept wickets when the team needed. He amassed 10,889 runs in 344 ODIs, scoring runs at an average of 39.16 with 12 centuries.

He went out of the Test arena as the second highest run-getter in the world (13,288 runs) after his legendary teammate Tendulkar. Dravid has 36 Test centuries and his runs came at an average of 52.31. He was India's saviour overseas and 21 of those 36 centuries were scored on foreign soil.

But he couldn't repeat his magic in his last series against Australia. The former India captain realised that 194 runs in eight innings and getting bowled six times Down Under was hint enough for him retire, not wanting to remind the fickle cricket pundits and fans his performances in England, just before Australia.

In the England series in 2011, a banner at The Oval read: "England vs The Wall" - that pretty much summed up what the tour for the Indian team was. He was by far the best batsman, aggregating 461 runs at an average of 76.83, which accounted for 23 percent for the India's runs. In the first innings, he got 388 runs at an average of 184 that accounted for India's 35 percent runs.

Dravid's three of the last four Test centuries came in a losing cause but they were all about immense pride and dignity. Two of them came as a stand-in opener, a role that he never relished.

England always was a special place for Dravid, who made his Test debut there alongwith his former captain Ganguly in the summer of 1996 at Lord's. While Ganguly went on to score a memorable century on debut, Dravid, who came in to bat at No.7, fell short by five runs.

It took another six months to score his maiden Test century (148) against South Africa at Johannesburg in Jan 1997 and since then there has been no looking back.

Most of his big knocks either won the Tests or saved India. For example, his memorable 180 in a monumental partnership with Laxman (281) at the Eden Gardens that fashioned one of India's greatest wins against Australia in 2001. He also went on to become the highest run-getter in the 1999 World Cup in England with 461 runs.

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