The wolf who lived for the pack, the quintessential Test batsman, Rahul Dravid came up with heroic knocks which embodied resilience and an unflinching desire to win throughout his career.
Here are his 5 best innings in Test cricket:
5. 146 Not Out vs England, The Oval, 2011
This match began with India’s middling bowling “attack” of Ishant Sharma, RP Singh, S Sreesanth and Amit Mishra being mowed down and scalped by destroyers-in-chief, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen. The duo powered the Poms to a mammoth total of 591. It was the final match of a series that went miserably wrong.
The bowlers, after being blitzed all around the park and the fielders, chasing leather to no avail, were left exasperated and lorn. Being beaten black and blue throughout the series, in the final Test, Team India were out to seek some consolation to pacify themselves and escape the brutality of the media and the fans back home.
With Gautam Gambhir suffering from the up consequences of a concussion, India once again turned to Mr. Dependable for respite.
Rahul Dravid, along with Sehwag opened the batting for India. With steely determination, he tried to keep the English bowling attack at bay on his own while watching wickets tumble from the other end. With the Indian batsmen showing little resistance, England almost steamrolled their way through India’s batting line up.
Dravid, like a lone ranger, made it less of a cakewalk for the English, resisting them like Harry Potter obstructed Lord Voldemort. Literally and figuratively, in this match, he was the last man standing, the only one amongst 10 other “boys”, with the scoreboard showing a dismal 300 all out in reply to England’s 591.
India eventually lost the match by an innings and the series 4-0 with Dravid being India’s highest run-getter.
4. 190 vs New Zealand, Hamilton, 1999
Vijay Hazare and Sunil Gavaskar were the only Indian batsmen to have scored hundreds in both innings of a Test match till then. If there was another name deserving enough of being mentioned in the same breath as them, it had to be that of Rahul Dravid.
He did enough to begin his ascent in that direction by scoring 190 in the first innings and 103 in the second, denying the Kiwis a second win in the series in the process.
He exhibited some elegant stroke play consisting of a variety of shots including his trademark hook, a few straight drives, cover drives and leg glances. The crowds were also “treated” to his majestic front foot defence.
Before Dravid came out to bat and settled in, India had lost Navjot Sidhu (yes, the laughter show guy used to play Test cricket for India!) and Ajay Jadeja in less than 5 overs.
Then, along with Sachin Tendulkar, Dravid steadied the ship only to see Ganguly, Azharuddin, Mongia and Kumble fall cheaply, shortly after Tendulkar departed.
He was then involved in an important partnership with tail ender Javagal Srinath who scored 76. Dravid’s responsible innings dragged India to 416.
New Zealand responded well and Dravid and Ganguly scored centuries in the fourth innings to deny them victory.
3. 148 vs England, Leeds, 2002
India went into this match after losing the first match at Lord’s and drawing the second at Nottingham. Unconventionally and to the surprise of many, after winning the toss, captain Saurav Ganguly opted to bat on a pitch with a hint of green.
Virender Sehwag had been roped in to open the innings along with Railways opener Sanjay Bangar. Sehwag did not last long and fell for 8.
In came Rahul Dravid to deal with England’s pacers who were looking to bully the Indian batsmen on a track that favoured swing and bounce.
Dravid tackled everything that was thrown at him with impeccable judgement – each ball bowled outside the off stump was calmly left. The art of “leaving” was practised with perfection. He laid a strong foundation for Sachin and Ganguly by taking blows on his body repeatedly to supress high bounce.
It was an innings in which Dravid had to work hard for each run and do the dirty work for his team mates.
His 148 was the most crucial contribution in this Test match. Tendulkar’s 193 and Ganguly’s 128 would not have been possible without the giant edifice built by Dravid.
India won the match and Dravid was correctly adjudged man of the match.
2. 233 vs Australia, Adelaide, 2003
After Saurav Ganguly’s ton in the first Test at Brisbane dragged India away from the clutches of defeat, the message was clear – Team India were going to be no pushovers for the Aussies, even in their own fortress of a backyard.
The pitch at the Adelaide Oval in the second Test was a batsman’s paradise. Ricky Ponting won the toss and elected to bat first without hesitation. The Aussies exploited the situation well and posted a massive 556 in the first innings.
Virender Sehwag got India off to a blazing start with his 47. However, wickets fell like ninepins and in no time India were reduced to 85-4 from 66-0.
The Aussies exulted as Ganguly fell, convinced that even with Dravid and Laxman at the crease, victory was not too far away. Little did they know that the echoes of Eden Gardens, 2001 would be felt at the Adelaide Oval. Fans like us did not have the faintest of idea that our prayers were about to be answered. History was about to repeat itself.
The backdrop this time was the lush green and the golden sunshine of the Adelaide Oval. Rahul Dravid, along with VVS Laxman began India’s resurrection.
Wearing the Aussie bowlers down with his classy defence, Dravid hit top gear and smashed the bowlers all around the park. Dravid held the team together with his talismanic innings.
He was the last man to get out as India were firmly back in the game. The result was a win for India with Dravid’s being the most important contribution, in the first innings as well as the second.
1. 180 vs Australia, Kolkata, 2001
After being bowled out for 171 in response to Australia’s 445, India were sent in to bat again.
By the time Dravid came in to bat, India had lost 4 wickets for 232 runs. Saving the match looked like a mountain to climb, never mind winning it.
Dravid and Laxman had their backs against the wall. As Laxman clobbered the Aussies all over, Dravid sculptured an unspectacular but solid innings.
He had answers to everything that was thrown at him by Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz and the other Aussie bowlers. The fact that he was run out is proof of the same.
He reached 100 by smashing Warne to the fence and his celebration showed how much this century meant to him. It was the beginning of an era.
Dravid’s innings helped India to a 600+ second innings total and eventually one of the greatest turnarounds in the history of Test cricket. As John Wright likes to put it, this indeed was the greatest comeback since Lazarus.