By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Rahul Dravid turns 36 today. The batting maestro didn’t have a particularly good time in the middle the whole of last year and he needs to take a fresh guard on January 11, 2009 to be able to weather the storm for quite a few more years.
Dravid, undoubtedly the most accomplished batsman of his generation, has still a role to play in the Indian cricket team that boasts of the most potent batting line-up in the world. His presence at number three provides the balance to an outfit whose intent is to play for win.
India today has many outstanding young batsmen who can take the fight to the opposition with their brilliant stroke-play. But how many of them have the capacity to graft an innings or to occupy the crease for a long time in Test matches. The Indian youngsters are doing well in the limited overs contests but they have to look to the seasoned campaigners in the longer version of the game.
Dravid provides stability to the Indian batting. He has the technique as well as the temperament to grind the bowling, a tendency not common in youngsters anywhere in the world. He adds value to the team with his grit and fighting qualities.
I totally agree with the Indian chief selector Kris Srikkanth who has very clearly stated that Dravid will be one of the key elements of the team during the upcoming tour of New Zealand.
"He's a batsman with over 10,000 runs in Test cricket. He is also among the greatest batsmen the world has produced. If you don't give Dravid the extra leeway, whom are you going to give it to?” he very rightly questioned to the critics having gone an extra mile in lamenting Dravid.
"We have specific plans. During the forthcoming series in New Zealand, a player like Dravid will be very crucial for us. There will be bounce and movement for the pacemen there. If India are to progress to the No. 1 ranking, it has to beat New Zealand in New Zealand. Dravid will be a key member of the line-up at the No. 3 slot," Srikkanth was quoted as saying.
It’s very heartening indeed to find the chief selector backing the player undergoing a lean patch. I think Srikkanth deserves credit here for not having got carried away. Obviously he and his panel of selectors much have been under immense pressure to dump Dravid for the tour of New Zealand.
Indeed Dravid has endured a lean patch in 2008. But why do people so conveniently ignore the fact that he held the Indian batting together from the time he entered the Test arena in 1996 until 2007. An ordinary year after 11 golden years doesn’t necessarily mean that the man is finished.
His greatness has been beyond doubt. He has scored heavily in every continent of the world. He has delivered where the others have found wanting. He has won India more Test matches than anyone else. It’s just a matter of time for him to regain his touch. His bat has the power to silence the guns of his critics.
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