November 23, 2009

The Wall getting taller and stronger


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Rahul Dravid of all people is a firm believer in letting his bat to do the talking. As the luck would have it he has been needed to dispel the impression once too often that he still has plenty to offer.

He has been one of those underrated cricketers who have had to meet more challenges than any of his contemporaries. His ability and integrity have been beyond doubt but for some strange reasons he has often been put under undue pressure by his own authorities.

Thankfully Dravid does possess that elusive mental strength to come to terms with the pressures from the various quarters. In fact he relishes the challenges and comes good more often than not in silencing his critics.

There could not have been a more appropriate time that the opening Test of the new season to remind people that he remains technically the best batsman in the world. He is not very far away from his 37th birthday but he still has the same hunger for runs and he proved the point once more that he can bat as freely as anyone if he desires so or if the situation demands him to attack the opposition.

That’s the advantage Dravid has. Because his technique is so sound and he judges the trajectory of the ball to perfection he has the option of changing gears without taking undue risks.

His knock of 177 in the first Test against Sri Lanka at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad was a classic example of him dominating the bowling at will. Remember his team was reeling at 32 for four on the first morning when he chose to take the attack to the opposition.

He had assessed the pitch and measured the bowling to perfection. He knew that the best way to keep the bowlers at bay was by hitting them to all parts of the ground. He doesn’t do it often but it’s also very rare when India lose four wickets in the first hour of a Test match.

With master blasters like Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni keeping his company for quite sometime the stage was set for Dravid to take up the initiative and put runs on the board quickly.

The lightening quick outfield brought him boundaries at regular intervals. His cover-driving was the feature of the brilliant innings during he got on top of all the Sri Lankan bowlers including the champion off-spinner Mutiah Muralitharan.

Not many people would have thought of him reaching the coveted milestone of 11,000 runs on the opening day considering the fact that he was 177 runs away when he had taken guard in the morning.

But it was a special day for him and all his followers the world over. In the end it was in the fitness of things that he did reach the landmark before the stumps were drawn.

With Harbhajan Singh at the crease and Zaheer Khan still to come, a double century for Dravid had looked very much on the cards on the second morning but he was undone without adding to his overnight score.

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