It was 1996 and India was touring England. This was the first time I got to see “The Wall” Dravid bat for India. The media coverage those days wasn’t so great for domestic cricket so knowing a player before debut was not that easy. The series did not start well for India as they lost the first test in Edgbaston and as with the case in the 90’s Sachin was the standout performer with a hundred. India decided to go with 2 debutants for the Lord’s test. The 90’s wasn’t a great decade for debutants for India until that point and considering the criticism vented on Ganguly at the start of the tour I wasn’t hoping too much from either Dravid or Ganguly on their debut. How wrong was I?
After dismissing England for 344 in the first Innings, India found themselves in early trouble as usual at 59/2. After few partnerships and brilliant innings by the debutant in the match Sourav Ganguly, India were 202/5 still 142 runs behind the English total. Rahul Dravid the other debutant for India walked in to join Sourav in the middle. It was a great moment for Rahul and like Sourav he did not want to let this opportunity slip. Rahul Dravid even in his first innings at the international level showed great composure and calmness at the wicket. He was a perfect foil for the flamboyant Sourav Ganguly who went on to make a brilliant hundred on debut at Lord’s. Rahul though missed the mark by 5 runs.
In spite of missing the mark he had done enough and a legend was born. For the next 15 years along with Sachin, Sourav and Laxman he has been the vital cog in the Indian middle order. Coming in at number three he has been the India’s most important player overseas and has played quite a few memorable match winning knocks. A player par excellence was named the “The Wall” for his amazing appetite for runs and his extraordinary patience at the crease. He has been a perfect team man often doing what is required of him in the team. He has been pushed around in the batting order even though he has been India’s best number 3 by a distance. He has batted in all positions in the batting order and has also opened when required for his team. He also donned the keeping gloves for a while when India were looking to balance the ODI squad.
There is no question that Rahul has been a perfect role model off the pitch too. He is a soft spoken individual who always says the right thing in the media. It is unfortunate that in spite of all his achievements his position in the team is still questioned. Rahul though has now made an inspired comeback to form. The brilliant hundred in West Indies was followed by two more in England and is our key player once again on overseas tours. He announced his retirement from the shorter forms of the game after the ODI series in England. His performances in the ODI were amazing considering that he was written off as a test player in earlier part of his career.
The West Indies tour and the subsequent England tour have proven that the youngsters are not ready to replace the legends, so Rahul’s decision augurs well for the team. Rahul has been a great role model and a brilliant player over the years for India and I hope that he has a wonderful last few years in the Indian test side. He has given us wonderful memories through his batting and it will be sad when he eventually decides to hang up his boots. I wish that he has wonderful end to his career and hopefully will have few more great years in international cricket for team India.