Your team has an exciting new talent whom you have to play. You decide to jettison one of your openers to play him. Who will now open the innings? Simple send Dravid to open (irrespective of the fact, he is one of the best No.3 ever to occupy the spot)
Your team lacks balance. You need to play 7 batsmen & 4 bowlers. Your wicketkeeper can give McGrath competition with the bat. What do you do? Simply ask Dravid to don the gloves
Your team brimming with exuberant talent stumbles when ball fizzes past their throat and your next assignment is on bouncy tracks. What do you do? Dial D for Dravid (despite the fact, that the man was unceremoniously dropped from the test team)
Your next tournament is in India on tracks where if the ball bounces more than your chest, implies that it is a tennis ball being bowled. Drop Dravid (inspite of the fact that the man performed admirably well in the role designated for him)
If it had been anyone but Dravid, I am sure there would be lengthy press conferences and not-so-quiet rumblings but being the gentleman that he is, there was nary a sound from him. Instead he spoke louder through his actions, scoring a sublime unbeaten century proving a point again.
Proving a point. That has been Dravid’s story. Branded as an unidimensional player at the start of his career, he has reinvented himself and scored over 10,000 ODI runs at an average a shade under 40 to prove his detractors wrong. For people who wrote him off after the disastrous tour Down Under in 1999, he replied by amassing over 600 runs the next tour.
A quiet unassuming man, not for him the genius of Tendulkar or the magnificence of Lara or the power of Ponting. Instead, he has ground out attacks. Unflinching in the face of adversity and capable of absorbing anything thrown at him, he earned himself the sobriquet of “The Wall”. And that solid he has been for Team India.
Look back at some of Team India’s greatest overseas victories and it is replete with instances of Dravid being instrumental in achieving those victories. The phenomenal double century in the first innings and the gritty unbeaten 72 in the 2nd innings where he was just going on empty, at Adelaide. The master class of 148 in blustery, damp, dank, wickedly swinging and seaming Headingly track leading to a famous victory. The twin fifties on a devilish minefield at Sabina Park where one only player apart from him scored above 60 in a low scoring scrap.The massive 270 at Rawalpindi where despite not being in the best of touches, he hung in there and ensured that India won the match and series in Pakistan. Throw in over 180 catches, a captaincy stint that led to series victories in England and West Indies and a first ever win in S Africa, Dravid is veritably the finest No.3 that India has produced.
In a team replete with stroke makers, Dravid is the glue that holds it together and provides solidity. Over the last 2 years, when the man was not as solid as he normally is, the team had a shaky feel to it, capable of imploding spectacularly.
Dravid has spent most of his career under the shadow of Sachin. However, in the near future (when Dravid retires), Team India will realize that he cast an equal shadow and had an equal influence (if not greater) as Sachin.
PS: Last Word. Ponting – 136 Test matches – 11345 runs. Dravid – 134 Test matches – 10823 runs. Just 500 runs behind in 2 less games. Does that make him a lesser player?