I'm watching the 3rd ODI between India and Sri Lanka, and noticed that Rahul Dravid went past 10,000 runs in ODI cricket! He celebrated in classic style by scoring three consecutive boundaries - all in his impeccable, technically correct fashion! (He also scored the only six of the Indian innings - a massive shot down the ground which went high up into the stands!) He is the sixth person to score over 10,000 runs in one-day cricket, after Sachin Tendulkar, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Sanath Jayasuriya, Sourav Ganguly and Brian Lara.
While watching him steer the match India's way, I couldn't help but sit back and smile (and applaud of course) on him crossing the 10,000 run mark in one-day cricket! Oh, the innumerable arguments and "discussions" I have been involved in while trying to defend Dravid's abilities over the years!
I remember watching his test debut at Lords and was impressed with his class and attention to technique. While Sourav Ganguly was making splashes for his gifted offside play, everyone who watched Dravid would come away remembering his technique. Of course, invariably, the same people would also comment that he was just a "test match player" and that he was too slow and the fact that only "technique" gets you nowhere in the fast-paced world which is one-day cricket. Look at Sanjay Manjrekar, they say - a batsman gifted with "technique" but not really cut out to be in the Indian team's long-term plan.
What most people fail to realise is that the very technique that they used to deride Dravid for is what keeps him going - and of course the fact that he is a fantastic student of the game...always looking to improve his batting and eliminating any minor niggle or flaw that might remain while not allowing any more to creep in. When he was criticised for being too slow in one-day matches, he became the ultimate finisher - honing an exquisite ability to accurately plan out a run-chase (such as today's game). When he was criticised for not being able to take singles and rotate the strike, he went back and practiced dropping the ball short and playing with soft hands to sneak in quick singles. When there was a problem with him being only a specialist batsman in a world of all-rounders, he took on the role of wicket-keeper, where he did very well and carved out a place as a wicket-keeping all-rounder! (How many teams in world cricket could claim to have a wicket-keeper with a test average of over 57 and 23 centuries?)
His discipline and search for perfection led him to take over the reigns of captaincy from Sourav Ganguly; a role in which he has flourished! Considering his career, he seems to be performing better as captain than otherwise. Here are his stats from before the current match:
Mat Runs HS atAv 100 50
total 308 9978 153 39.91 12 76
as Captain 60 2102 105 42.04 2 20
Very few players in the history of cricket (especially Indian cricket) have been able to soak in the pressures of captaincy and not let it affect their personal form - it even affected the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly! Captaincy was probably the best thing that happened to Dravid.
While his wicket, along with Ricky Ponting's, has become one of the most prized wickets in Test cricket he has carved out a niche in one-day cricket as well. Dravid is now able to adapt his batting style to any position in the order - depending on the situation and team requirements. The very fact that people (cricketers, journalists and even the general public) find it odd when Dravid fails to make an impact in even a single game just goes to show the fact that we have gotten used to consistent, match-winning performances on his part.
Dravid also has a completely selfless streak about himself - while he is capable of steering an innings, he is only too happy to revert to encouraging batsmen at the other end, no matter how young/junior they are. If they are performing well, he can stay back and play the supporting role to perfection. This just goes to his convictions of putting the team ahead of himself.
With a few years of international left in him, it is only a matter of time before we see him breaking more records - both in test as well as one-day cricket. The "wall" has learnt not just to defend well, but also to strike back and take the the battle to the opposition. We should see some more magical innings from him in the not too distant future.
[As an important side note about today's match - Dhoni was fantastic! He showed that he has a mature cricketing brain and is not just a club-weaving Neanderthal who only hits the big shots...he played for a long time scoring only singles and rotating the strike with Dravid and then cut loose when the time was just right.]
With the world cup almost on us, may we dare ask - is it time for the second coming for India, with Dravid leading the way?