There were many who were firmly convinced that Dravid's game was good only for Test cricket.
By Partab Ramchand
As he rides off into the sunset it must be said that Rahul Dravid has had an exemplary record in ODIs – particularly when you consider that serious doubts were raised at the start of his career whether with his technically correct game he could make the transition to the slam bang variety. These doubts were raised even as he made his ODI debut in 1996 and they increased after his first two Test knocks that saw him play chiseled textbook strokes. There were many who were firmly convinced that Dravid’s game was good only for Test cricket. Aware of the growing criticism against him being included in the one day side Dravid tackled it head on. He expressed the honest view that he had no problems in adapting to the two styles of cricket. ``But till I achieve a big score in the one day game I do not want to discuss that aspect. However I am very keen in proving my worth in the shorter version of the game too,’’ he said.
It took Dravid some time but he kept his word. In the face of an imposing Pakistan total of 327 for five in 50 overs in the Independence Cup match at Chennai in May 1997 made possible by the world record score of 194 by Saeed Anwar India had lost one wicket for nine when Dravid came in. It was entirely due to his efforts that the match did not have a tame finish for India got to 292 before they were all out in the last over. Dravid got 107 attacking the bowling of Aaqib Javed, Azhar Mahmood, Saqlain Mushtaq and Shahid Afridi with dazzling, innovative strokes that almost made him look like the twin brother of Rahul Dravid the Test cricketer. It was his 33rd innings in ODIs and by this knock he silenced his critics who said he was good for Test cricket but not for the one day game.
Of course every now and then the criticism again surfaced and every time Dravid rose to the occasion with a timely riposte. And after his final ODI innings the other day at Cardiff his record spoke for itself. A tally of almost 11,000 runs from 344 matches at an average of just over 39, a strike rate of a shade over 71 with 12 hundreds and 83 half centuries puts him comfortably in the top seven among run getters in ODIs. If his strike rate is below par – not entirely unexpectedly – his impressive average underlines his consistency. Moreover like in Tests whenever the Indian team has faced a crisis in ODI’s it was Dravid who quite often steered them out of trouble.
It must also not be forgotten that Dravid doubled up as a wicket keeper in quite a few ODIs including the 2003 World Cup. He generally did a commendable job given the fact that he was not a regular stumper and did so only in the interests of team balance. And of course he has also been captain of the ODI squad in which role unfortunately he is best remembered for India being knocked out at the preliminary stage of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean. That would not be entirely fair for Dravid had his share of notable results – a 2-2 draw against a strong South African side at home in 2005 and a 4-1 away win over Pakistan the following year.
Perhaps the highest tribute that can be paid to Dravid is the fact that he is concerned with two record partnerships in ODIs with Sachin Tendulkar and two more with Ganguly and Tendulkar in the World Cup. With Tendulkar he added 331 runs for the second wicket against New Zealand at Hyderabad in 1999-2000 and 237 runs (unbroken) for the third wicket against Kenya at Bristol during the 1999 World Cup. Obviously the latter is also the record for the third wicket in the World Cup and in this competition Dravid and Ganguly hold the second wicket record putting on 318 runs against Sri Lanka at Taunton in 1999.
There will be those who might accuse Dravid of overstaying his welcome in limited overs cricket – a charge not entirely untrue given his scores late in his career. But having announced his retirement there was never any doubt that he would go out in style. Certainly there will be a tinge of sadness at his departure. After all hasn’t he been the Indian team’s quintessential team man? The comforting thought is that he will still be around to lend strength and grace in the traditional format of the game.