Rahul Dravid: the barometer of class

Rahul Dravid doing some proper cap batting

Looking through the archives, we’ve written surprisingly little about Rahul Dravid. Many of his best innings predate the site and also – partly as a result of that – we’ve always just assumed that everyone knew how good he was.

Forward defensives

They call him The Wall. It’s meant as a compliment, but it misses the point. Walls do a job, but they’re unremarkable and limited. You can paint them and dress them in wallpaper, but they basically do just one thing. If Rahul Dravid was just a guy in a helmet playing immaculate forward defensives, he would never have hit 13,000 Test runs and 10,000 one-day international runs.

Attacking shots

Dravid provided one of our formative cricket-watching experiences, if there is such a thing. It was a 1999 World Cup match against Sri Lanka when he and Sourav Ganguly shared a ludicrous partnership that took India from 6-1 to 324-2. Dravid was run out at that point and Ganguly then started hitting sixes to reduce Dravid’s 145 to ‘support act’ status. That was so often the case. Best bridesmaid ever.

Subtle shots

Dravid could do things that no-one else could do. When it comes to batting averages, not every innings is equal. The last year or so of his Test career shows this as well as anything. There was a hundred in tough batting conditions in the Windies and then three in England against some very, very good bowling. He got his fair share of double hundreds, but his Test average of 52.31 was built on innings where the value was greater than the numbers might make you think.

At Nottingham, some of his singles required more skill and timing than 99 per cent of the boundaries that we see and with the going tougher than old biltong, they were arguably worth more too. It was batting for cricket connoisseurs: skill, experience, dexterity and intelligence changing people’s perception of what was possible in that situation.

His 146 not out at The Oval – carrying his bat as a stand-in opener – was almost as impressive in its own way. Faced with an England first innings score of 591-6, Dravid’s fellow Indian batsmen were showing all the resilience of a spaghetti portcullis. That can be infectious, but Dravid not only refused to get out, he showed younger team mates precisely how much better a batsman could be.

Just a Test cricketer?

There’s a case for saying that Rahul Dravid has as much batting experience as any player in history. There are batsmen who’ve played more Tests, but his career has also coincided with the era of the one-day international and the rise of Twenty20 (in which he has held his own).

It’s hard to imagine there’s a situation in cricket that he hasn’t faced. 120 to win, three wickets in hand, cloudy conditions, fifth day pitch, left-arm quick round the wicket? Yep, been there. 15-overs to go, run-rate eight-an-over, flat pitch, 40 degrees, finger-spinner, field spread? Yep, been there too. Been everywhere. Seen everything. Know what to do.

Maybe this is why it’s time to go. It’s great for fans to have a barometer of class; a tool which allows them to gauge how well everyone else is batting; but what does Rahul Dravid get out of playing on? We reckon he could bounce back from a poor tour of Australia, but why bother? He’s 40 soon and there’s virtually nothing left for him to see or do as a cricketer.

He’s smart as hell and speaks better and more thoughtfully than most people on earth – maybe he can set the standard in some other way. We’ll still miss him though.

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20 Appeals

  1. His retirement statement is a thing of beauty, and sums him up perfectly. When he thanks people, you really believe he means it completely, and isn’t just saying it for effect. I nearly cried. The humility of the man, given his achievements, is astonishing (cf Matthew Hayden).

    31,258 balls faced in tests, the most of any player by some distance. Exactly 254 of those deliveries got him out, leaving 31,004 moments of frustration, anger, disappointment, weary resignation, and occasionally humiliation, shared out among the world’s best bowlers. I think we can safely say that in the battle between bat and ball, overall Rahul Dravid won.

    • King Cricket

      March 9, 2012 at 11:53 am

      31,004 bowling failures. That is the best Dravid statistic we’ve seen today.

    • King Cricket

      March 9, 2012 at 11:57 am

      Also, regarding the timing of his retirement, it seems he could never have gone out on a high. He said that if he was playing well, he could still help the team and therefore felt obliged to carry on. It was only because he had a bad series that he thought it was time to retire now. If he’d had a shocker in England last summer, he said he’d have retired then.

      Fairytales are for children.

    • That’s weird – contradicts his statement on cricinfo that the decision was not based on the Australian series.

      And Bert, that’s a rather charming statistic.

    • King Cricket

      March 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm

      Think he was saying it wasn’t that series in isolation. If he’d retired after the England tour, he’d have left a hole ahead of an important series.

    • You forgot that he may have been run out, as he was 13 times. So that means only 241 deliveries got him out, leaving 30,991 moments of frustration. Just thought I’d point that out.

  2. Brilliant stat, Bert!

    The word “legend” gets bandied about but he really is. So glad I got to watch and especially to photograph him.

  3. It was an absolute honour to watch Dravid play.. Legend indeed… Don’t think Pujara or Kohli or whoever else gets to bat at 3 will ever match up to Dravid

  4. The first wicket goes down with the team score on 5.. And Rahul Dravid does not walk in to bat. Almost unimaginable.. It is like a part of our childhood has been taken away from us.

  5. Are they going to keep playing this thing? What’s the point now?

  6. One of the criticisms directed at Tendulkar (and I apologise for using his name on Dravids’s day) is that he didn’t score enough of his runs in wins. Now this was (and is) obviously bollocks but Dravid last summer, with typical unselfishness, showed us why.

    Evoking Kipling causes some complex post-colonial issues when used in reference to an Indian, so I’ll try to avoid it, but wasn’t he just superb? Didn’t he make you proud to be a test cricket fan? Wasn’t Raoul Dravid carrying his bat against your team why we watch cricket?

    Sorry, retirements, Black Sheep and Whychwood Hobgoblin often brings this sort of thing out in me, and we’ve had all three today.

    • Raoul? Don’t think your sly way of referencing an Indian with a French name has gone unnoticed. Typically post-colonial. Not sure how, but typically post-colonial.

  7. Hobgoblin. Raoul. Bollocks.

  8. Just came across this on Twitter. Dravid like you’ve never seen him before, but still fabulous of course:

    http://www.thesightscreen.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/kk6.jpg

  9. Now they must take someone from Maharashtra… We are the great and brave marathas….we never fear anyone and this is why we will not fear all fast bowlers in this world…we are brave and strong… Someone from Maharashtra can be a strong wall now Cheers

  10. What is Kipling? I don’t think i have ever Kippled

  11. Dravid says that he has sneezed 18,456 times in his life but only 28 whilst batting. Thats concentration

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