Old and battered, but still the Wall

Last Updated: Fri, Jun 24, 2011 07:39 hrs

Without Virender Sehwag, India slows down. Without Gautam Gambhir, opening stands are short. Without Sachin Tendulkar, the crowds are thin. But without Rahul Dravid, you just can’t have a good old Indian Test victory from behind.

The moment Dravid hits a century, it's almost impossible for India to lose. That moment came on the third day of India's first Test match against the West Indies in the 87th over of India's second innings. Dravid took a sharp single to register his 32nd Test century and virtually shut the opposition out of the game.

When India was a lowly 85 for 6 in the first innings, one would have thought that only Dravid or VVS Laxman (or both) could get us out of the mess.

I didn't sleep after dropping Dravid, says Sammy

Since Laxman had his cheapest Test outing in ages, the star was predictably Dravid. The 152 runs he made in both innings in this low scoring Test was vintage Dravid.

In the end the margin of victory was 63 runs and the difference was Dravid.

The 5-year drought ends...

Quick: When's the last Dravid scored a Test century outside the Indian sub-continent? If you are racking your brains, then it's only natural. The Wall’s last such knock came in the West Indies tour of 2006.

A five-year drought is too much for a great like Dravid. It's good for Indian cricket that the overseas Wall is back.

In fact, Dravid stood tall amongst all Test players in the world till he became captain. Right from his debut, his career average had been steadily increasing. During his captaincy, it stood at a superlative 58, way ahead of both Sachin and Brian Lara.

But as captain, the Wall started crumbling and his career average at the helm is a mere 44.

Things didn't change even after he gave up his leadership role. Dravid's darkest period probably was from the South African tour of 2006 to the England tour of 2008 when he averaged just 31!

The knives were out and retirement calls became shrill.

But the Wall fought back and has come back on track. He has scored six centuries in last two odd years and shows no signs of going away.

Today, Dravid is 38 years old. So how many more years does he have with him?

When one looks at modern times, then England's Graham Gooch belted a double century in 1994, just shy of his 41st birthday.

Now that's one record India and Dravid wouldn’t mind breaking!

Life without Zaheer and Sachin...

Sachin and Zaheer Khan have been the backbones of the Indian batting and fast bowling departments respectively. The team of the future without them is starting to take shape.

Suresh Raina is showing great promise and scored more than 100 runs in the match. Virat Kohli had a couple bad outings, but he still has two more matches to set that right.

Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma were impressive taking six wickets apiece. Enough seam bowlers have put their hands up for India in the last 5-10 years. Irfan Pathan, S Sreesanth, Munaf Patel and RP Singh come to mind.

In fact Ishant had the opposition squirming with his short paced array so much, that one was reminded of the golden age of fast bowling.

Amit Mishra also has had a good outing in the Carribean so far, with the likes of Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin waiting in the wings.

We are privileged to have Dhoni as the captain

Of course, something that seems irreplaceable is India's Test opening partnership.

But thankfully Sehwag is just 32 and Gautam Gambhir much younger, so we won’t have to worry about that for quite some time.

In fact by the time they are done, the Sehwag-Gambhir duo could well be among the all-time great partnerships.

Still no practice matches?

India has a tendency to collapse in the very first innings of a foreign tour.

This time it was no different. India lost six wickets for less than 100 runs.

And who bailed them out?

It was none other than Raina and Harbhajan Singh, both whom had enough practice during the ODI tour.

Even a one-day practice match would have been enough for the rest.

Maybe Dravid, Laxman and Abhinav Mukund should have played the last ODI since it was a dead rubber anyway!

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.

He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/