The starting of the 21st century was a golden period for Indian cricket. They had the aggression of Virender Sehwag, the guts of Gautam Gambhir, the sublime brilliance of Sachin Tendulkar, the artistry of VVS Laxman and the passion of Sourav Ganguly. However, one individual gave that Indian batting line-up a totally different dimension. Rahul Dravid was the glue that made the Indian cricket team potent in that era. His magnificent defence, gutsy demeanor and his ability to perform in all conditions earned him the nickname ‘The Wall’. In every continent, Dravid became the first cricketer to score a century in all countries and his batting was a blueprint of how to approach a Test match. On his birthday, here are some of the knocks which made him one of the greatest players of the modern era.
1.) The Wall breaks the jinx Down Under after 22 years. (233 vs Australia Adelaide, 2003)
India had not won a Test in Australia in 22 years. Against an Australian cricket team on top of its game, they came into the Adelaide Test after a draw in Brisbane. Australia smashed 556 thanks to Ricky Ponting’s 242. India were reeling at 85/4 before Rahul Dravid stepped up and played a knock for the ages. He shared a magnificent 303-run partnership with VVS Laxman and he smashed his 16th century in style. Things got better for Dravid as he smashed 233 to help India reach 523. Ajit Agarkar’s 6/41 gave India a target of 230 and on a crumbling pitch, Dravid showed his technical acumen and his unbeaten 72* helped India win a Test in Australia after 22 years.
2.) Pakistan fail to break the Great Wall of Dravid (270 vs Pakistan Rawalpindi, 2004)
After successfully conquering Australia, India created history by winning a Test in Pakistan for the first time with an innings win in Multan. However, the match was clouded with controversy with Dravid declaring when Tendulkar was on 194. India lost the Test in Lahore and with the series level 1-1, the action shifted to Rawalpindi. Pakistan was bowled out for 224 and India got off to a bad start with Virender Sehwag falling first ball. However, that set the stage for Dravid to play one of his greatest knocks. His match awareness and his ability to release the pressure played a massive factor as Pakistan wilted. His 270 helped India reach 600 and India registered another innings victory to secure a historic series in Pakistan.
3.) The Wall rebuilds for India. (180 vs Australia, Kolkata 2001)
These were dark times for Indian cricket. The match-fixing scandal had cast a massive cloud over the sport in the country while Australia had won 16 consecutive Tests. After winning in Mumbai, Australia had reached 445 and bowled India out for 171. Enforcing the follow-on, Australia looked set for victory No.17. In stepped Laxman and Dravid and their partnership would change Indian and world cricket forever. Laxman’s 281 and Dravid’s 180 helped India stitch a 376-run stand. Both batsmen batted for a whole day and by the end, the tables had turned on Australia. They went on to lose the match and the series. Dravid’s role in that partnership with Laxman was the modern-day David vs Goliath battle.
4.) Glory in the Caribbean after 35 years. (81 and 68 vs West Indies, Jamaica 2006)
Dravid was playing in the period when India was ‘Tigers at Home and Lambs Abroad’. All that changed in the West Indies series of 2006. With the first three Tests drawn, the action shifted to the fourth and final Test in Jamaica. On a pitch which kept treacherously low and aided bowlers, no batsmen crossed fifty except Dravid. His batting performance on this dodgy wicket was an exhibition and a lesson to upcoming players in defence. In the first innings, he smashed 81 as India reached 200. West Indies were bowled out for 103 with Harbhajan Singh taking 5/13. Dravid hit 68 as the pitch continued to worsen as India set the Windies a target of 269. Anil Kumble took 6/78 as India won the match by 49 runs to win a series in the Caribbean after 35 years.
5.) Overcoming the pain of Lord’s. (103* vs England, Lord’s 2011)
In 1996, Dravid had made his debut with Sourav Ganguly. While Ganguly smashed a century on debut, Dravid was unlucky to miss out on that opportunity as he was dismissed for 95 by Chris Lewis. The tears shed by Dravid were a testament of how he wanted to perform at the Mecca of cricket. However, 15 years later, Dravid overcame the pain in style by smashing a century batting with the tail in the first Test of the 2011 series against England. The celebrations by Dravid after reaching the milestone were a sight. Although India were whitewashed 4-0, Dravid’s three tons in the series, in addition to his three centuries in the 2002 series, showed how he liked to perform in tough conditions in England.
Notable mentions: Since the amount of centuries scored by Dravid is enormous, there are some notable knocks which made him legendary. His 148 in overcast conditions and on a green deck in Leeds gave India a win in England after 16 years. His 145 in the 1999 World Cup and his stand of 318 with Ganguly against Sri Lanka in Taunton was a big factor in India reaching the next round. His 50 off 22 balls in an ODI against New Zealand, in which he smashed the second-fastest fifty by an Indian batsman, shattered illusions of his slow batting.