Rahul Dravid is my favourite cricketer and you can imagine the excitement with which I recently read, “Rahul Dravid: Timeless Steel” an anthology of 30 articles about him published by ESPN CricInfo in 2012. What makes it interesting is that pieces have been contributed not only by sports journalists who have followed his cricketing career for long, but also by others including his wife!
The contributors include ( in no particular order) : John Wright, Sanjay Manjrekar, Greg Chappell, Suresh Raina, Suresh Menon, Rohit Brijnath and Sambit Bal. All the articles bring out the character of this fabulous sportsman, who admittedly was not as talented as some of his contemporaries like Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara. He however made up by sheer grit and determination and technical mastery of the art of batting. If you consider playing at home and abroad, the figures speak for themselves. He was primarily a Test batsman, indeed the archetypical No. 3 batsman, and in this format of the game he scored 13,288 runs in 164 Tests with 36 hundreds and 63 fifties averaging 51.35 at Home and 53.03 Away. In addition, he took 210 catches in Tests, another record in itself. In One day cricket, where he was initially thought to be woefully out of place being a “Test batsman”, he scored 10889 runs from 344 matches with 12 hundreds, averaging 39.16 with a strike rate of 71.24.
The articles highlight how valuable he was to the Indian team thanks mainly through his ability to bat for long periods of time and under very adverse circumstances. Remember his knocks of 233 and 72 not out in Adelaide in 2003 to give India her first win in Australia since 1981? Or, his 270 versus Pakistan in Rawalpindi in 2004 to help India win the test and the series? Also, who can forget that knock at Headingley, Leeds in 2002 when he scored 148 to set the platform for India’s first win in England since 1986? Last but not the least, that epic fight back in Kolkata in 2001 when he scored 180 and shared a magical partnership of 376 with V V S Laxman to help India pull off a great victory?
There are several interviews through which you get fresh insight into Dravid as a person and how he shaped his character over time. They speak of his endless quest for professionalism and how he always was a sportsman and a gentleman. No one could be a better ambassador for India both on and off the filed.
I must confess that though I am a huge fan of Dravid’s, I too was very angry and disappointed when India crashed out of the 2007 World Cup when he was the captain. One doesn’t hold him personally responsible for the defeats but I do wish at least one the articles focussed on this period in his cricketing life so that it lays to rest the image that he was not successful as a One Day International captain. The statistics show that he led India to victory in 42 out of the 79 ODIs when he was captain.
The book I read is hard bound with a price tag of Rs 599? It has some delightful pictures too which add to the appeal of the book. I wish the publishers make a less expensive paper back edition or an ebook so that more of India’s cricket crazy population will be able to read this book and appreciate, not for the last time, what a great cricketer Rahul “The Wall” Dravid was.