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The Rediff Cricket Interview/Rahul Dravid
April 28, 2004
If batting was a language, Rahul Dravid would be its Wren and Martin, the grammar book.
Four double centuries in the last 20 months -- three in the last three series spread over five months -- and only a single duck in the last 51 months heralds the emergence of Dravid as a batting great.
The timing of his performances makes them even more special. A 233 in Adelaide saw India win its first Test on Australian soil in more than 20 years; a career best 270 ensured that India won its first Test series in Pakistan in various efforts over the last fifty years.
Having led India brilliantly in the first two Tests in Pakistan, Dravid should have been given the honour of holding aloft the Samsung Cup along with skipper Sourav Ganguly for the manner in which he led the team and effected changes on the field.
In an exclusive interview with Assistant Editor Faisal Shariff, the India vice-captain talks about what went into the team's success in Pakistan.
Where would you place this historic victory?
Right up there! Adelaide might come really close, but because this win won us an away series it would rank right at the top. Even Headingley and Kandy were memorable wins but this win helped us break the jinx. Add to that the fact that we outplayed them [Pakistan].
India went into the final Test in quite a few series with a chance of winning the series, but failed each time. What was the difference in the approach when compared with earlier wins?
We just played better cricket. In Jamaica we just didn't get the opposition out early enough. We were in a similar position in Sri Lanka and we didn't bat well, being knocked out for 220.
We batted really well in Sydney but couldn't finish the job off. The Aussies batted really well. We out-batted England at The Oval after winning a good toss but rain played foul.
In Pindi we won the first session with the ball and that was important. Our young bowlers knocked off the Pakistan top order well and executed strategy brilliantly. We didn't go into the game with anything too different. We had a normal team meeting, discussed strategy and hoped that things went our way.
And, truly enough, we had a bit of good luck and the rub of the green was with us. We didn't let that slip away. I got a good ton and made sure that this time we made it count.
Also Read: I waited a long time for this win: Tendulkar
In every away Test win your contribution with the bat has been the key.
It is important to score runs. But I don't view myself as the only person who is expected to score runs. All the batsmen are playing well at the same time. I have also played my part well. It's always nice to do well and get a chance to see the job fully done. The best thing about this team is that no one leaves it for someone else to finish the job. If Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar did a good job in Multan, Yuvraj Singh did well in Lahore.
Would you pick your Pindi knock of 270 ahead of the 233 you scored at Adelaide?
No, the 233 was better. We were chasing a first innings total of 556. We had lost four early wickets and it was a tough situation. In this one [Rawalpindi Test] I was in a position of setting up the game. I batted for two days in Adelaide, The Oval and Kolkata, but this knock was more satisfying.
It was a great day and I capitalised on it. Maybe, this one was more satisfying, but the 233 was a better innings.
Also Read: 'We'd like to have a Shoaib Akhtar in our side'
Is posting huge totals the gameplan for this team to win Tests?
It is a way we have been trying to go, but it's not all. Posting huge totals hasn't always won teams Tests. You can bat as well as you want but if you can't back it up with good bowling then it doesn't work. We scored 700 runs in Sydney but could not take 20 wickets. If you look at great West Indian and Australian sides you will see that they had bowlers who picked 20 wickets. Even South Africa, when they were doing well, had good quality attacks. There is no doubt that you need bowlers to win you Tests. We are probably trying to do things a bit differently.
As captain, you have experienced it all in three Tests: a draw, victory and defeat. How enriching has the experience been?
It's too early to pass comments on captaincy. I enjoyed it and the Multan Test will be the most important Test of my life. I have been captain for a one-off Test and therefore have not really felt like a skipper. My job has essentially been about what I do on the field. I have to get behind the bowlers when they are down and motivate them. It is very hard to actually assess what it feels like to be captain. I have learnt little things along the way. The different situations you face as captain are intriguing.
But I am a big believer in the fact that a captain is a true reflection of the team. Australia is a great example of that.
You faced a lot of flak for the Multan declaration. How difficult was it for you to make that decision, which in a way displayed that this bunch is about team effort and not about individual performances?
As captain, it is a learning process for me. I will learn with time. What happened in Multan was between Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. What happened between us was important to me; other things didn't matter. Other people looked at that decision more than we did. It was something for me to sort out with Tendulkar and I did that. People were busy making up stories about how I declared; because I was jealous of Tendulkar. Sachin, Sourav and I have been through too much together to be jealous of each other.
Another comment that irked me was that Tendulkar is a selfish player. Both these statements are ridiculous. Tendulkar is the top player in the team. The very fact that we are winning is largely due to what he has been doing for this team over the last decade. His harmless comment at the press conference was made into a huge issue. The one good thing is that I learnt a great deal from it.
Image: Dominic Xavier