A thousand and counting for 'The Wall' in 2011
Bikash Mohapatra salutes batting ace Rahul Dravid on a phenomenal year
It was certainly not about form.
Rahul Dravid has had just one poor series in recent times. It was India's tour of South Africa, at the start of the year, when he aggregated just 120 runs from six innings (@ 20.00).
It was possibly because of the age. He turns 39 in less than a month's time (on January 11). So much so that the non-performance in South Africa gave his critics an opportunity they were so desperately looking for. There were many who questioned his place in the side. Some were of the opinion that he should make way for a youngster. They argued, there were many candidates ready to take his place.
But Dravid's response was a quite one, similar to the manner in which he has accumulated many impressive records in his illustrious decade-and-a-half long career. He let his bat do the talking.
Dravid remains dependable and indispensable
An aggregate of 251 runs in his six innings (@ 50.20) helped India win a Test series in the West Indies for a second straight time.
However, it was in the subsequent tour of England where Dravid yet again proved why he remains an integral part of the Indian Test team.
On what was an otherwise disastrous tour for the visitors -- India were thrashed 4-0 in the Test series -- where most of their highly-rated batsmen flattered to deceive, Dravid was the lone bright spot.
While his unbeaten 103 in the opening Test at Lord's helped India avoid the follow-on, his 115 in the second, at Trent Bridge, ensured his team the lead. Finally, his 146 not out in the fourth Test, at The Oval, meant, for the first time in the series, India put up a total of 300 in an innings.
'There have been stages in my career when I have had doubts about myself'
It was also the first time in nine years that Dravid registered three hundreds in a series -- the last such effort was in England, back in 2002, when he scored 115 at Trent Bridge, 148 at Headingley and 217 at The Oval to finish with an aggregate of 602 runs (@ 100.33).
His aggregate of 461 runs in the four matches (@ 76.83), on this occasion, may point towards the magnitude of his contribution. It, however, doesn't indicate the fact that he was the only Indian batsman to tackle the moving ball consistently, as opposed to the other batsmen who score heavily on the flat wickets in the subcontinent but remain clueless when there's some seam movement.
The veteran batsman later admitted that he felt low when his contribution wasn't on expected lines, leading critics to question his place in the side.
'Obviously when runs don't come you doubt yourself. It is natural,' explained Dravid, adding, 'There have been stages in my career when I have had doubts about myself.'
He went on to elaborate on his point.
'In South Africa, I thought I was playing quite well. I just got a couple of good balls sometimes, and at others played some bad shots.
'The West Indies tour gave me a lot of confidence, though, especially the century in Jamaica. It was special because it was not an easy wicket to bat on.'
It's the year of Rahul Dravid
His performance in the Test series in England prompted the selectors to bring him back to the One-day fold. Not willing to surrender to the selectors' whims, Dravid's response was immediate -- he announced his retirement from the game's shorter version to focus on his 'Test career'.
Having not played a One-day match in two years though reflected in his performances against England, in what was his final ODI series. Dravid could manage a paltry 124 runs from four matches (@24.80), with more than half of them (69) coming in the fifth and final ODI at Sophia Gardens (Cardiff).
The home Test series against the West Indies, however, offered him another shot to bolster his runs aggregate. He scored 319 from his five innings (@63.80) against the visitors, including his fifth hundred of the year (36th overall in Tests), a magnificent 119 in the second match at Eden Gardens.
When he hit West Indies captain Darren Sammy to the fence, in the third and final Test of the series, Dravid became only the second batsman (after Sachin Tendulkar) to score 13,000 Test runs -- he needed 21 going in to bat. (He now aggregates 13,094 runs in 160 Tests @ 53.23).
Dravid, modest about his achievements
When on 48, in the same innings, he became the only batsman to score thousand runs this year. Now he has 1067 runs in 11 Tests this year (@ 59.28). It was the third time the batsman had aggregated 1000-plus runs in a year, and first time since 2006 (1095 in 12 Tests). Despite having finished the highest-scorer (in Tests) this year, Dravid was modest about his achievements.
'I have played in more Tests. It is obvious if I play more, I end up scoring more,' he explained.
It was his team-mate Gautam Gambhir who aptly summed up the veteran's contribution this year.
'His records speak for themselves, not only records but the manner in which he has handled the pressure for so many years,' said Gambhir.
'I believe he has a lot left in him and he will carry on for many more years to come,' he added.
With Team India on a crucial tour Down Under -- where he averages 48.60 -- there is no doubt as to who the team will be relying upon heavily to deliver.