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Dravid happy to stay in the shadows
February 12, 2003
A technically accomplished batsman, Rahul Dravid could be India's surprise package at the World Cup after re-inventing himself as a wicketkeeping all-rounder.
There had never been any doubt about his batting credentials since he made a memorable Test debut on the 1996 England tour, where he narrowly missed centuries in his first two Tests.
On South Africa's pacey pitches, Dravid's assured batting will be central to India's hopes against main Group A rivals Australia, Pakistan, England.
As India prepared to open their campaign against The Netherlands on Wednesday, vice-captain Dravid said he is ready for his dual role in Paarl's energy sapping heat.
"I have prepared for this tournament for the last six to eight months," said Dravid, who first took the gloves in one-dayers last year to give the side even more batting depth.
"I have improved my fitness. So I am pretty confident about myself. I am enjoying my responsibility."
The 30-year-old has often been the fulcrum of India's batting, even though Indian fans traditionally prefer natural strokeplayers such as Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar.
Dravid's first two Test knocks 95 and 84 were overshadowed by consecutive hundreds from Ganguly, while it is also often forgotten that Dravid made 180 in the second Kolkata Test against Australia in 2001.
Vangipurappu Laxman, though, made 281 at the other end, an India record.
Their 376-run partnership helped India win after following-on, only the third time in Test history that the feat had occurred. The win also halted Australia's 16-Test victory run.
Dravid had been nicknamed 'The Wall' for his earlier inability to rotate the strike in one-dayers but fans are beginning to use the term as a compliment to the man's determination.
Dravid has scored 6,181 runs from 196 one-dayers, at 38.39 a visit. In Tests, he averages a world-class 53.46.
The 30-year-old's best one-day effort of 145 from 129 balls came against Sri Lanka in the 1999 World Cup. Again, he was overshadowed. Ganguly made 183 in their world record 318-run stand.
Dravid, a quiet man, has never complained about his lack of headlines. Avid cricket fans know his true value and he appears to as well.
He finished that 1999 tournament with the highest aggregate of 461 at 65.85 in seaming English conditions. In 2000 he was named one of the five Wisden cricketers of the year.
His transition as wicketkeeper was vital during India's tri-series final win over hosts England and at the Champions Trophy, where they finished joint winners.
For a team without a genuine all-rounder since Kapil Dev's retirement in 1994, Dravid could make all the difference.