Rediff Logo Cricket The Rediff Music Shop Find/Feedback/Site Index
November 30, 1999


The Rediff Cricket Interview/Rahul Drvaid

send this story to a friend

'I was in contention a couple of years before my debut'

A few months back, Allan Border -- maker of the most Test runs in history, and a man who has at various times worn the hats of Australian skipper, chief selector and coach -- was in Mumbai on business.

In course of casual conversation, the subject of India's forthcoming tour Down Under came up, and Border told us that there was a huge sense of anticipation among Aussie fans at the prospect of seeing the Indians play before the crowds there.

Rahul Dravid Is it the Tendulkar versus Warne and McGrath prospect that has fans enthused, we wanted to know.

For the average fans, perhaps, was Border's response. But for Steve Waugh and his guys, for the selectors and coach, the man to watch is Rahul Dravid.

Border's argument was simple -- the Indians, he analysed, are stroke-players, and none too good when it comes to batting out time. In a Test, the overs consumed to overs remaining ration is very crucial, Border pointed out, and the Indians are not exactly up there when it comes to playing that game.

The one man who can, said the former star, is Dravid. If he gets set, he will hold one end up, and the others will bat around him and make too many runs for our comfort. If we take him out early, the rest of the batting won't last the required number of overs to put pressure on us.

That, in sum, is the burden Dravid packs into his kitbag on the tour Down Under -- he is the anchor, the man the team relies on to blunt an attack that, with McGrath, Fleming and Warne as spearheads, has just wiped Pakistan out in a three-Test series.

But then, Dravid is used to carrying such burdens -- the role of sheet anchor was wished on him when he debuted in 1996, and it has been his brief ever since. 'I know my role in the side, and I am comfortable with it,' the master batsman says.

In Bombay for a stopover en route to Australia, Dravid took time off from the mandatory team photographs, meetings with sponsors and such to discuss, with Faisal Shariff, his cricketing pedigree, his achievements to date and his evaluation of the tour just beginning.

In 1996, Gundappa Vishwanath, then chairman of selectors, said that ideally, you should have made your debut in Tests, rather than in ODIs. What is your take on that?

In retrospect, I think maybe. You don't have the advantage of experience then; you do not know what is going to happen then. At that point of time, I was just very happy to be in the Indian side. It was very important to just get into the Indian team, more than anything else was. Maybe, in retrospect, I think I did not do well initially, when I debuted in ODIs, but then I did well straightaway in Test cricket.

In fact, in retrospect, it was good to make a Test debut on a long tour, to be on that long tour of England made all the difference. Because if you make your debut in India, or anywhere else, you are pushed into the Test straightaway, with little preparation. But in England, you get a lot of side games, you get time to play yourself in, to ease into the tour.

Sachin Tendulkar once said that after his first Test innings, he thought he wasn't going to play Test cricket ever again. How about you? What did that debut feel like?

Rahul Dravid with Sachin Tendulkar I was a pretty nervous. It was a big opportunity, debuting at Lord's. It was my first Test, something I had dreamt of. For the first 15, 20 minutes, I was nervous, tense. But once I started hitting the ball in the middle, I got pretty confident. I had an advantage in that we had a decent score on the board at the time, we were doing well, and Saurav was getting to his hundred and batting beautifully. So that was great to watch, and it inspired me to do well. The fact that he was also on Test debut and doing well helped me do well also.

In a couple of interviews after that first tour, you had said you were putting yourself on trial. That you wanted to see if you were really cut out to play Test cricket. So what did you think after that debut innings? What was your assessment?

After that innings, I looked at myself more positively. Everybody has doubts about whether he can succeed at a particular level or not. One thinks, 'Oh shucks, can I do this, can I do that?'

But its just a question of getting a good start, gathering some confidence -- and then, once I got those runs and came back from that tour, I said well, here I have something and I have to keep working on it. I realised that I had a couple of things I needed to improve on, because international cricket is not easy. But looking back I realised that at least I have got a start and I had a platform I can build on. So it was up to me to grab the opportunity and look upon the year more positively.

Let's just go back a little bit in time -- when, at what point, did you realistically think of making it to the national squad?

I always dreamed of playing for India. Realistically, I was in contention for a couple of years before my debut. I was doing very well in domestic cricket. When you are playing first class cricket and representing a zone in Duleep Trophy and getting into the Rest of India sides, you know that the national team is just one step away. A couple of good performances there could propel you into the national side. I started my first Ranji season very well. I got three hundreds in my first four Ranji trophy games. That shot me into the zonal stage, and into the next phase, very quickly and I knew that if I could perform well at this level the Indian team was just one step away.

Continued: 'Tough! In Australia it is going to be tough cricket all the way!'


Mail Sports Editor