Head over to any one of the dozen sites that provide cricket statistics (in this case it was Cricinfo) and look up the numbers for the Rahul Dravid-Sachin Tendulkar partnership.
They are stunning in a very understated manner.
Between 1996 and 2012, the duo played 143 matches together, scored 6920 runs (a world record) at a pretty phenomenal average (considering the length of their careers) of 50.51 with 20 century-plus partnerships (also a world record) and 29 50-plus partnerships.
Once you are done admiring those numbers, do the same for the VVS Laxman-Dravid partnership. The span over which the duo batted India out of trouble time and again is slightly shorter than the Tendulkar-Dravid partnership but the impact they made was probably even greater.
In 86 Tests, Dravid-Laxman put on 4065 runs together — with a highest partnership of 376 runs (we all remember Kolkata) — and their average partnership was 51.45 runs. Twelve century partnerships and 14 fifty-run partnerships show that even though Laxman batted pretty low down the order, it was never over for India as long as they were there in the middle.
India’s next best partnership, (Sachin-Dravid and Dravid-VVS are the top two), is between Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. And that gives you an idea of just how vital Dravid was to India’s Test plans.
And of course, when we mention Dravid — it is important to remember that he wasn’t only about the partnerships. There were times when he single-handedly took India to safety — his 13,288 test runs are testament to that fact.
Without Dravid in the middle, the way India play their cricket will change. There will be no anchor, so expect India’s scoring to get quicker, but also know that wickets might fall in a heap just a little more regularly than they used to.
There will be no makeshift opener if Sehwag or Gambhir fall early, there will be no trusted head in the middle to just step-in and do the job. Dravid’s partnerships with Tendulkar and Laxman were vital but his contribution at the top of the order was crucial as well.
With Gambhir, Dravid managed to put on 2530 runs at 55.00. With Sehwag, his 3405 runs at 58.70 were a perfect illustration of what different styles of batting could achieve when they gelled well. So at all times, India had three openers in their side.
Virat Kohli will need to step into the breach and he has his own style — he plays a few more shots than Dravid but he is unlikely to bat out time as Dravid did. And that too is an important part of Test cricket.
So far, we’ve been reading about how good Dravid was and how much he will be missed but it is only now that we’ll see and feel the true impact of his retirement.
With these thoughts on his mind, Tendulkar began preparations for the upcoming New Zealand Test series at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore yesterday.
A fast-paced practice pitch was made ready for the master batsman and Zaheer Khan, who has been training at the NCA for the last few days, bowled at him. The practice went on for around 45 mins before Tendulkar took a break and then he returned to the nets for throw-downs.
The debacles in England (where Dravid was the only Indian batsman to score runs) and Australia, should have sent alarm bells ringing in the Indian cricket firmament and Tendulkar, more than anyone else, realises that the only way to get things back to normal is to win matches.
Of course, it helps that the opposition is New Zealand without the services of their most experienced spinner Daniel Vettori. But India too will be without Dravid and while that doesn’t exactly even things out, it will be interesting to see how the series pans out.
The first Test will begin in Hyderabad on 23 August and the second and final match at Bangalore from 31 August.
The two teams will also play two Twenty20 matches after the Test series. The first T20 is slated for Sept 8 in Visakhapatnam, while the second will be played in Chennai on September 11.
(Inputs from PTI)