Rahul Dravid: Inspired by Tendulkar and Laxman to compete

Rahul Dravid never quite managed to excite passions like Sourav Ganguly, nor did he have the fan following of Sachin Tendulkar and in his time as skipper, he never quite became the captain cool that Mahendra Singh Dhoni is. He was always an intense, almost studious, kind of character whose relationship with India’s cricket fans has evolved in a strange manner.

When India’s playing on the placid tracks at home, the batsmen are scoring big runs, technique isn’t at a premium and neither is staying at the wicket. That’s when we most often hear the question: Why doesn’t Dravid retire?

But talk about tours of South Africa, Australia or England and they’ll still want Dravid in there because no one handles the conditions better than the Karnataka batsman.

However, the question of Dravid’s retirement has gained resonance with each passing year and what hasn’t helped his case has been his inconsistency over the last five seasons – up one year, down the other, he looks tortured at times. For a man who built his reputation on the basis of an impregnable defence, it was a hard pill to swallow.

In 2006, he scored 1095 runs at 60.83, in 2007 and 2008, he scored a paltry 606 and 805 at 35.65 and 30.96 (his lowest ever average over the period of one year). He rediscovered form in 2009 and scored 747 runs at 83.00.

Last year, he faltered for a bit once again – his average dipped to 42.83. It stood out all the more because at the other end, Sachin Tendulkar had one of the best years of his career (1562 at 78.10) and VVS Laxman scored 939 runs at 67.07. How, all the critics asked, was Dravid so far behind his peers?

Rahul Dravid

Rahul Dravid is primed for another good season. Reuters

It’s a query that one feels will be asked many more times before the current season – which will see Tests being played in West Indies, England and Australia – is through. So how does the 38-year-old Dravid prepare for something like this?

Intriguingly, he trains by taking it easy and relaxing on holiday in Shillong.

“I haven’t really played too much cricket since the Indian Premier League got over. We’ve played so much cricket in the past few months, that all I wanted to do was relax,” said Dravid. “I wanted to recharge my batteries to the point where I feel excited about cricket again. And that’s tough to do when you are playing a lot of cricket but I think I’m ready now.”

But even while taking it easy, Dravid still turns up for the nets and does enough ‘light’ practice.

“Well, yeah. Even when I’m relaxing I still have cricket on my mind. I still try and hit enough balls in the nets to make sure that I am striking the ball well. Practice, at this point, is not about quantity, it’s about quality; it’s about knowing what I want out of each net session and planning things accordingly.”

The planning for Dravid extends beyond the nets. It’s not about the major fixes… rather it’s about making sure that tiny errors don’t creep into his batting.

“See, these days there is a lot of technology available that makes it easier to do a self-assessment. I can just look at videos and make sure it all looks right. The trick, however, is to not get too technical. It basically boils down to the bat hitting the ball well. That’s the gist of it. If you can manage that then you feel good about the game.”

One of the tricks that Dravid often uses to remind himself of the good ‘old’ days is to go out and practice with the under-19 kids at the National Cricket Academy. The thought of being able to bowl to one of India’s finest batsmen fills them with enthusiasm and that rubs of on the veteran too. And it isn’t a bad thing either given the magnitude of the challenge that awaits him.

A reputation to protect?

Dravid is no six-hitting crowd-pleaser but he is still better at assessing the pitch and the situation than most players around the world. And all of this has seen him earn a reputation as the man for the tough job. So every time, he goes out to bat, does he feel like he has a reputation to protect?

“Seriously, I don’t go out there trying to defend my reputation. I go out to bat in the only way I know. I go out because I still love the game. I didn’t ask for this reputation and I don’t know where it comes from but it’s probably something that’s just developed along the way. It basically means that I just need to keep doing what I do and score runs while I’m at it.”

And having Laxman and Tendulkar going great guns at the other end has helped in more ways than one.

“When you see these guys getting better with every outing, does it help? Sure, does. Because it basically boils down to watching them achieve the tiny goals that they set themselves. That’s inspiring. One of the ways to keep getting better is to set yourself goals -- no matter how tiny they are… they give you a purpose to keep giving your best. It’s almost like a competition but you are your only competing with yourself.”

However, on the tours of West Indies, England and Australia – the competition will be real and tough. How would Dravid rank these tours in terms of how toughness?

“I rather not prefer to do that because what’s the use of thinking of the future when there is the present to contend with. I mean if I can do well in the West Indies, I think England will take care of itself when it comes along. You can’t cross a bridge before you reach it, right? I think the secret is to concentrate on the moment, if you can do that, the rest gets sorted on its own.”

Published Date: Jun 14, 2011 05:55 pm | Updated Date: Jun 14, 2011 05:55 pm