Editor's Note: The global coronavirus outbreak has brought all sporting action to an indefinite halt. While empty stadiums and non-existent sports news make for an unusually grim sight, we take it as an opportunity to look back, and - to paraphrase poet William Henry Davies - stand and stare. In this latest series 'My Favourite Match', our writers recall the sporting encounters that affected their younger selves the most, and in many cases, helped them fall in love with the sport altogether. Happy Reading!
India vs Australia, 2003 Adelaide Test - it was iconic, wasn’t it?
Rahul Dravid cuts Stuart MacGill through point for a boundary, removes his cap and raises his bat to celebrate India’s momentous win - visuals that will forever be etched in my memory.
I was just eight years old when India scripted the historic Adelaide Test triumph in 2003. Much like young boys who grow up playing gully cricket in India, I was biased towards batting. After all, we were all at the mercy of the one who owned the bat. No surprise then that it took a while for India to churn out quality bowlers.
It was around the same time I had started to develop a liking for Rahul Dravid. The primary reason being the exposure I had to the man - switch on television and he’d be the one-almost always-batting and toiling under the sun.
My father had other ideas. He was in awe of Sourav Ganguly’s captaincy and the widely acknowledged cover drive. I don’t blame him though. Maybe, Dravid seemed a bit too routine to him. Who knew his routine character would mean the world to me a few years down the line?
Perhaps, it was those 305 runs in Adelaide - 233 and 72 not out - that left an indelible mark on my mind and defined what batting ought to look like. No wonder I grew up imitating his elegant leave, rock-solid defence and copybook drives.
India’s victory is a routine joyous occasion. But now, looking back, for the fact that it came against mighty Australia in their own backyard, and that too, for the first time in more than 20 years, makes it pretty special. Dada’s Team India winning overseas was a spectacle to behold. More importantly, Dravid, who later went on to become my idol, had assumed centre stage.
The last time India had toured Australia, in 1999, they had to endure a 0-3 series drubbing. In 2003, starting with a well-fought draw in the Brisbane Test, it looked like they had other ideas.
In the second Test, Australia posted a mammoth 556, courtesy a brilliant knock of 242 from Ricky Ponting. In reply, India were reeling at 85/4. The pitch was a belter, the outfield fast - all that was needed from India’s perspective was a good partnership and a couple of guys to weather the storm.
Enter Dravid, the chief architect, and Laxman, his deputy. At the end of Day 2, the Dravid-Laxman duo shared a 95-run stand. But something far worse was in store for Australia on Day 3. The two forged a 303-run partnership for the fifth wicket, making sure the echoes of their epic 376-partnership at Eden Gardens were felt at the Adelaide Oval.
It was Test match batting at its very best. They left tempting deliveries outside the off stump, forced the bowlers to stray in line and length, and found the boundary, whenever possible.
Laxman finally departed on 148 after nicking one outside the off stump from Bichel straight to wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist.
So much class! Enjoy this epic knock from batting maestro Rahul Dravid at the Adelaide Oval in 2003.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) May 18, 2018
But Dravid, who came into his own in that Test, was unperturbed, even as wickets kept tumbling at the other end. He was the last batsmen to fall among the Indians and faced as many as 446 deliveries for his glorious 233, a testament to his steely determination, patience and grit.
The marathon knock was a quintessential Dravid innings. He scored runs all-round the park, exemplified the art of leaving the ball, got in line of the ball and played it as late as possible.
Owing to his heroics, India were back in contention and trailed Australia by 33 runs.
Then, pacer Ajit Agarkar ran through the Australian batting line-up, finishing with career-best figures of 6-41. Chasing 229, it was Dravid, who once again anchored the innings with an unbeaten 72, resulting in a four-wicket win for India.
Cricket is indeed a game of uncertainties. Much to my delight, it happened to be another glorious moment for the rock of Indian batting, and one of my first few.
Jammy, as Dravid’s nickname goes, did not possess the natural attacking stroke play of Sehwag, the lazy elegance of Laxman, the genius of Tendulkar or Ganguly’s ability to caress the ball through the covers. But he was someone with great substance.
Starting with the Adelaide Test till his masterpiece on English soil in 2011 where he slammed three defiant centuries and averaged 76.83 while the other batsmen fell like a pack of cards, I have witnessed it all and proudly call him the 'wolf who lived for the pack'.
Staying true to his nickname, ‘The Wall’ dominated the screen time and shaped much of my conceptions about cricket as a young fanboy. And he continues to inspire many, not just through coaching, but also with his gentlemanly aura.
To read other pieces from our 'My Favourite Match' series, click here
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The youngster, who rose to prominence after his successful stint with IPL team Chennai Super Kings, said he is looking to reconnect with Rahul Dravid, who would be head coach of the team. Dravid has, in the past, coached the Indian under-19 and A teams.
Now in charge of the National Cricket Academy, Dravid has played a key role in producing the next generation of cricketers and a reserve pool which is the envy of India's opponents.
Virat Kohli-led India takes on New Zealand in the all-important World Test Championship final at Southampton from 18 June.