Dravid calls time on his illustrious career

Bangalore: Rahul Dravid, one of the most accomplished and greatest cricketers of his generation, on Friday called time on his illustrious Test career spanning close to 16 years during which he became the second highest run getter and gave the country some memorable overseas victories.

The 39-year-old Dravid became the first of the three ageing greats of Indian cricket, besides Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, to retire in the aftermath of India`s disastrous Test tour of Australia.

Born on January 11, 1973 in Indore, the Karnataka batsman had a wonderful tour of England last year, scoring three centuries from four matches when all the other big names struggled but his performance in the recent tour of Australia was below expectations prompting calls for his ouster from the team.

Dravid, a former Indian captain, had a disastrous tour of Australia where he scored only 194 runs in eight innings at an average of 24.25. Even more disappointing was that Dravid, known for his solid technique, was bowled in six out of the eight innings.

Nicknamed `The Wall` for his dour defence, the always thoughtful-looking Dravid walked into international cricket sunset after making his debut in June 1996 though he will lead the Jaipur-based Rajasthan Royals side in the fifth edition of the Indian Premier League.

Dravid ended his Test career with 13,288 runs – behind only Tendulkar – in 164 matches, with 36 hundreds and 63 half centuries at an average of 52.31, the 270 against Pakistan being his highest score.

Initially considered a liability in the one-day arena, he re-invented his game over the years to meet the demands of the shorter format which he played from April 1996 to September 2011. He scored 10,889 runs from 344 ODIs with 12 centuries and 83 half centuries at an average of 39.16.

Under his captaincy between October 2005 and September 2007, India won Test series in the West Indies as well as England but had a disastrous World Cup in 2007 when they were knocked out in the first round of the tournament. He captained India in 25 Tests and 79 ODIs.

Dravid`s captaincy coincided with Greg Chappell`s controversial tenure as India coach, but that did not affect his performance with the bat, as he garnered 1736 runs at 44.51.

Dravid had announced his retirement from ODI cricket in England last year after been surprisingly recalled in the team due to his stupendous performance during the Test series against England in which he scored three centuries.

Always a team man and somebody to look up to during a crisis, Dravid accepted moving around in the batting order to suit the team`s requirements and kept wickets when necessary – most strikingly in ODIs, when his double role gave the team balance on its way to the World Cup final in 2003.

He was asked to bat as opener on many occasions when one of the top order batsmen were injured or struggling. He maintained a remarkable fitness level playing 93 consecutive Tests from his debut in June 1996 to December 2005.

Perhaps one of the last classical Test batsmen, Dravid lacked the natural talent of a Sachin Tendulkar or the flamboyance of a Virender Sehwag or Sourav Ganguly but he compensated for them with sheer work, concentration and methodical batting.

Armed with an orthodox technique, Dravid became the pivot of the famed Indian batting line-up at the crucial number three, keeping the innings together while the stroke players – Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly – played a more attacking role.

Never a natural athlete, Dravid`s immense levels of concentration also came in handy as he also holds the world record of highest Test catches — 210 — mostly at the slip cordon. He overtook Mark Waugh to become the most successful slip catcher in history. In addition to this, he has 196 catches in ODIs.

Dravid was the silent achiever who would grind his bat for runs, even overshadowed by the strokeful innings of a Tendulkar or Sehwag. He was the architect of some memorable Test victories at home and abroad.

At Adelaide in 2003, when India won a Test in Australia for the first time in a generation, he batted 835 minutes over two innings. A few months later, he was at the crease more than 12 hours for the 270 that clinched India`s first series win in Pakistan.

In his debut Test against England at the Lord`s in June 1996, Dravid, who scored a 95, was eclipsed by Ganguly, who hit a century on debut. It was, however, Dravid who shortly established himself as the vanguard of a new, defiant generation that won matches away from home.

Dravid`s breakthrough innings in Test cricket arrived at the Wanderers a few months later after his debut, against a South African attack accustomed to bullying visitors.

A brief slump followed, but he emerged from that with one of the most famous supporting acts of all time, to Laxman in an Eden Gardens Test that rejuvenated Indian cricket. The half decade that followed was a golden one with the bat, as Dravid scored heavily while touring England and Australia.

A two-year stint as captain, following Ganguly`s axing, was less successful, though he did lead the side to series victories in England and the West Indies for the first time in a generation. Just when it seemed his best was behind him, Dravid showed his class once again on the tour to England in 2011.

In a Test series in which India were completely outplayed and all other batsmen struggled, Dravid amassed 461, including three hundreds, two of them when opening the innings against a high-quality pace attack. However, that was followed by a poor series in Australia, which finally led to his retirement.

Just like his methodical and copybook batting, Dravid rarely kicked up controversies and his opinions were always measured and words carefully chosen. His intellectual and thoughtful side as a cricketer was, however, aptly reelected in his Sir Donald Bradman Lecture during India`s disastrous Test tour of Australia early this year.