There were many who said he can’t play One Day International (ODI) cricket.
There were many who said he can’t play the shots expected of a batsman in the 50 over game.
There were also others who said that playing in the 50 over game may bring some needless shots to his repertoire which may spoil his class for Test cricket.
But 344 matches, 196 catches, 10889 runs @ an average of 39, 12 centuries and 83 half centuries later as Rahul Sharad Dravid retires, you wonder if this was the man who had struggled in his initial days in ODI cricket. Between 1996-99 he had become used to sitting in and out of the team. Those were the years when all his doubters had their tails up constantly asking questions about his strike rate, ability to rotate the strike and what not.
His golden period began in 1999 when he was involved in two 300 run partnerships, the first of them along with Ganguly against Sri Lanka in the World Cup and the second one with Tendulkar. The first was where he scored a run a ball 123 and this was the innings which showed the world that he can strike the ball well without ever slogging. Initially he couldn’t pierce the gaps in ODIs with his water tight technique, the same one which made him an amazing test batsman. But as time went on, he kept on improving. The years between 1999-2005 were his best where he scored 10 of his 12 centuries and more than 50 half centuries.
Being the ultimate team man that he always was, he agreed to keep wickets for 73 matches including the 2003 World Cup to allow the team to accommodate an extra batsman. Interestingly if you consider these 73 games where he kept he is second only to Mahendra Singh Dhoni in terms of the numebr of runs. His batting seemed to improve with his extra responsibility.
Dravid never had the body of a natural athlete. He never showed the passion and aggression of a Ganguly. He also never had the amazing hand – eye coordination of a Sehwag. But what he missed out in everything, he more than made up with his determination, hard work and honesty. He always did what the team asked him to whether it was bat at any position, field at any position or even agree to keep wickets just so that an extra batsman can play in the team.
Throughout his career, he was always in someone’s shadow. If he scored a 100 and Sachin scored one too, Sachin was the one who got the praises. If he scored a 50 just to save the team from certain defeat, and rest of the others scored heavily, the others would get all the credit. And he the man he is, would be more than happy to be in others shadows.
Today when he walked off, he was the 2nd one of the trinity (the first one being Ganguly) to move into retirement from the ODI format. When Sachin leaves, it would bring the end of a golden era for Indian cricket.
He was thrown away by the selectors in 2008 few months after the disastrous World Cup and brought again for the current tour. Sensing that he could be treated again the same way, he immediately announced his retirement. This is what he deserves; the ability to go on his own terms.
Till then, here’s a salute to the Wall of Indian cricket! You will be missed!!