Dec 13, 2008

Sport - Cricket;Will this story have a happy ending ?

Kadambari Murali Wade

It's terribly difficult to question greatness. It’s equally difficult to try and distance yourself from the distasteful hatchet jobs that are running on channels and yet know that if you don’t ask questions now, there’s no point asking questions ever.

So the question has to be asked —where does Rahul Dravid, nearly 10,370 Test runs in all and scores of 11, 11, 0, 3 & 3 in his last five innings go from here? The problem really, is that it isn't the last five innings, it’s the last two years.

At the beginning of the 2006-07 series in South Africa, Dravid’s career average was an outstanding 58.59. But since then, he’s dropped nearly one point per series (other than the Bangladesh one), a startling drop for someone with his aggregate of runs.

In the 48 innings he’s batted in over the two years since December 2006 in Johannesburg, he’s had 28 sub-20 scores (though three were not out) and only nine 50-plus scores.

This period has also seen just two centuries, one against Bangladesh and the other at home against South Africa.

Coming from the man who was the architect of India’s most famous wins abroad, this cannot be considered a regular slowdown, it’s the worst kind of depression.

And it isn’t just the lack of runs that is galling for those of us who have waited expectantly for Dravid to come to the middle, smug in the knowledge that one of history’s greatest No. 3s stood between the opposition and any sniff of an Indian collapse.

It’s also the way he’s been batting.

Even making allowance for the fact that Dravid at the start of his innings is rarely the prettiest of batsmen, he has never looked as tentative, as fallible as he looks these days. And this is without taking into account the fielding lapses.

So what is wrong with Dravid? Who knows, how can any of us understand what’s going on in his mind, what torment he is inflicting on himself each time he walks out to bat these days? We can only watch from a distance and sympathise, wonder when and how this story will end.

He has repeatedly said he’s still feeling good, it’s just a question of getting those runs.

Well, there’s still the second innings. And the Mohali Test. Most of us who’ve watched Rahul Dravid play from that 1996 debut at Lord’s, will find ourselves hoping, as much for Dravid’s own sake as India’s, that he somehow rediscovers the art of run-making.

For when he finally bids adieu to international cricket, it should be as the legend who made that decision on his own terms, not as a man who had no choice in the matter.

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