Free-flowing Dravid shines in solitary splendour

Free-flowing Dravid shines in solitary splendour

It was as fluent and accomplished an innings as any of the other four this year. If anything, it was more enterprising and effervescent, though at no stage did he manufacture strokes or attempt the outrageous.

There are days when a largely unusual Dravid surfaces, the dour stonewaller making way for a positive, free-flowing presence in the middle who stacks up boundaries in bundles and scores at a healthy rate. Monday was one such day.

When Dravid is at his most authoritative, it is because he picks the length very early, and gets into position quickly. On day one of the second Test against the West Indies, the former skipper did all that and more with a command performance that had the Eden crowd eating out of his hands.

For the first time in 276 Test innings, Dravid had two sixes to his credit – an effortless off-drive off Devendra Bishoo’s leg-spin, and a more obvious swing over long-on against Marlon Samuels’ fastish off-spin. “Preparing for the IPL!” he joked when asked about those two hits. A reflection of his relaxed state of mind, of the ‘good space’ he says he finds himself in these days.

After a difficult couple of years, Dravid has come back into his own, batting with the same fluency and single-mindedness that made him the most important cog in the Indian batting wheel for almost five years from 2000. What has changed is that he is no longer as obsessed or self-absorbed as he used to be, advancing years, a young family and the ups-and-downs of professional cricket freeing him up and triggering an enjoyment of the game that had occasionally deserted him in the past.

His 36th Test hundred means only Ricky Ponting (39), Jacques Kallis (40) and Sachin Tendulkar (51) have more Test tons. Dravid is also just 21 runs shy of becoming the only other batsman besides Tendulkar to reach 13,000 runs in Test cricket. His tally of runs for the calendar year stands at 952 – the most in 2011 as he eased past Ian Bell’s total of 950 – and with two further Tests remaining, a 1,000 runs for the year should be a cinch.

Having gone through tough times – by his own admission, he wasn’t sure he would be picked for the Test tour of New Zealand in early 2009 – Dravid is in a great position to relish a purple patch, and to realise the significance of making a good thing count. With Australia imminent, that’s not a bad option – not for Rahul Dravid, and most certainly not for the Indian team.

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