Practice makes them perfect

Tendulkar has been sitting on the cusp of a 100th international century for eight months now, while Dravid has been the leading catcher in Tests for nearly three years after going past Mark Waugh on India’s tour of New Zealand in 2009.

The world judges these two giants by the sheer weight of performances on the field which have been well chronicled, but what very few get to see is just how much practice and preparation goes into making them the cricketers they are.

No one scores 99 international centuries and upwards of 33,000 international runs by sheer chance. No one also holds 209 Test catches, to go with 196 in one-day cricket and nearly 25,000 international runs, without putting in the hard yards.

Tendulkar, for 22 years, and Dravid for 15 have been the epitome of consistency, reaping public rewards for the very private attention to detail and the desire to be ready for any eventuality.

As someone who has witnessed them from close quarters for over a decade and a half, VVS Laxman is in ideal position to shed light on what makes the two gentlemen the superstars they are today. Laxman himself is no mean performer, having recently notched up his 17th Test ton, and a couple of days after entering his 16th year at the highest level, the Hyderabadi spoke highly of his two great mates.

“Right from the first time I saw Sachin, the way he prepares is always special for each and every Test match,” said Laxman when asked if the little man’s preparations ahead of Tuesday’s third Test had been any different from the past. “That’s been the hallmark of Sachin. That’s why he has done so well for so many years, because he takes every practice session so seriously, irrespective of whether he’s nearing any milestone or not.

“The way he prepares and makes sure he’s ready mentally and physically for each and every Test match is amazing. That’s why he’s survived for so long and been a true match-winner for the country for so long.”

Laxman has been involved in numerous partnerships with Dravid at various levels starting from age-group cricket for South Zone, and they also have a wonderful relationship in the slips, where Laxman has held a majority of his 128 catches. “I would say it comes a lot with preparation,” he remarked of Dravid’s continuing brilliance in the slips. “The number of catches Rahul takes before every match helps him keep the reflexes up to the standard.

He’s taken some brilliant catches over the years, and taking over 200 Test match catches is not a joke. That speaks a lot about his concentration, too.

“When you are standing in slips, especially when the wicket is flat or when there’s a partnership building, it’s very easy to lose concentration. But you saw he took some blinders in the last Test. When Bravo and Samuels were having a good partnership, he took an important catch to dismiss Bravo, and a very a good catch off Carlton (Baugh). It was an example of someone who is preparing well for each and every match, each and every skill -- that shows in the results.”

Gary Player, the famous South African golfer, once said, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” Need one look beyond Tendulkar and Dravid for affirmation?!

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