Dravid left his mark as an opener too

Dravid left his mark as an opener too

One of the most demanding challenges in cricket is opening the batting, and especially in the longer version.

always the team man Rahul Dravid never backed out from opening whenever the situation demanded so.

It may not appear so when Virender Sehwag or David Warner is blazing away, but these men aren’t traditional Test match openers, they are more exceptions than the rule.

Several top-class batsmen have found the transition from batting in the middle-order to moving up to the top of the tree, even if only on a temporary basis, a daunting proposition. Rahul Dravid always made it clear that he was a reluctant opener, but that didn’t prevent him from making four Test hundreds whilst opening the batting, whilst averaging an impressive 42.47 in 23 innings.

“I have always grown up as a middle-order batsman, all my routines have been set for so many years in being one-drop or two-drop batsman for Karnataka,” Dravid said recently.
“One of the things I find is when there is a 10-minute period, you have to rush back in, change and quickly run out, that’s something I have not done often enough. Sometimes, I feel I have been rushed to the middle when I have been asked to open.”

Ravi Shastri began his Test career as a left-arm spinner, but finished as an opening batsman with centuries in England, Australia and Pakistan, among other places.

“It’s all about the mindset, you need to treat opening as a challenge,” Shastri told Deccan Herald from Dubai. “That’s what Rahul did in Pakistan (in 2006 when he made two hundreds in three Tests). If you go with any other mindset, even a defensive mindset, it will hold you back.

“When you are batting at three, your whole preparation isn’t hampered. That extra two minutes, even if you have to go out the second ball, makes a huge difference; you know you are getting to watch the first ball. But whenever Rahul was required to open, he did the job because he was always one step ahead. He realised that it’s not something he is going to do permanently, he had to do it in the interests of the team, and that mindset helped him immensely.”

Shastri said he would remember Dravid as the best technican he had seen in Indian cricket, alongside Sunny Gavaskar. “Both men had water-tight techniques. I will also remember Rahul as a man who could perform in all conditions. He had the ability to adapt and perform. He didn’t play mind games, there wasn’t any petty thinking, no manipulation – it was just clean, straightforward cricket,” the former India skipper remarked. “He was a very intense character, a good reader and student of the game, and a thorough gentleman.”

“When I was the cricket manager of the team (in Bangladesh immediately after the 2007 World Cup), my admiration and respect went up two notches higher for the kind of individual Rahul was and for his commitment to cricket. He was hit on the nose during practice, but was up and running in less than a week’s time to play the first Test.”

Shastri said Dravid giving up the captaincy later that year took him by surprise. “What he needed was someone in the dressing room to make him enjoy the captaincy,” he observed. “Then he would have been captain for a longer while. He is India’s most successful captain overseas in the last two decades. I know there is talk about others, but if you look at his record – won a Test in Pakistan and South Africa, and series in the West Indies and England. No other India captain has a record like that in recent times. When he was captain, we won more overseas tours than any other captain.

“Now that he has decided to quit the game, people will now realise his greatness even more,” Shastri emphasised. “His are huge boots to fill, they will never be filled. Rahul, Sachin and VVS have been around for so long, they are so much in your face that you feel they have become a part of your furniture and you don’t give them the respect they deserve. It’s only when they aren’t around that you will realise their true greatness.”

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