Rahul Dravid is a widely acknowledged Test legend, but we sometimes forget how good a one-day cricketer he also became after a stop-start beginning to his 50-overs career. In this edition of What We’re Watching, we relive some of his best efforts in ODIs
The Waqar takedown in Toronto
Dravid missed the bus for the 1996 World Cup but he churned out big runs for Karnataka during a title-winning Ranji Trophy campaign that season. A deserved ODI debut came right after the World Cup, and he first hit the high notes in that format later that year in Toronto, finishing the bilateral series against Pakistan as India’s highest scorer, with 220 runs at 44.00. The highlight of the tournament was a takedown of the fiery Waqar Younis, whom he hit for 19 runs in an over, going 4, 2, 4, 6, 3, the six coming off a pull shot that was something of a trademark of his batting at the time.
Taming Donald in Durban
Dravid made his maiden Test hundred on the 1996-97 tour of South Africa, and he carried his form into the ODI tri-series that followed, scoring a brilliant 84 in the final in Durban. That innings is particularly remembered for his mid-pitch war of words with Allan Donald after he hoicked him for a six over long-on. That confrontation isn’t part of these highlights, but you can watch his audacious strokeplay here, as India fell narrowly short while chasing a challenging revised target of 251 in 40 overs. Donald called his sledge one of the “worst moments” of his career.
Breaking the century drought
Say the words “Independence Cup” and “Chennai” to any India or Pakistan fan and the first thing they’ll remember is Saeed Anwar’s majestic 194 – then the highest individual score in ODIs. Less remembered is Dravid’s 107 – his maiden ODI hundred – which gave India a fighting chance as they embarked on a daunting chase of 328. Already a mainstay of the Test team, Dravid now seemed locked in as India’s ODI No. 3 as well.
Things didn’t quite pan out that way, though, as Dravid’s ODI career hit a brick wall in 1998, a year in which he averaged 21.76, with a strike rate in the mid-50s. Critics panned his inability to get out of first gear, and he was in and out of the ODI side all year. He seemed set to miss out on the 1999 World Cup, but he turned it around in the nick of time, on his comeback tour of New Zealand. Having scored a century in each innings of the Hamilton Test, he began the ODIs with a chanceless 123 in Taupo.
It was the perfect start to what would eventually be Dravid’s best year in ODI cricket, which included a stellar World Cup in England, where he topped the tournament run charts with 461 runs, including two hundreds. His 145 against Sri Lanka in Taunton, in a then record ODI stand of 318 with Sourav Ganguly, perfectly encapsulated how much he had broadened the scope of his ODI game – keep an eye out for the six over extra cover, off Muttiah Muralitharan.
The wicketkeeper years
Dravid had kept wicket in that Taunton game, but only out of necessity, since Nayan Mongia was injured. With batting depth becoming a key issue for India in the early 2000s, however, Dravid turned into something of an allrounder by taking over the big gloves on a regular basis. This allowed India to play a seventh batsman, and they reaped the rewards in their second tournament after they began the experiment, winning the Natwest tri-series in England. In a round-robin match at Lord’s, Dravid and Yuvraj Singh put on a match-winning partnership in a chase of 272, after India had slipped from 109 for no loss to 141 for 4. This was Dravid’s new role – a guiding presence at No. 5 to bat around youngsters like Yuvraj and Mohammad Kaif.
Later that year, Dravid shepherded a chase of 325 against West Indies in Ahmedabad. Fighting fatigue, especially after having kept wicket for the first half of the match, Dravid remained unbeaten on 109 as India romped home by five wickets, with Sanjay Bangar providing the fireworks after coming in with 94 needed off 75 balls. Somehow, this effort was not enough to earn Dravid the Man-of-the-Match award. That honour went to Chris Gayle for his first-innings 140.
On the 2004 tour of Pakistan, Dravid pulled off another of his masterclasses from No. 5 in the fourth ODI in Lahore, when he walked out with India trailing 2-1 and needing a win to stay alive in the series. When Mohammad Kaif joined him, India needed 132 with five wickets in hand. Dravid and Kaif rotated the strike beautifully, picked up the odd boundary, and saw India home with no frayed nerves.
The captain who chased
Dravid took over the captaincy full-time in 2005, and he immediately set about trying to get India to improve as a chasing side. He began with an emphatic series win against Sri Lanka, but South Africa proved a more difficult opponent. Having to win to square the series, Dravid piloted India home on a seaming deck in Mumbai. After the game, he famously said that it felt like India were playing in India again, referring to the previous match in Kolkata where the crowd booed the home team relentlessly for dropping Ganguly.
Under Dravid’s captaincy, India won a record 17 successive matches while chasing, from September 2005 to May 2006. In the last match of that run, Dravid opened the batting in Jamaica – with India playing an extra bowler – and controlled the chase quite magnificently with a 102-ball 105. Despite stutters towards the end, India sneaked home with one ball to spare, Kaif unbeaten on 66.
One last recall
India dropped Dravid from the ODI set-up in 2007, then brought him out of cold storage for the 2009 Champions Trophy, with Virender Sehwag out injured. Then he was dropped for another two years and had made peace with being a one-format cricketer, only to be called up suddenly on the 2011 tour of England to shore up a team smarting from a 4-0 Test series whitewash. He did his job, as always, signing off with an innings of 69.
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