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Updated: September 15, 2011 09:51 IST

Dravid will be eager for fitting farewell

K. C. Vijaya Kumar
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FINAL STRIDE: The fifth ODI against England at Sophia Gardens on Friday will see Rahul Dravid turn up in India Blues for the last time. File Photo: S.R. Raghunathan
The Hindu
FINAL STRIDE: The fifth ODI against England at Sophia Gardens on Friday will see Rahul Dravid turn up in India Blues for the last time. File Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

The Wall has a staggering record in the shorter version too

Rahul Dravid never expected the slow farewell in One-Day Internationals. A strange twist in destiny, hastened by his glorious form while the others struggled in English conditions, forced the selectors to pick him for the current NatWest series.

The farewell is truly on and the last game at Sophia Gardens here on Friday will witness Dravid's final walk in shades of blue.

Perplexed by the selectors' back-flip over him, Dravid announced his retirement from ODIs and stated that this would be his last set of games.

Fleeting appearance

Before being reinstated into the Indian ODI squad, Dravid made a fleeting appearance in the tri-series at Sri Lanka and the ICC Champions Trophy in South Africa in 2009. He was earlier dropped from the squad in 2007.

Dravid's heroics in Tests often overshadowed his consistency in ODIs. Besides that, he had to contend with the allure of openers Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly.

His numbers, though, are staggering. In 343 matches, Dravid has scored 10820 runs, averaging 39.06 and at a strike-rate of 71.16. Add to it, 196 catches and 14 stumpings and you get a player who has served the team selflessly.

Dravid is behind Tendulkar (18111) and Ganguly (11363) and ahead of Mohammad Azharuddin (9378) and these are all batsmen who have been at the forefront of India's sparkle in the game's shorter version.

It has not been an easy ride for Dravid. He coped with omission during his formative days after making his debut in 1996. He scored his maiden hundred — 107 — at Chennai's M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in the Independence Cup match against Pakistan in 1997 but it was a day that belonged to Saeed Anwar's 194.

Two facets

Interestingly, Dravid's deep imprint in the ODIs was first felt when he smashed 145 against Sri Lanka in the 1999 World Cup game at Taunton. Along with an equally rampant Ganguly (183), Dravid chiselled a 318-run second-wicket partnership.

Two facets came to the fore during that knock: his ability to scatter the bowling when needed and the skill sets to mould a partnership.

Dravid never looked back from that day. When whispers about his scoring rate cropped up and lesser batsmen, who could bowl a bit, began to snap at his heels, he donned the wicket-keeping gloves to lend balance to the squad.

As skipper, he coped with that gut-wrenching moment when India was knocked out of the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies. Months later, he gave up the captaincy but never lost the dignity that marked him out as the man with correct shots and diplomatic words.

His 461 runs in the recent Tests against England revealed a fresh hunger. In contrast, his returns in the current ODI series have been moderate (55) and it started with a dodgy caught-behind decision at Chester-le-Street but his halo is ever present.

In the pre-match chat-ups with former players, Dravid has drawn maximum attention. For instance, at the Oval, the two Michaels — Atherton and Vaughan — caught up extensively with Dravid.

He has always loved playing in England and it is fitting that his one-day career will draw to a close here.

Big relief

For Graeme Swann, it is, however, a moment of relief.

“Dravid playing his last game is very good news because we don't have to bowl to him when we tour India. Right from the first ball he faced at Lord's, he looked the in-form player.

“It will be a big loss for India but bowlers around the world will be happy,” the England off-spinner said.

Thankfully for India, Dravid has deferred his exit from Tests and the sight of him walking out at No. 3 will continue to offer assurance.  

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