Rahul Dravid’s Defensive Cricket – Its time he showed positive intent
Else he may have to do away with his No.3 Test Batting slot
Rahul Dravid has won the accolades from one and all over the last few days for his century as well as the 10000 test runs he completed at the just concluded first test at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, Madras. A lot has also been written about Rahul’s sacrifice for Indian cricket- opening the batting, donning the keeping gloves in one dayers etc.
That cannot take away some of the selfish cricket he has played in the recent past that has cost India dear.
The cricket analysts seem to have missed the plot with some of his recent performances and have continued to tag on with ‘ Dravid-The Wall- is a great player’.
That's the difference between truly successful teams and the ones not right there at the top. When you have a chance, teams like Australia play as a team giving the team the best chance to win.
When India here, thanks to Sehwag, put themselves in an advantageous position on the 3rd afternoon, Dravid did not collaborate with him in a way one would have expected a top notch winning team to have done. Dravid used Sehwag's innings to play himself in(and for much too long) and to get into form. And that slowed down things, when India could easily have scored another 75runs on day 3, with the way Sehwag was going. And again on 4th morning, Dravid waited for Sehwag to launch. And with two early wickets, he used that to his advantage by turning 'Wall' again, thus not allowing further wickets to fall!!!!!!!
If India cannot cash in from 400 for 1, one wonders as to when they would?? Australia from this position would have taken the score to another level, at least psychologically they would have won the battle. India failed even on that front and the Proteas can hold their heads high in the way they fought on in the first test. And they would be happy to hand over some of the credit to Rahul Dravid!!!!
During the four tests in Australia in the 2007-08 series, Dravid’s approach at the top of the order left a lot to be desired. Time and again during the four tests, his slow batting created a defensive mindset and gave Australia a stranglehold at the start of the Indian innings. Till the end of the series, this approach of Dravid did not change.
Agreed that the great batsman-The Wall- was not in form and had to be given room to be allowed to play himself back into form, given his great contribution to Indian cricket over the last decade.
However, one must ask the question as to how long a rope can one be given. And also the question as to whether an out of form individual can play himself in, time and again, at the cost of the team interest.
Anil Kumble, Rahul’s Karnataka team mate and the Indian captain, has backed Rahul all along over the last 3-6 months including in the post match comments after the
1st Test at Chepauk against South Africa and commended his century.
With Sehwag blasting the South African attack all around the MAC stadium on a hot and humid 3rd day on Friday, Dravid’s slow batting ensured that the damage was not complete. The entire reporting centered on Sehwag’s fastest triple. Every journalist seemed overawed at Sehwag’s performance. Most missed out on the fact that had Dravid been able to rotate the strike on day 3, it may have been a totally different tale, even by the end of day 3.
While Sehwag went at better than run a ball, Dravid scored at a miserly 1 run every 3 balls on day 3, especially on a day when the Proteas were pushed back on the defensive right from session one.
Even at 470/1, Dravid did not see fit to rotate strike on the 4th morning and scored just about 5 runs of his first 40 odd balls, once again giving South Africa a glimmer of hope which they fully capitalized after taking the wickets of Sehwag and Tendulkar.
True cricket analysts will have to start questioning Dravid’s approach and his defensive cricket, especially since he is batting at the most prestigious No. 3 slot. It is sad to see and read references(to his Chepauk century) on the lines of ‘It was a great century’, ‘fantastic effort’ etc.
Dravid’s was a selfish effort. Clearly at Chennai, he put his personal interests ahead of the team. He has recently said that the last one year has been difficult for him and that he has put in great effort to fight it out and stay in there during this difficult phase. That is understandable and one should commend his ability to have fought off a bad phase(he had also given up the captaincy during this period).
If Dravid had show positive intent on this batting beauty at Chepauk on day 3 as well as the 4th morning, the tide could easily have shifted in India’s favour. India could have gone well past 700 by the 4th afternoon had Dravid supported Sehwag better.
There are different ways world class batsmen take to get themselves out of a bad phase.Rahul's approach has been to stay in the middle and fighting it out without giving away his wicket. What he has missed and which I believe has cost India dear is rotating the strike, taking the singles and giving the aggressor at the other end more opportunities. Score books will show a century against Dravid's name against South Africa. It will show a biggish score at the end of the Aussie tour. What it will not reveal is his defensive approach to batting at the top of the order, that gave the psychological advantage to the opposition at the beginning of the Indian innings (the first 25-30 overs of the innings). And which did not allow India to take full advantage of the great Sehwag innings in Madras.
It is another matter that the Indian spinners did not have the wherewithal to put the Proteas under pressure despite Harbhajan getting a few balls to bounce and turn prodigiously. (The excuse cricketing analysts would hide behind the placidity of the Chepauk wicket and that India may not have been able to bowl out SA even if they had posted a 700+ score, but that still does not justify for Rahul's defensive approach).
Had Murali been bowling on this 5th day pitch, the story may well have been different.
Coming back to Rahul, now that he has come back into some sort of run getting form, it is time he showed positive intent at the top of the order, else very soon he will have to give away his No. 3 slot.