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An obsession for excellence

By Deepti Patwardhan
March 17, 2006 18:47 IST
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From his 95 at Lord's to the 95 at Mohali, Dravid has been the constant companion of India's fortunes.

Think of India's greatest moments in cricket -- Kolkata, Adelaide, Headingley, Rawalpindi – he's been the pillar of strength. Though his contributions have been overshadowed by more flamboyant teammates, the Bangalorean remains the common thread, grinding down the opposition with his sheer intensity.

Dravid averages almost 80 in matches he won for India, or saved, and only 27 in those lost. While the difference between batting averages for Sachin Tendulkar, arguably the best batsman India has ever produced, when playing in a winning and losing team is 32, it is almost 53 for Dravid!

In fact, only once has India lost a Test when Dravid scored a hundred.

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Though the numbers don't reveal the hard work and difficult times behind them, they are a startling indicator to the impact he has made. In Indian cricket, where individual glory often blurs out the shortcomings of the team, Dravid has made performance count.

Good is not good enough if India does not win. That's why Dravid stayed till the end in Adelaide, took his team by the finger and saw it cross the victory post.

In his own words, he's been part of Indian teams that had stumbled at the last hurdle and had grown sick of it.

'I just didn't want to be there again,' he said, after the winning that match. He had scored 233 in the first innings, but didn't rest on it and carved out a classy 71 not out in the second to see India through on the last day.

After hitting the winning runs, Dravid raised his arms in triumph and kissed the India crest on his cap. It was a unique celebration in his rather non-expressive history, a culmination of events that reflected a raging desire.

Dravid's batting discipline, commitment and an open mind to different ideas tuned him to individual greatness.

Always equipped with textbook technique, he removed the cobwebs in the mind to style his batting to the modern needs. If innovation and soft hands were the order of the day, he practiced them within his limitations, till he was no longer bound by them.

He didn't have the ethereal fluency of Laxman, the blazing instinct of Virender Sehwag or the genius of Sachin Tendulkar, but developed an obsession for excellence.

At a time when youngsters are happy to be part of any team with 11 recognised members, Dravid dreamt of greatness for India. Somewhere in that pursuit of excellence, he gave India a strong character. The India middle-order that regularly cracked under the slightest trying conditions developed a tough spine. He made India shine with him.

What Dravid wants most in his 100th Test in Mumbai is not a hundred, not the spotlight, but victory for India.

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Deepti Patwardhan

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