| Rahul Dravid cuts loose during his knock of 100 at Wankhede Stadium Thursday. Picture by Vikas Khot
Mumbai, Oct. 10: Having gone through 16 innings and 13 months without a Test fifty, not many moons ago, Rahul Dravid appreciates the worth of big scores and “cashing-in” when the going is good. As an approach, it’s simple and sensible.
The year 2002, of course, continues to be excellent: At the Wankhede Thursday, Day-II of the first of three Tests for the Exide Cup, the India vice-captain became the fourth batsman to register four hundreds in successive innings. So elite is this ‘club’ that even Sir Don Bradman didn’t qualify.
Indeed, Dravid now has the chance of equalling Sir Everton Weekes’ record of five hundreds in as many innings. At the moment, the vice-captain is level with Jack Fingleton and Alan Melville. Dravid’s phenomenal sequence began with 115 in the second innings at Trent Bridge and his scores since have been: 148 (Headingley), 217 (The Oval) and 100 retired (Wankhede).
With Dravid producing the consistency which is the country’s pride — coinciding with superb individual and team efforts in Busan — and the envy of just about everyone else, India have moved into a truly muscular position. Having lost both openers in the 14 overs before close, the West Indies will have to dig deep to save this match.
Dravid’s 350-minute innings (in tormenting conditions), though, took its toll and he couldn’t return after being helped off following severe dehydration and muscle-cramps. The score then was 407 for five and, with The Wall ‘breached’, the West Indies knifed through the tail without much resistance.
Quite like what happened in Calcutta, during his epic against Australia last year, Dravid was injected fluids at the stadium itself and, on returning to the team hotel, headed for physio Andrew Leipus’ room.
“Frankly, I can’t pick the reason for having a great year... It’s got to be a combination of factors... I’m a lot more relaxed about my batting and, equally, I’m more confident. Also, I’m fitter — the cramps here notwithstanding,” Dravid told The Telegraph from the physio’s room.
As Leipus was “working” on the vice-captain, the conversation had to be brief. Dravid, however, did add: “Eventually, I judge my performances in the light of the team’s showing... Hopefully, we can win this Test. That will be the biggest satisfaction.”
The vice-captain, by the way, has reached close to 1,200 runs for the year and, besides the four consecutive hundreds, had one in Georgetown early on. It’s a measure of the respect he enjoys, universally, that almost the entire West Indies team rushed to his side as he collapsed.
While Dravid monopolised centrestage in a big way, the talking point was also Sachin Tendulkar’s quick dismissal (in the third over) and the poor Asoka de Silva decision which limited captain Sourav Ganguly’s stay to 27 minutes.
A lack of footwork proved fatal for Sachin. As for the captain, he was adjudged leg-before (to Cameron Cuffy) when TV replays confirmed the ball pitched outside leg. The ICC’s Code of Conduct prevented Sourav from saying anything, but it’s an understatement that he is terribly upset.
That Sourav keeps getting atrocious decisions — be it in Sri Lanka or England or even at home — only made the latest one that much harder to accept.
Sourav didn’t reveal his purely personal thoughts, but he did look ahead to the remaining days. “Well, the turn isn’t appreciable, but the bounce is certainly there... We are in a position of distinct strength. Now, we should consolidate,” he remarked, speaking exclusively.
Resuming on 278 for two, India lost Sachin — who didn’t add to his overnight 35 — and Sourav to the second new cherry, which was taken straightaway. Yet, if Carl Hooper thought his prayers were answered, Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman forged a fine 105-run partnership for the fifth-wicket. It ended with Laxman, who hasn’t got a fifty since the second innings at Lord’s, being stumped down the leg-side.
There were times — for instance, when there was no boundary for 94 deliveries — when it appeared the pair was losing initiative but, at least, Dravid and Laxman were together till the stroke of tea.
Dravid himself had to retire, immediately after completing his 14th hundred, and the visitors made the most of that lucky break. The vice-captain’s 100 came off 242 balls and included a dozen boundaries.
Towards the end, Parthiv Patel showed pluck and Jawagal Srinath chanced his arm to ensure India got past the psychologically-critical 450-mark. The innings ended 87 minutes after tea.
Mervyn Dillion, who was both spot-on and aggressive at the start, finished with the best figures (three for 54), while Mahendra Nagamootoo also became richer by three wickets. That he tended to bowl a negative line during his marathon 20-over spell after lunch, though, surely dilutes his ‘performance’.
To be competitive, the West Indies needed to keep wickets intact till the close. That didn’t happen, with Zaheer Khan catching Chris Gayle leg-before and Harbhajan Singh capitalising on Wavell Hinds’ ultra-cautious approach.
Friday’s opening session should determine whether this Test will go the distance.