The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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There was absolutely nothing in the pitch
- India vs New Zealand first test - It was Dravid’s match all the way

The Indian spinners bowled as well as they could have on the final day of the first Test. I am sure quite a few fans are disappointed India could not go on to win after getting the first six wickets quickly, but there was absolutely nothing in the wicket.

As for Zaheer Khan, he is truly now India’s strike bowler. His first spell was devastating. He has embraced the responsibility with open arms. I am keen to see more of him in future. As the match progressed, it was evident he was trying for the reverse swing.

You can’t find fault with Lakshmipathy Balaji as well. It was heartening to see a young bowler toil so hard on that surface. His line and length got better with every spell. It is only real to say he is coming to terms with international cricket. It’s hard, but he has the right attitude to succeed.

Indeed, this is the right time to congratulate Anil Kumble on his 350th Test wicket. It is a tremendous milestone. He bowled as well as he has ever done. He did everything which was expected of him.

You can’t fault the Indians on the timing of declaration as well. Sourav Ganguly declared it at the right time — you can’t give your opponents less than 350 in the fourth innings on Indian wickets. If you do it, you are taking a huge risk.

But if there is one thing which I thought should have done better was Zaheer’s bowling in New Zealand’s second innings. I thought he didn’t bowl as many overs as he should have on the last day.

India’s batting, however, is running as well as it has ever at home.

Dravid showed the way and V.V.S. Laxman and Sourav Ganguly were too keen to build on it. Home batting must now be the biggest worry for New Zealand. They also know it is the tail which bailed them out in this Test. In a way they were lucky to face Indian spinners on such a bland pitch.

New Zealand must regroup quickly for the second Test which starts after two days.

It was Rahul Dravid’s Test all the way. Nothing much has changed in his style of batting from the last decade which is only true to say he is a born technician. It was true when he made a chanceless 82 on his debut against Pune in the Ranji Trophy in 1991. It is true today when he has taken a double hundred and a near-hundred off the New Zealand attack in the first Test.

His basic principle is the occupation of the crease and he is a firm believer of the “bowlers earning wickets rather than batsmen gifting it away” adage.

Having raised the progress bar consistently, he is the most sought after cricketer even in English county circuit.

Though in Tests he still sticks to his tested methods, his batting in one-dayers has changed with time and circumstances. As a team the responsibilities are divided to each batsman. Likewise, Dravid’s role too is well-defined. He too, like everybody else, knows what to do at any stage of the game. It is:

(a) If an early wicket were to fall, Rahul is up the order to steady the ship;

(b) Rotate the strike so well so as to give maximum strike to the attacking batsmen;

(c) If he is at number six, it is imperative to play the last precious overs and not expose much of the tail;

In essence it is to marshall the batting resources in a way the best interests of the team are served. He has also mastered the cut shot on the balls at the off-stump which otherwise is a dot ball. If I have to caution him on one thing, it is on his wicket-keeping. In my opinion he should not do it, and on a long tour he could be prone to injuries.

Coming from one of the best schools in Bangalore, his education has really complimented his cricket that has made him a role model for others.

He is very well-read and has excellent communication skills and has played a bigger role than any other deputy would have to his side.

It was mind over matter for him at the Motera. Even though the wicket was easy-paced, it was a Herculean effort to stay at the wicket for close to ten hours. Truly, ‘The Wall’ is standing tall for the country.

I’ve known him for as long as I can remember. We’ve spent a lot of time together. He loves chocolates and shakes and is an avid reader of books, mostly autobiographies and sports-related subjects. He is also very well-informed on current affairs. In music, he has a good taste for English pop.

His fitness routine is exemplary. He is the most hard-working guy in the side. His day starts at 6 am every day with a metabolic run followed by intense meditation for almost 30 minutes, a bit of shadow practice on match days.

Lot of his time is spent in the gym as well. He has always been high on the weekly fitness points system with maximum number of session put in through in gym and aerobic and anaerobic work.

Extremely careful with the calories, he is always high on sports nutrition food packets. Unlike a few of us, he didn’t have problems with his food habits for he has been a non-vegetarian for as long as I know.

He doesn’t have any superstitions but then if he had, he wouldn’t tell me!

I have also not seen him lose his temper for he has that uncanny skill to keep his frustrations to himself. He hates to get out though, and you could see the restlessness in him till he gets his act together in the next outing.

On tours, he is not big on shopping. He doesn’t seek out big brand names. His values are high but simple. He loves to go to movies on tour and Prasad (Venkatesh) was his perfect partner when it came to watching flicks. They’ve gone to the extent of watching two movies on the same day!

I am so happy for his well-deserved success and reached for the phone no sooner he had achieved the double hundred on the first day.

Smart catches

He has also played his part in picking smart catches off me at forward short leg. I remember two such efforts in particular. Once was a blinder to dismiss Craig Mcmillan in the Wellington Test of the 1988-99 series and another when he caught Moin Khan in Australia in the triangular series of 2000-2001.

Both were outstanding picks and well-planned. Somehow, he is now reluctant to take that position any more.

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