A perfect role model

V. V. S. Laxman and Rahul Dravid during their mammoth partnership at Eden Gardens in 2001. India beat Australia in this Test.-V. V. KRISHNAN

“Rahul is a perfectionist to the core. I can say that he is technically the most perfect batsman I have ever seen,” says V. V. S. Laxman in an interview to V. V. Subrahmanyam.

V. V. S. Laxman is a great admirer of Rahul Dravid. The ace batsman from Hyderabad cannot forget his mammoth match-winning partnership with Dravid against Australia in the Kolkata Test in 2001. The epic 376-run stand for the fifth wicket, which many believe changed the face of Indian cricket on its journey to become the No. 1 team in the world.

“That one is really special for all obvious reasons. The conditions, the bowling attack, the quality of opposition and the fact that Rahul was on drips to overcome fatigue and dehydration,” says Laxman.

“I remember he was the vice-captain in that Kolkata Test. Then, he was asked to bat at No. 6 and I at No. 3. And when he came to bat, there was not an inkling of any unhappiness or disappointment. He just felt that we (Laxman and Rahul) should take the challenge session by session. That's how it all began. The rest is something which we both are really proud of when we look back,” says Laxman.

“Rahul is a perfectionist to the core. I can say that he is technically the most perfect batsman I have ever seen. A real delight to watch from the other end.

“My friendship (with Rahul) dates back to the under-19 days when he was actually senior to me. But since I had been a great admirer of him right from my early days, it was always a pleasure to bat with him. Such a comforting presence at the other end,” says the classy Hyderabadi.

“What is most impressive about Rahul is his commitment to be perfect. I think it has not changed even a bit from the day of his Test debut (in 1996) to his last innings in Adelaide recently. And, he has an astute cricketing brain too.

“Definitely, his professionalism will be missed both on the field and in the dressing room.

“Yes, there was a lot of talking we used to do in the slip cordon. One of the reasons for that was to keep ourselves focussed in that very crucial fielding position. And the topics varied from cricket to many aspects of life.

“I think except for the last two tours, we enjoyed every trip. We had plenty to share including a taste for reading books which are inspirational, motivational and ones that gave you an insight into man-management.

“Our styles were totally different. But the best part is that he always ensured that he did not influence my batting. That is the greatness of his batting at the other end. We went about the process of accumulation of runs by playing our natural game. The way he used to wear down the opposition was a treat to watch.

“No wonder Rahul is the best No. 3. The double century in the 2003 Adelaide Test, the 140 at Headingley in 2002 and the century in Johannesburg are some of his great innings.

“I don't think Rahul's contribution pales into insignificance given the presence of a phenomenon called Sachin Tendulkar. It is a fact that Sachin is once-in-a-century-player giving new dimensions to the game itself. But, still I believe that Rahul held his own and is widely respected across the cricketing world. I still feel that if any young cricketer wants to copy a batsman's technique and style, I suggest Rahul as the perfect role model.

“I remember him not taking off his cricketing gear till just before dinner the evening after India wrapped up the Test in Adelaide in the 2003-04 series. It was he who was there till the end to script that great win. He was so excited and despite getting drained of energy he was just in no mood then to remove the gear and was in a different world.

“Fortunately, though Rahul is widely perceived as a very reserved person who doesn't open out easily, I always enjoyed a special relationship and an enduring partnership (with him) on the field. The only other one who has a special chemistry with him is Javagal Srinath.

“Definitely, I will miss him a lot on the field. He is such a wonderful cricketer and a human being,” says Laxman.