Full marks to his powers of concentration

RAHUL DRAVID was not around during India's 1996 World Cup campaign. Having made many runs for Karnataka, the right-hander was knocking at the doors of international cricket. Gundappa Viswanath, the then chairman of selectors, had good reasons though, not to heed to popular demands and offer a first big stage for the budding cricketer. Viswanath stuck to his guns. A supreme batsman in his days, Viswanath picked him for the one-day series in Singapore and Sharjah. Dravid did not make runs, but Viswanath and his committee did not lose faith in him.

Making his Test debut at Lord's in 1996, Dravid proved his worth, making 95 runs, missing out on a century Sourav Ganguly made in his debut. Since, Dravid, like his captain has not looked back. A year later at The Wanderers he prospered after the debacle in the first two Tests at Kingsmead and Cape Town. Mohammed Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar smashed centuries at Cape Town and Dravid followed suit, making his first Test century (148). His second century came at Harare and the third and fourth came in a single Test match at Hamilton. His scores were 190 and 103 not out. His fourth three-figure mark was against Sri Lanka at the SSC.

It was against New Zealand four years ago that he scored his first Test century at home at the Punjab Cricket Association ground, Mohali. He made 144. New Zealanders regard him as the most correct batsman and hard to be drawn into making mistakes. They were proved right once again at Motera in the first week of October. His double century, 222, was the third in 35 months — the previous two were against Zimbabwe (200 not out, Ferozshah Kotla, November 2000) and (217, The Oval, September 2002) is just an indication of how he has developed and become the backbone of India's batting.

Dravid has made runs in all conditions and hence been recognised as a world-class batsman. When picking the world's greatest batsmen in the mid 1950s, an attempt was made by what Keith Miller called `cricket lovers', to pick the world's greatest batsmen.

The criteria in the order of importance were brains, natural ability, judgment, and power of concentration, moral courage, physical fitness and courage. They felt that grace ought not to be a criterion for assessing a batsman. Almost fifty years later, Dravid would come close to meeting all the requirements as listed by Miller and his friends.

At Motera, Dravid came good on many counts, his power of concentration, since he batted for nearly ten hours, getting high marks. He excelled in stroke production and in the second innings rose to the occasion blasting runs in quick time. He was good in defence and attack, rotating the strike and building partnerships with Akash Chopra, Venkatsai Laxman and Ganguly.

In all he made 295 runs in two innings. He's such an effective player that bowlers rarely manage to find an edge. Once he got his eye in, he rarely put a foot wrong and got his hands working well, the top hand always in control. It was another fine show of batsmanship from India's No. 3. He put away so many shots on the off side on the first day. There were chances for him to play on-side shots on the second. And the on drives looked great, very few batsmen have the ability to play ball wide of mid on without lifting the ball.

"I have got into the habit of scoring hundreds. When the going is good, you have to make the most of it and make it count. It's nice to begin the season with a century,'' said Dravid.

The batsmen dominated the Motera Test. Laxman and Ganguly made runs for India and Lou Vincent, Nathan Astle and Craig McMillan for New Zealand. But Dravid's two knocks — 222 and 73 — won him the `Man of the Match' award from Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle.