Is Dravid India's best batsman now?

STARS do shine. But during the day, the sun's brightness overshadows them. In this GREAT INDIAN TEAM, Sachin is the sun, Dravid is the star. Dravid is definitely the cricketer, who is contributing most to the team (batting combined with wicket-keeping), but as a batsman Sachin's exploits are incomparable.

I would say, Sachin has a plethora of something in him, in-born, innate that Rahul lacks. He's got something that Schumacher has, but not Barrichello, Something that McEnroe had but not Borg, Something that Ronaldo has, but not Rivaldo. It is this added characteristic that makes sportspersons extra special. They are given demigod status by the masses.

Dravid has come in an era which has already a master, a virtuoso, a God! I would say, the big three in Indian cricket — Sachin, Sourav, and Dravid, each one adds his own element of flavour. Instead of debating which of the three is God, I would say, they are the Trinity of Indian cricket. Sourav like Brahma "creates" new revolutions, Rahul like Vishnu "protects" the team in distress, and Sachin like Shiva "Destroys" his opponents. If you still have doubts ask Shoaib Akhtar or Nirmal Shekar.

V. Karthik Krishna, Chennai

THE numbers don't lie. A Bradmanesque average of 95 in his last nine Tests indicates that Dravid is the batsman the opposition would want to get rid of early. More than the numbers it is the number of times he has helped shift the momentum towards India that makes him such a great batsman. The following stand testimony:

His 148 against South Africa at Johannesburg in 1996 was made after India was mauledin the first two Tests. India might have won that Test had it not been for rain.

Against Australia in Kolkata (2001) together with Laxman he helped India put the Aussies on the back-foot. Australia had won the first Test and India was up against it in the second before Laxman with Dravid rescued India and set-up a series victory.

England was 1-0 up in the series and Dravid tackled the new ball under seaming conditions well at Headingly in 2003 scoring 148 to set-up a famous Test victory.

Probably he is much fitter now; a reflection which we see in his bigger hundreds now. Dravid has raised the bar to a higher level. This Indian team has several batsmen who can raise their game to attain this level. For now Dravid is India's numero-uno batsman in Tests.

Saravana Sai Natarajan, Nagercoil

Afew issues ago Paul Fein rated the best men's tennis player ever against some set standards and justifibaly so, choosing the best on likes and dislikes. This is easy but unjustified. I have fixed some basic criterion to judge Rahul Dravid vis-a-vis the contemporary Indian batsmen. The qualities to be the best are sound technique, temperament, record, reliability, match winning performances and consistency. After judging all of them it comes to be a neck to neck fight between Sachin and Dravid. But in the last three years, Sachin has been losing ground on three counts — consistency, match winning innings and reliability. So we should stop being complacent and acknowledge the supremacy of Rahul Dravid at least in the Tests.

Praveen Ranjan, Samastipur

IS Rahul Dravid India's best batsman now? For me, a best batsman is one who is consistent, able to play all kinds of knocks according to the situation, against any opposition, and is able to win matches almost on his own. This is where Sachin Tendulkar is heads and shoulders above Dravid. I am not a Mumbaikar but a Banglorean! Sachin has made close to 70 international centuries, 23000 international runs, averages close to the top of all time in the world with a high strike rate. He can play a Richards like knock as in World Cup against Pakistan, a Gavaskar like innings as in Sydney and Multan recently. He can play swashbuckling knocks as well as graft an innings. Dravid was seen as a better grafter and technically more correct than Tendulkar. But of late, Sachin has added these very qualities into his resume! In the nineties, the Indian top five scores almost always read 12, 4, 28, 124, 41 or 1, 53, 2, 89, 6. Statistically, it means No. 4 batsman was a very good player and hence we said Sachin was the best. Recently, during the last 3-4 years, the top five scores read like 120, 35, 230, 57, 64 or 28, 78, 15, 194 not out, 43. In these sets we can't single out a player's score for best batsman. So it is because of the fact that other players are coming into their own that Sachin's knocks have lost shine. For Dravid to be rated on par with Sachin he has to play a `Sachin' swashbuckling knock more consistently. Sachin has shown that he can do a Dravid. But can Dravid do what Sachin does? Dravid is a consistent grafter, but we can't say whether Sachin is a grafter or a whirlwind! He can be anything. For me, to save an almost lost match, I would prefer Dravid but to win an almost lost match I would go for Sachin!

M. A. Jayakrishnan, Bangalore

DRAVID without doubt is the best Indian batsman today by miles. The reason is he has performed really well in the overseas tours. The reason for India's good performance in the last couple of years was due to the solid performance of this gritty batsman. What is remarkable about this great middle order batsman is that in recent times he has coped with the existing situations even in one-day internationals very well. It has been proved by his rapidfire 50 against New Zealand in a one-day international. When other superstars had perished, Dravid plugged the breach in the middle order by his extraordinary grit and determination.

V. Devadas, Kochi

THE Wall Rahul Dravid is the best Indian batsman at present, and also a match-winner, getting runs consistently. His records speak for him — five double hundreds with three in less than a year. He joined Lara and Atapattu to score five and above double tons. Dravid is very much talented in technique, temperament and consistent.

Scored 100 against all Test playing nations except Bangladesh. No other player from India or the sub-continent has scored five or more. Not only records show but most of his innings have helped India to win. For example, the 2001 India v Australia Test in Kolkata, where Dravid's contribution was 180. This match entered history because a team won after following on. August 2002 India v England at The Oval. Dravid's 217 helped India to level the series. December 2003 India v Australia at Adelaide. Dravid's 233 and 70 not out helped India register a win on Australian soil after 22 years. April 2003 India v Pakistan, Rawalpindi Test. His career best 270 helped India win the match and series after 52 years. He is a wonderful and courageous player.

V. Balamurugan, Chennai

I would never like to compare Rahul Dravid with any of the former cricketers or the present batsmen. When I watch him defending a ball, it gives me more inspiration than a Sehwag six. He reminds me of Charles Darwin's "Survival of the fittest" theory. I have never considered him as the poster boy of Indian cricket team. He has surely enhanced his image not only as a batsman but also as a cricketer. I think we should rate a batsman by the number of matches he has won for the team rather than his statistics. In that case, I believe Dravid is the front-runner. The whole of India has blind faith in him. That is why he is also known as `Mr. Reliable'. He is a team man and bats with plenty of confidence, passion, planning and commitment. I would certainly rate him the second best batsman in modern cricket after Brian Lara.

Dhanasree Jayaram, By e-mail

THE fact that Dravid has been consistent for seasons is true, but it is difficult to say that he is the best Indian batsman currently. One cannot forget the fact that this Indian team has six class batsmen and any one can deliver as and when the situation demands. Dravid has also failed at times. That's why it is hard to judge the best from this lot. Also it would be unfair to Sachin and Sourav.

Keerthi Ganesh, By e-mail