Man for all seasons

Rahul Dravid has appeared in 100 TEST matches. S. DINAKAR brings out the greatness of the player with apt statistical references.

Solid and reliable, Rahul Dravid has scripted epics, orchestrated turnarounds, and donned the mantle of a match-winner. Technically accomplished with a matching temperament, Dravid has also displayed a remarkable ability to adapt to different conditions and pitches.

The Indian captain, who completed 100 Tests in Mumbai recently, has joined Sachin Tendulkar, Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar and Anil Kumble, the other Indians to represent the country in a century of Tests.

Here's a glimpse at some of the 33-year-old Dravid's remarkable achievements in the Test arena.

Phenomenal away record: Dravid possesses an away record that is better than his performance at home. His 4792 runs in 53 Tests abroad have come at 63.89, the best by an Indian. Whether the ball swings, seams or bounces, he is India's most dependable batsman away from home. In the corridor of uncertainty, he is certain. Dravid rises on his toes while handling short-pitched deliveries or keeps his eyes on the ball as he sways away from the line. He also has the cut and the pull strokes in his repertoire.

Place among all-time greats: Dravid's average of 58.16 (before the Mumbai Test) is next only to those of Sir Donald Bradman (99.94), Ken Barrington (58.67), and Walter Hammond (58.45) among batsmen with over 5000 runs. This is an exceptional achievement for someone who has batted at No. 3 for most part of his career.

Most runs at No. 3: If No. 3 is the pivotal slot in the batting line-up, Dravid has been inspirational in this position. Given his technical purity and matching temperament, it is not surprising that he has the most runs — 6766 in 77 Tests at 61.51 — by any batsman in the position.

Hundreds in all Test playing nations: Dravid completed this feat during his century in Chittagong against Bangladesh in 2004. It's a creditable achievement indicating how well he has been able to adapt. Appropriately, his Test debut was at Lord's in 1996, where he produced an innings of 95. His first Test hundred — 148 — arrived against South Africa in Johannesburg, 1997.

Landmark innings: His 270 in the decider in Rawalpindi, 2004, was a monumental effort of concentration and discipline; he wore down Shoaib Akhtar bowling full throttle on a greenish wicket. India subsequently achieved its first Test series triumph in Pakistan.

Only months earlier, he had scripted an Indian Test victory in Australia after 23 years with epic efforts of 233 and 72 not out in the Adelaide Test of 2003. In 2002, Dravid's 148 on a Headingley pitch that assisted seam and in cloudy conditions which encouraged swing, was a match-winning masterpiece.

On such pitches, he plays in the `V' with a vertical blade with pushes and drives, and ventures into horizontal bat strokes only if the bowler errs in length.

Most double hundreds by an Indian: Dravid's Rawalpindi innings(270) was also his fifth double hundred, the most by an Indian. His first double century arrived against Zimbabwe, in New Delhi, 2000-2001. He can concentrate for long periods, while retaining his mental and physical freshness.

Golden Streak: Every batman has a phase when he enters the `Zone.' Dravid notched up four successive hundreds 115 (Nottingham), 148 (Leeds), 217 (The Oval) and 100 not out versus West Indies (in Mumbai) in the year 2002. The noteworthy point here is how quickly he adjusted to the Wankhede Stadium surface after his exploits in England.

Durable and record-breaking: In Team India, he has been a consistent factor. When Dravid played the Dhaka Test of 2004, he had surpassed Sachin Tendulkar's record of 84 matches for the most successive Test appearances by a cricketer since debut.

Daunting at home as well: Dravid is a formidable batsman on Indian surfaces too. His match-winning knocks of 110 and 135 against Pakistan in Kolkata, 2005, in crunch situations, was actually the second occasion when he had scored a century in each innings of a Test. He had earlier achieved the feat against New Zealand in Hamilton, 190 and 103 not out, in 1999. And Dravid's 376-run fifth-wicket association with V. V. S. Laxman against the Aussies inspired the 2001 miracle at the Eden Gardens.

Quickest to 8000: He is the fastest Indian (94 Tests) to reach 8000 Test runs — against Sri Lanka in New Delhi in 2005.

Exceptional in catching: Dravid's concentration, reflexes and a sense of anticipation, particularly in the slips, enabled him to go past Sunil Gavaskar's Indian record of 108 catches during the Mumbai Test against Australia in 2004.

Making history as captain: Dravid, who first led India against New Zealand in the 2003 Test at Mohali, skippered the country to its maiden Test victory on Pakistan soil in Multan, 2004. On both occasions he was the stand-in captain. His real tenure began in Chennai in the home series against Sri Lanka last year.

Team-man first and last: He put his hand up for opening the innings with Virender Sehwag in Pakistan. His 410-run partnership for the first wicket with Sehwag in Lahore is the second highest opening stand in world cricket, after the 413 by Mankad and Roy against New Zealand in Madras in 1956. India lost the series in Pakistan, but Dravid, captain and leader, emerged a winner.