Man for crisis

India's hero …Rahul Dravid celebrates with Ajit Agarkar (left) after hitting the winning runs in the second Test against Australia in Adelaide in December 2003.-V.V. KRISHNAN India's hero …Rahul Dravid celebrates with Ajit Agarkar (left) after hitting the winning runs in the second Test against Australia in Adelaide in December 2003.

A majority of Rahul Dravid's 36 Test centuries stand out for their brilliance and the manner and circumstances in which they were scored. Vijay Lokapally picks what he thinks are the master batsman's five best Test hundreds.

Picking just five best centuries of Rahul Dravid can be tough, for the master batsman himself values each of his 36 Test centuries immensely. So does Indian cricket.

Dravid's first century (in 1997) and his last (in 2011) had the same intensity, the same boyish enthusiasm. His 110 and 135 against Pakistan in Kolkata (2005) and the 190 and 103 not out in Hamilton against New Zealand (1998) underscored Dravid's hunger for runs and his application to achieve the target.

Here are his five centuries that portray Dravid as the batsman that he was — tenacious, determined, elegant and committed.

Kolkata, March 2001, versus Australia (180, 353 balls, 20x4)

The Eden Gardens was a cauldron, and Dravid, batting at No. 6 to accommodate V. V. S. Laxman at No. 3, was a picture of concentration. Having struggled to make runs in the run-up to this Test, he chose the stage and the occasion to make a stylish statement in the company of his “dear friend” Laxman. The two created magic in the middle as India achieved a memorable victory after being forced to follow on.

Laxman scored an unforgettable 281, but Dravid, who had a long chat with Sachin Tendulkar before joining Laxman in the middle, was not far behind. His knock was the foundation on which Laxman and Team India prospered. But Dravid was humble as always. “There was a bit of pressure because I was not used to batting in this position. But I'm a determined player. I had worked hard in the first innings too but couldn't convert it into a big innings. I take time to make my runs. People may not like to watch me make those runs but that's the way I bat,” he said.

Dravid thrust his bat out in the direction of the commentators' box upon scoring the century. “There had been a lot of harsh comments and writing about the team and I just wanted to convey that we were glad at having shown quality and guts. The reaction was on behalf of the team,” he said.

Adelaide, December 2003, versus Australia (233, 446 balls, 23x4, 1x6)

The heat was searing, right through the Test. His determination was rock-solid, right through the Test. “Rahul batted like god,” skipper Sourav Ganguly raved later.

It was an excellent work from the master technician. It helped that Dravid had Laxman, a master craftsman himself, as his partner during the knock. Australia had smashed 400 for five on the opening day and India was looking for avenues to save the match. Dravid looked at it differently. He played the decisive part in the epic victory, the winning stroke rightly his on the eventful fourth day.

Ajit Agarkar took six wickets to trigger an Aussie collapse and set the stage for India's victory. The improbable became a reality as Dravid followed up his good work in the first innings. “Eden Gardens was a very emotional affair, very special. But in terms of what it could mean to us as a team, and what this could lead to, this win is significant,” observed Dravid. His tenacity stood out. His stroke-play, especially the drives on either side, was divine, right through the innings. The team partied late into the night with Dravid still in his whites. It was a privilege to be part of that celebration on an exclusive floor of the team hotel.

Rawalpindi, April 2004, versus Pakistan (270, 495 balls, 34x4, 1x6)

India was travelling to Pakistan after 15 years. “Win their hearts,” was the message from the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

After the 1992 tour of South Africa, this was the most high profile sporting exchange between India and Pakistan and Dravid helped his team achieve its goal with a lasting role in the final Test in Rawalpindi. He walked to the middle to face only the second ball of the Indian innings (Virender Sehwag had been dismissed off the very first ball), but when he was finally dismissed, India was ensconced at 593 for nine.

It was very hot and Dravid spent two days on the field without flinching. The Pakistan bowlers were quick but Dravid stood firm. He made sure India did not have to bat again and shut Pakistan out of the match. It was India's first ever series win in Pakistan.

Dravid's majestic performance was in keeping with his form and an innate desire to carry the team on his shoulders in hostile territory. It remains one of his most memorable displays.

A new high… Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly with the trophy after India won the Rawalpindi Test and with it its first ever series victory in Pakistan in 2004. Rahul Dravid played the lead role in India's triumph.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Headingley, August 2002, versus England (148, 307 balls, 23x4)

Ask any batsman and he will tell you how much he would love to score a century at this tricky venue. Tricky because the venue offers very difficult conditions. The green tinge on the pitch and an overcast sky is a seam bowler's delight. Only the best of batsmen can survive.

Dravid did not just survive here; he thrived and emerged an accomplished performer. Of course, he enjoyed great support and guidance from partner Sanjay Bangar.

It was Dravid's 12th century in Tests, which prompted Sunil Gavaskar to remark, “The finest I have seen from Dravid.”

Certainly it was, at that point of Dravid's career. “It was a satisfying effort considering the challenging conditions. Bangar gave me confidence,” said Dravid, who had crossed 5000 runs in the course of this stupendous innings.

Tendulkar made 193, while Ganguly scored 128, but it was Dravid who was declared the Man of the Match for his exhibition of excellent batsmanship. India won by an innings and 46 runs in the Test.

Johannesburg, January 1997, versus South Africa (148, 362 balls, 21x4)

Dravid's first century that came after nine Tests and 15 innings. It was quite uncharacteristic of a batsman who had made 95 and 84 (against England) in his first two Test innings. The wait was worth it because the knock came at a great venue and against a menacing attack spearheaded by Allan Donald. Bowlers of the calibre of Donald, Shaun Pollock, Brian McMillan and Paul Adams brought variety to the South African attack. The team also had Hansie Cronje whose nagging line and length left the batsmen guessing.

Dravid, however, was at his best. He built his innings as is his wont and also played shots that left the bowlers in a daze. The Dravid-Donald contest was breathtaking. The bowler tested Dravid with some fiery stuff and the batsman responded in a most thrilling fashion. This was so typical of Dravid. The more the bowlers flared, the more Dravid grew in confidence and determination. With his maiden century he had announced his credentials in an appropriate manner. India should have won but South Africa, set a target of 365, managed to draw the Test.