Dubai: Rahul Dravid, the quintessential ‘Wall’ of Indian cricket, had an honest confession to make about how the art of batsmanship has changed over a period of time since he retired from the sport.
‘‘I wouldn’t have survived today if I batted the way I did in my days (in the One-day Internationals). Look at the strike-rates today,’’ said the former Indian captain, whose record boasts of 10,899 runs from over 300 ODIs and a decent run later in T20 format in IPL as well.
Defending his so-called patient style of batsmanship at a videocast with cricketer-turned-commentator Sanjay Manjrekar, Dravid said: “I saw that as my job and took great pride in it and I tried to do that in the best possible way. That doesn’t mean I didn’t want to bat like Virendra Sehwag and hit those shots but may be my talent were different. My talent was determination and concentration and I worked on that.”
“While my strike rate in ODI cricket weren’t up to the level of Sachin’s or Viru’s but that’s the level that we played at back then. Obviously I can’t compare myself to Kohli or Rohit Sharma because they have blown the ODI paradigm to an all new level. But to be fair I grew up wanting to be a Test player.”
Commenting on the pressure faced by today’s cricketers in the T20 format vis-a-vis the pressure in a Test match, Dravid said: “If you were to talk about the stress levels or pressure of a particular moment, then yes it’s a lot more in T20 format. To get there and hit sixes from ball one, requires practice and skill.”
“But if you’re talking about pressure as a whole, the fact is that you have to play for five days in a Test Match. And I think that is pressure. There is no running away from that. In any other format you can get away, but in a Test match you go out and bat, then you watch you team bat then you watch the opposition bat and you have a lot of time to think. So I think pressure in a Test match is at a different level.”
Dravid believes that all formats of the game require different skill sets and one has to value what some of the cricketers do at the T20 level. “Look at Andre Russell (WI origin). He is a strong man, but then there is a skill element to him too. You can’t just put any strong man there and get him to bat like that. So the T20 format of cricket also requires certain energy and skill set.
“The only difference between T20 cricket and Test cricket is that in T20 format you can get away with a lot more. But if you have glaring weaknesses, you cannot survive in Test cricket. In T20 format you have a specific role, and if you can perform well in that role, you can be successful.”
However, Rahul doesn’t believe that the number of players who want to play all formats of the game is shrinking every year. “Test batsmanship is a lot more exciting and positive now than it’s been ever before. We are scoring at a quicker rate. See, Test batsmanship is not only defensive batsmanship, it’s got to be defensive and aggressive and the aggressive element of the Test batsmanship is welcome.”
“Going forward we want to see more runs scored, people are playing more shots even in Test cricket which is fantastic. One of the great things for India is that Virat Kohli values Test cricket. He is always talking about it. I think he understands that the real respect for him as a cricketer will come through his success in Test cricket and I think that’s a great role model for our young cricketers. I would like to see wickets keep getting challenging, a good balance between bat and ball and I think people will get excited by seeing that.”
Test batsmanship is a lot more exciting and positive now than it’s been ever before. We are scoring at a quicker rate. See, Test batsmanship is not only defensive batsmanship, it’s got to be defensive and aggressive and the aggressive element of the Test batsmanship is welcome
He adds, “I work with a lot of younger players. And when they start off their heroes are Kohli or Kane Williamson or (Steve) Smith. They want to play all the formats of the game. But some of the less talented or less skillful players realise that its difficult to break into a team with Kohli or Pujara or (Ajinkya) Rahane.
“But they know that if they practice their white ball cricket, they can definitely get into an IPL team and make a living. And this thought today probably creeps in a lot earlier than in the previous generation of cricketers. But superstars will always want to play all the formats of the game.”
He points out, “What budding players or kids lack today is enough time to practice their skills.”
Commenting on defensive technique of Cheteshwar Pujara, often referred to as his worthy successor in No.3 spot, Dravid said: “Coming from a place like Saurashtra, it was drilled into his head early on that he needed to do much more than other players. So he had to make every inning count and that’s the way he has built his batting. He has got a range of shots and he knows that.”
“He is exceptional against spin, he rotates strikes well. I remember he drove Nathan Lion nuts on every single ball. And this a world class bowler we are talking about. Pujara has worked out his game phenomenally well. His concentration is excellent. And he knows that he is playing only one format of the game so he makes his every Test count.”
‘The Wall’ in figures
Tests: 164; Runs: 13288
ODIs: 344; Runs: 10899
T20Is: one; Runs: 31
Record as a wicketkeeper: 71 catches, 13 stumpings from 73 ODIs.