One of the most prolific batsmen to ever grace the game of cricket, Rahul Dravid, holds a special place in the hearts of Indian fans. Often referred to as ‘The Wall’ and ‘Mr. Dependable’, Rahul Dravid set numerous records in his stint with Team India between 1996 and 2012, especially in the longest format of the game.
Known for his cool personality and his low profile off the field, Rahul Dravid was a team player who commanded respect from his fellow teammates right from the start of his career. It was in Test cricket that Rahul Dravid particularly excelled with his legendary ability to tire out the bowlers and build crucial partnerships.
At the time of his retirement, India’s coach held the unique record of never getting out for a golden duck. He is the fourth-highest (13,288) run-scorer in Test cricket, holding the record for the most minutes spent at the crease (44,152) and most balls faced by any batsman (31,258) in the history of the format.
As “The Wall” turned 50 this week, here’s a look at his five best Test innings.
#5: 148 vs South Africa
South Africa remains India’s final frontier in Test cricket with the Men in Blue never registering a Test series victory on the bouncy South African decks. Even Rahul Dravid, who is known for his mastery of overseas tracks, struggled in South Africa – averaging just below 30 and failing to spark in most of his tours against the Proteas.
Rahul Dravid’s first international Test century came at The Wanderers in Johannesburg in 1997. The hosts have already sealed the series in the first two Tests, and the 24-year-old Dravid had nothing to lose when he came out to bat in the first innings of the Test.
Against the pace of Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald, Rahul Dravid adopted his classic patience game, taking 362 balls to score 148 runs.
On a track in which no other batsman from either team was able to reach the three-figure mark, Rahul Dravid’s fluency made him an instantaneous star. He followed it up with an 81-run knock in the second innings, allowing India to salvage a draw in the third Test.
#4: 217 vs England
India’s tour of England in 2002 is more memorable for Sourav Ganguly’s epic shirt wave at Lord’s, signaling a new dawn for Team India in cricket.
But the tour also saw India slowly establishing themselves as a force to reckon with in Test cricket. Entering the third Test, England led the four-match Test series 1-0. A 195-run knock by Michael Vaughan in the first innings took the hosts to a mammoth total of 515, and it looked like the hosts would win the series.
But Rahul Dravid combined with India’s “Master Blaster” Sachin Tendulkar and skipper Sourav Ganguly to keep India in the game. Spending 629 minutes at the crease, Rahul Dravid scored a memorable 217-run knock at The Oval that remains one of the best innings of his career.
The series was a purple patch for the star, as he scored 602 runs in three Tests, winning the Man of the Series award.
#3: 180 vs Australia
One of the greatest partnerships in the annals of India’s cricket history, the 376-run partnership between Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman at the Eden Gardens in 2001 resulted in India winning a memorable Test against Australia. While VVS Laxman’s majestic 281-run knock justifiably hogs the limelight, Rahul Dravid’s contribution to the partnership showed his true nature of being a team player.
After India were forced to follow-on in the second innings, the match looked to be a sealed deal for the visitors. On a track that was wearing out, India’s openers once again fell quickly. Even Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly could not last in the middle for long, and it was left to Rahul Dravid to give VVS Laxman the support he needed.
Soaking up the pressure from the likes of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, Rahul Dravid scored 180 runs in 353 balls, allowing VVS Laxman to take risks at the other end.
India’s declaration at 657/7 followed by an epic six-wicket haul by Harbhajan Singh allowed India to completely turn around the game, registering a memorable 171-run victory.
#2: 233 vs Australia
India were down to 85/4 in their pursuit of 556 in the first innings of the Adelaide Test in 2003, when the duo of VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid once again rose to the occasion for the team.
Batting at the No.3 spot, Rahul Dravid frustrated Australia’s bowlers to the maximum, batting till the end of the innings. He scored 233 runs in 446 balls, stitching together a 303-run partnership with VVS Laxman and extending the team’s score with the help of India’s tail-end batters.
Rahul Dravid’s brilliant knock brought India back into the game, bridging the deficit to just 23 runs in the first innings. Ajit Agarkar’s six-wicket haul contained the hosts to 196 runs in the second innings, with Rahul Dravid finishing the chase with a 73-run knock.
Rahul Dravid played in the crease for a mammoth 835 minutes during the Test, giving India one of their most memorable Test victories down-under.
#1: 270 vs Pakistan
It is unfortunate that India do not tour Pakistan anymore since some of the finest Tests in history saw both sides battling it out on the pitch. India’s tour of Pakistan in 2003 was memorable as it was the first time India won a Test on Pakistani soil, with Virendar Sehwag’s epic 309-run knock in the first Test clinching the match for the visitors.
After Pakistan levelled the series 1-1 in the second Test, India once again were in command in the third Test.
The hosts were bowled out for 224 in the first innings, with Laxmipathi Balaji and Ashish Nehra tearing apart Pakistan’s top order. In reply, Rahul Dravid combined with Parthiv Patel, Sourav Ganguly, and VVS Laxman to take India to 600 runs in the first innings.
In his longest innings at the crease, Rahul Dravid spent 740 minutes facing 495 balls to score his highest-ever score. Even though the 270-run knock came on a batting-friendly subcontinental track, it holds special importance for giving India their first-ever series victory in Pakistan.
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