For years, India’s Rahul Dravid has been an absolute synonym for reliability. A marathon man during his 16 years in Test cricket, the former captain has gone on to become a supreme specimen of a perfect team player, and arguably one of the best the country has ever seen in the longest format of the game.
Having accumulated 13288 runs in 286 innings (164 games) at an average of 52.31, Dravid scored 63 half-centuries and 36 tons during his Test career, and most of them came in a match-saving effort. Having said that, we list down five best Test knocks by the man who personified the gentleman's game.
148 vs South Africa - The Wanderers Stadium (January 1997)
It took Dravid seven months to score his first Test hundred, and it is safe to say it was worth the wait.
After a rather subpar performance in the first two Tests of India’s tour of South Africa in January 1997, Dravid upped the ante in the third Test by scoring 148 as India registered 410 on board in the first innings. His knock came in 362 deliveries and included 21 boundaries.
A bowling brilliance by Javagal Srinath restricted the hosts to 321, and Dravid was at it once again in the second innings. Scoring 81 off 146 balls, he guided India to 266 before his then captain, Sachin Tendulkar, declared the innings.
A century by Daryll Cullinan in the fourth innings allowed South Africa to hold fort as the match was drawn without a winner.
180 vs Australia - Eden Garden (March 2001)
Having won the toss and electing to bat, a star-studded Australia put up a mammoth 445 in their first innings and were able to dislodge India for a mere 171. Sourav Ganguly’s men were sent in to bat as part of the follow-on, and little did anyone know what they were about to witness.
India had lost four wickets, that included both of their openers, Sachin Tendulkar and Ganguly, for 232 runs when Dravid walked in to bat. With a mountain still to climb, Dravid, alongside VVS Laxman, took India from 232 to 608, with Dravid scoring 180 off 353 balls, while Laxman accumulated a whopping 281.
In what was arguably one of the greatest turnarounds in Test cricket, India marched on the back of Dravid and Laxman’s knocks to win the game by 171 after dismissing Australia for a paltry 212 in the second innings.
148 vs England - Headingley (August 2002)
After losing the first and drawing the second Test of their tour of England, India were in dire need of a victory as they arrived for the third Test in Leeds in August 2002. Opting to bat first on a rather green pitch, India lost Virender Sehwag within 15 runs when Dravid arrived on the field.
On a pitch that mostly favoured swing and bounce, Dravid tackled everything that the England pacers had in their arsenal. From an early upset, his steady innings took India to 185 when they lost their second wicket in Sanjay Bangar.
It isn’t just his return with the bat that laid a foundation for India to put 628 on board. It was rather his patience and strong mentality of taking on the bullish English pacers that guided India home.
Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly did score 193 and 128 respectively, but it wouldn’t have been made possible without Dravid’s early efforts on the pitch.
233 vs Australia - Adelaide Oval (December 2003)
Watching Dravid skimming through old foes Australia has always been a delight, to say the least.
After winning the first Test of their tour of Australia in 2003, India made a firm statement of intent. But as they arrived in Adelaide for the second Test of the series, Aussie captain Ricky Ponting had no second thought in choosing to bat on a pitch termed as a batsman’s paradise.
The decision worked wonders as they posted a massive 556 in the first innings on the back of their captain’s double hundred. India too got off to a blistering start, but back-to-back wickets meant they were reduced to 85-4 from 66-0.
Dravid, however, remained constant after coming in to bat at 66-1. And when VVS Laxman joined him at 85-4, echoes of the miracle of Eden Gardens in 2001 once again seemed like a reality. The duo played a 330+ run partnership to take India to 523.
This time though, it was Dravid who scored a double hundred (233) while Laxman notched 148.
In the second innings, Australia were restricted to 196, and with a target of 230 to achieve, Dravid once again stepped up by scoring an unbeaten 72 to guide India to a four-wicket victory.
270 vs Pakistan - Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium (April 2004)
After failing to make an impact in the first two Tests of the series against Pakistan in 2004, Dravid made amends by playing a match-winning knock in Rawalpindi, which remains his best score in the longest format of the game.
Pakistan, who were put in to bat first by India, were bowled out for 224 in the first innings. Unfortunately enough, India lost their first wicket in the very first delivery, and this is when Dravid took the charge.
Riding on his forbearance, Dravid ended his innings at 270 runs from 495 balls, paving way for the other batsmen to take India to a mammoth score of 600. Ganguly’s men didn’t have to bat again as they won the game by an innings and 131 runs.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / William West