Rahul Dravid is confident that India will live up to its No. 1 Test ranking in the challenging new season in which it will play three tough series in three continents this year. He also realizes that winning abroad will be necessary to back India’s claim to supremacy.
“You can’t be No. 1 if you are not playing well abroad,” the 38-year-old former India captain says over the phone from Bangalore. “Over the last five-seven years, we have been playing really well overseas. We won in West Indies the last time we toured, won in England and gave a good account of ourselves in Australia. I don’t see why we cannot do it again this time around.”
“In recent years, we have the best overseas record after Australia,” he says.
India play three Tests in the West Indies—starting 20 June—after the ongoing five-match One Day series which ends on 16 June, which India have already clinched with two games to spare. The Indian team will then head to England for four Tests, followed by a limited-overs series that will extend till 16 September. India, which won the World Cup in April after 28 years, will travel on a full tour of Australia at the end of the year.
The pressure will be on the 150-Test battle-hardened Dravid to drive India’s batting in the Caribbean with the experienced trio of Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag missing from the team led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Openers Sehwag and Gambhir were sidelined by shoulder injuries, while Tendulkar opted out for personal reasons.
Rock solid: Dravid’s focus is the West Indies tour. Hindustan Times
“Injuries are part of international sport, but it’s sad a lot of it had to happen at the same time,” says Dravid, who has scored 12,063 runs with 31 hundreds and 59 fifties and guided India to several famous victories in a 15-year career. “I guess it can’t be helped, we play so much competitive cricket these days. The situation is not ideal but it’s an opportunity for the younger players to stand up and be counted,” he adds.
Dravid is one of only five batsmen to have scored over 10,000 runs in Test and One Day International cricket and is currently third behind Tendulkar (14,692) and Australian Ricky Ponting (12,363) in the list of batsmen with most runs in Test cricket.
“I don’t think there is going to be any extra pressure on me. I don’t see it as pressure, as I always look to try and play a significant role for my team. That’s not going to be any different now,” he says.
Dravid, the first international player to score centuries in all Test-playing nations, led India to their first Test series victory in the Caribbean in 35 years on their previous visit in 2006. The following year he led India to a first series win in England in 21 years before stepping down as skipper. It was the country where he had begun his international career, missing a century by five runs on debut at Lord’s in 1996.
“We were in control throughout the series,” he says, referring to the previous tour of the Caribbean in which he famously set up the 1-0 series victory with knocks of 81 and 68 in the deciding final Test. “In Antigua, we were one wicket away from winning the Test. In St Lucia, we lost a whole day due to rain and (Brian) Lara played a sensational innings.”
Dravid says he is not looking past the West Indies series although the year promises to be one of the toughest overseas challenges since he formed India’s steady middle-order along with Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman over a decade ago.
“We got the immediate challenge of West Indies, and we need to focus on that. I know there is a lot of talk of England and Australia, but those can wait,” he says. “Sure, this season’s going to be an exciting one, but then, so was last season. We won a Test in South Africa and squared the series,” he says, referring to the series in which India bounced back to win the second Test in Durban after losing the opening Test by an innings.
“With a little bit of luck, we should have won the series,” he says about the drawn third and final Test in Cape Town. “With other countries pushing us hard, it is obviously going to be challenging. The team showed last year what we are capable of, and I’m sure we are capable of repeating it.”
About new coach Duncan Fletcher, Dravid says: “Fletcher comes with a lot of experience. I’m looking forward to interacting with him, although I think a coach can only do so much. At the end of the day, the performance lies with the players.”
When asked if he has any goals left in his illustrious career, he says: “I know I’m nearing the end of the road and not starting off. At this stage, I’m enjoying my cricket.”
“There are not a lot of goals left to achieve in terms of numbers and records, but the joy of playing a significant role in the successes of the team, the satisfaction of contributing to the team’s growth and helping it stay up there in the ranking, is immense.”
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