London: Rahul Dravid, the essential team man, will do anything to lift the Indians from their present morass but fortunately this time he would not be asked to swap his batting slot with someone else once again.
Dravid was in good touch in both his innings at Lord's in the first Test against England, and so was VVS Laxman, but the team realises the Karnataka batsman is best left alone at number three, a slot which should be his by right. Dravid averages 53.85 at number three but all too often the good Samaritan of the Indian team has allowed himself to be pushed up and down the order to suit some fancy theory which hasn't always worked in team's interest. Dravid is still bullish in his zeal to do well for India at whatever personal cost it involves. "You have got to do what a team requires.
You have got to learn to adapt, you've got to find a way to make the team stronger," Dravid said. "That's the key goal and it sometimes makes you do things which is out of your comfort zone," said Dravid. "And if you have to do it, then you should do it." Dravid has done so all his career, starting at number seven, moving up to number three, having been asked to open or to adjust at number five or six, but he has not complained and he does not seem to want any credit for it as well. "I think every time I play for India, is credit enough. When you represent your country or wear an India cap and walk on to the field, it is an honour in itself and you don't look for any other credit."
Neither is there a sense of grudge at media's failure to highlight his sacrifices even when others have been stubborn to yield their places. "I don't expect it to be highlighted. I don't look at it as anything out of the ordinary and I don't expect any praise for it," said Dravid who is the seventh highest all time run maker for India at 4842 behind Sunil Gavaskar (10,122), Sachin Tendulkar (8032), Dilip Vengsarkar (6868), Mohd Azharuddin (6215), G Viswanath (6080) and Kapil Dev (5248). Dravid's desire to go to extra mile for his team was evident when he agreed to don the wicket-keeper's gloves in One-day cricket. "I used to keep when I was a youngster, probably 16 or 17. I used to keep regularly for the school and a little bit for college. I even attended a couple of national camps for Under-15 and 17 as a 'keeper.
"I sort of had to pick it up 12 years later so it is a bit of learning curve, I have to learn a lot and have to put in that extra effort," he said. Dravid's keeping during the NatWest triangular series had everyone gushing, including captain Saurav Ganguly, but Dravid says to expect him to be the best in this trade would be an unfair demand. "I would naturally be not the most brilliant or most natural 'keeper and I would have to accept that. But I would do my best to try and keep improving.... I am not going to say that I am going to be the best. I will only tell people that I will honestly try and do my best." Dravid knows regular wicket-keeping could make extreme demands on his time and energy. "Physically probably I would have to put on more effort.
I probably would work harder on my fitness and certain specific areas like my legs which I haven't done for years." But, Dravid, it seems, would not be deterred even though keeping is considered a thankless job. "I don't think any job is thankless. 'Keepers who complain sometimes. I wonder why they do it because if they don't want to do it then they shouldn't do it. "'Keeping is tough, it's a hard job physically. But its got to be done and people who do it should love and enjoy it." Dravid says he never has a mindset to expect trouble on the field even when he had agreed to open the innings.
"I think if you have a mindset that there is going to be a problem then you would have one. I never had such a mindset. "Even when I have been asked to open, I have gone there and done my best. I never had this attitude that I can't succeed. I can put my hand on my heart and say I went with an attitude to try my best. Unfortunately, it didn't work out but it was not because of want of effort." Dravid has not eschewed playing pull or a square cut only because it involves risk but says international teams these days are careful not to bowl to a batsman's strength. "I haven't cut it down only because there is a risk involved. It is also because opposition studies you all the time and wants to restrict your scoring opportunities."
"It means you have to try and improve all the time because if you don't you would stagnate. You got to have an attitude to prove, not only to others but also to yourself about how much better you could be." Dravid, who has played 61 Tests and made 4842 runs at an average of 51.51 with 10 centuries, is humble when reminded of his awesome statistics in Test cricket. "It's nice to hear people say nice things to you. But over the years I have learnt not to get carried away. I am a lot more relaxed and try and retain my equanimity even when I am praised or criticised." Dravid finds history repeating itself when he finds so many youngsters making a mark on this tour to England like he did when he came over in 1996.
"When I came seven years ago, I was on my first tour and was the young kid. Now to watch some of these young boys, and to look back at your own experience, it is a nice feeling to realise you are still around seven years on."