WC 2003 - Rahul ~~The Wall~~ raises his game to keep rivals at bay

Published: Tuesday, March 4, 2003, 23:36 [IST]
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Johannesburg: India's Rahul Dravid may have been overshadowed by Sachin Tendulkar's awesome form, but he is leaving his own mark at the World Cup.Nicknamed the Wall and Mr Reliable for his consistently solid batting in Test matches away from India, the 29-year-old has shown he is equally at ease in the reckless world of Limited Overs cricket.Dravid hit an unbeaten 43 against Zimbabwe, a match-winning 62 versus England under the Kingsmead lights in Durban and then followed up with 44 not out against arch-rivals Pakistan.This from a man whose copybook batting style was considered unsuitable for One-day cricket two years ago. The selectors wanted big-hitters or those who could contribute in some other way.So when coach John Wright, Dravid's coach at Kent two years ago, and captain Saurav Ganguly offered him the wicket-keeper's role in One-dayers to lend balance to the side, the Bangalore man jumped at the idea."If I kept wickets, we could either play an extra batsman or a bowler and it gave me something to do," Dravid said. "It was a role I was not familiar with but it grew on me in England last year and New Zealand. I now realise how difficult a keeper's job is."But I am quite relaxed doing it and pleased it helps the team." What has, however, turned the corner for the stylish middle-order batsman is the decision to give the number five spot to him at the World Cup."Ive always maintained the number five position has given a new dimension to my One-day game," Dravid said. "In that position you know what is required of you. If you come in towards the end, you are expected to get runs fast. If wickets have fallen early, you try and build."Building an innings is what I do in Test matches anyway. I've just applied the same principles here." Dravid, the current Indian vice-captain, is confident the team can go far in the tournament, but stressed it would be best to take it one match at a time."It would be foolish to think about the final, when there are three important games to play in the Super Sixes first. We should not lose the momentum."Dravid said he was thrilled to hit the winning boundary, a pull off Waqar Younis, to bring up India's victory against Pakistan at Centurion on Saturday."In fact, in the last two or three overs, I eased off to take in the atmosphere," he said. "At that stage, our victory was assured and I thought, well, let me enjoy the moment. Cheering fans, hundreds of tri-coloured flags. It was incredible."Hope we have many more days like that." With Tendulkar, who is already this tournament's leading scorer with 469 runs at the top of the order, and Dravid at number five, World Cup bowlers will not take India lightly.Copyright AFP 2001

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