India may have their backs squarely to the wall in the first Test against South Africa at Centurion, but that hasn't discouraged one-down bat Rahul Dravid. Even though the visitors are in the sorry position of being 230 runs behind South Africa with just two wickets down for the hosts, Dravid is firmly of the belief that his side can save the match.
"We are far behind. But we have got to bat well in the second innings," said Dravid. It's going to be tough, but we have got some quality there. We have shown some fighting spirit in the last couple of years. We have got to believe that we have got that and we are going to have to play well."
Dravid is not unfamiliar with India's weak starts to tours. But he was disturbed by the fact that his side went down so easily on Day 1 when it was reduced to 136/9 thanks for some fiery bowling from the Protreas' new-ball pair of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. "I thought we had come a long way over the last few years to correct that," he said. "Over the last decade we have tried to correct that. We sometimes do tend to start off slowly, and in a three-match series you cannot afford that sort of thing."
Dravid led a historic fight back against South Africa in the third Test of the 1996-97 tour. He took the fight to the Proteas pace bowlers, making 148 and 81 and would have won the match for India had rain not marred their chances. Nevertheless, he ensnared the Man of the Match award on that occasion and was received praise from various quarters in the cricketing fraternity for his show of bravado.
At the end of Day 2 of the ongoing match, he too expressed disappointment that his side had not gone through some practice matches before the big encounter. "We tried to do the best we could, we came here as early as possible - some of us - and practised a bit. The conditions yesterday were a bit different from what we have practised on also, but having said that, there's still a lot of cricket left in this series. We have got to keep our heads up."
Commenting on the pitch, Dravid acknowledged that it was getting progressively more conducive for batting. "We saw today that it did get a lot better. It will be interesting to see how it plays as the game goes on. We have got to still bat really well, with us so many runs behind on the fourth and the fifth day. It's a good test, it's going to be a great challenge."
Looking to pile on more runs to their already massive lead over India, the Proteas are likely to declare their first innings around tea on Day 3, which would mean that India will be faced with the monumental task of batting out over two days in order to save the match. But going by Dravid's positive frame of mind, he seems equal to the task. India will be hoping he is.