The Rediff Interview

" I play the game my way..."

Rahul Dravid. 
The name says it all. A season old in international cricket, and already the master bat from Karnataka is seen as a world level talent. And, increasingly, as India's future captain. 
Dravid came back from his debut season in England, in early 1996, with the reputation of being a clean, classical batsman. But it was the twin tours of South Africa and the West Indies, in course of which he combated the pace of Donald, Pollock, Walsh and Ambrose with elan, that really rocketed him to fame. 
Interestingly, Dravid is one of the few Indian stars with an equally huge international fan following -- Rediff has, these past months, been flooded with requets for his email or snail mail address, his phone number, et al. And already, a search for 'Rahul Dravid' in the search engines of your browser throws up dozens of web pages dedicated to the man and his deeds. 
A very easy conversationalist, Dravid spoke to Haresh Pandya about various matters cricketing. Excerpts, from an interview: 

A year old in international cricket, so how does it feel? Are you settled into the side? 
I'm not really worried about my place in the side, I figure that as long as I keep batting well, doing well, I should select myself automatically. About the year, yes, I think I've done quite a bit, had some good performances after my debut. None of this means I am taking my place for granted, though. 

But for all your accomplishments, you don't have a regular slot in the batting order...? 
That doesn't matter, really. Obviously, being a youngster, you get pushed around a bit, and I have batted at a few different positions right through the year. But the way I've looked on it is as a challenge, I'm not unduly worried about which position I bat in. And I guess in course of time, as and when I keep doing well, my place in the batting order will also get fixed. 
But what of your own personal preference? Where, ideally, would you like to bat? 
Doesn't matter, really. Wherever the team management and the captain need me to bat, is fine with me. 

Including opening the innings...? 
Opening, I think, is a specialised job. Having said that, it is not like I'm scared of opening the innings. If that is what the team management and captain want me to do, if they feel I am suitable for the job, then fine, I'll open, in Tests or ODIs, whatever. 
Look back to your debut innings, last year, against England at Lord's... what was your frame of mind when you were out there? 
Obviously, debuting at Lord's was a big thing, it gave me a boost. I just concentrated on each ball as it came, really. Luckily we were batting second, so that gave me enough time to adjust, to get accustomed to the fact that I was playing my first Test innings. It was a nervy time in the beginning, the half hour or so that I batted till lunch, but once I settled down in the middle, got a few in the middle, got used to being out there, I don't think I felt too much pressure, things kind of took their own course. 

You missed a century on debut by a whisker... how did that feel, as you walked back to the pavilion? 
I was a bit disappointed, sure, but not all that much. In the sense, I was happy I scored 95 runs, I looked at it as a cup half full, instead of half empty. Of course, if I could have scored that hundred and become part of a world record with Saurav Ganguly, that would have been fantastic, but overall I was pretty happy about my performance, I've no regrets. 
Your real trial by fire came against the West Indies and South African quicks -- what are your memories of those encounters? 
It was very challenging, certainly. Obviously, South Africa has a bunch of class fast bowlers, four or five of them. In their own conditions -- actually, in any conditions -- they are very disciplined, attacking bowlers, so it was a great challenge playing them, doing well against them on their own turf. As for the West Indies, well, except that wicket in Barbados, all the pitches in the Caribbean were pretty slow. But Ambrose and Walsh are wonderful bowlers, experienced campaigners, playing them no matter the type of wicket, was a very interesting experience. 

Having played against almost all the premier quicks in the world, who do you rate as the hardest to face? 
Well, actually, for me it is Javagal Srinath who is the most difficult to play, he troubles me a lot. I guess I am lucky that I play with, not against, him most of the time. Among the opposition, I've played some top class bowlers, people like Donald, Ambrose, Muralitharan and Saqlain Mushtaq have all been very competitive, they have all bowled well against me. It is difficult to pick out one particular bowler, really, each of them troubles you at some time or the other, then there are times when you handle them well. It's the fun of the thing, really -- some days the bowlers have a better day and do better than you, get you out, on other days you counter whatever they can throw at you... 

What do you rate as your greatest strength, as a batsman? 
I think that it is basically my temperament and my ability to concentrate for long hours, also an ability to adapt myself, suit my game, to different conditions.

 And your most productive stroke? 
I love to drive, especially the straight drive which is a very classy, nice shot but not an easy one to play. I guess that is the shot I enjoy playing the most. Productive? Well, any shot that gets you runs is productive, really... 

Do you model your game on anyone, any batsman you admire? 
Not really, I tend to play the game as I see it, I play my game my way, the way I have been playing since I was a youngster. I am pretty much my own self as a batsman, really. 

Which would you rate as your best Test innings? 
The 148 I scored at Johannesburg, most definitely. 

And your best one-day innings? 
I think the 80-odd that I got at Durban against South Africa, in the final of the one day triangular, is what I would rate as my best in the one day game, I batted well there and brought India very close to a possible win. 
Talking of coming close to a win, how did it feel to lose in Barbados by a whisker? 
It was very very disappointing, more so because we dominated the Test till that point of time. We were bowled out for 80-odd chasing 120, and it was really a bad feeling because if we had won that Test, we would have won the series, so from that point of view also it was pretty disappointing. In fact, to my mind that must rank as the most disappointing day in my cricketing life so far. 
What was it like back in the dressing room as the wickets began tumbling? 
Obviously very bleak. When wickets begin to fall like that, there really is nothing much you can do sitting in the , it was very quiet and very disappointing. When the wickets start falling, there is nothing much you can do sitting in the dressing room, except maybe hope the guys out there in the middle prove capable of bailing the team out, of doing the job. But sometimes, that just doesn't happen. And it feels bad... 

Ever thought about the captaincy of the Indian team, and what you would do if it were offered to you? 
No such offer has been made to me, and I don't foresee one coming my way for some time. I'm not worrying about such things just now, I prefer to concentrate on my batting. Captaincy, things like that, I don't need to bother about them just now. 

Personally, do you prefer Test cricket or the one day variety? 
Both, really. So much cricket of both types is being played these days, and I enjoy playing, period. Each type brings its own challenges, requires different skills. Tests are a good test of your courage and skill and technique, while ODIs have their own charm. I guess I don't have any preference, really. 

Where in the cricketing rankings would you place the Indian team? 
Frankly, I don't believe in rankings, I believe in results from Test to Test. I believe in Test mach to Test match. Obviously, we have not done too well over the year gone by, but then again I am hoping we will begin improving pretty soon. 
What of the immediate future, what goals have you set yourself? 
We've got a long, tough season ahead of us, three Tests against Sri Lanka, three against Australia, lots of ODIs in between. Goals? I guess I am basically looking to do well in both types of the game, making a few centuries, hopefully, and above all, contributing to a few India wins. 


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