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The Wall in blue

 

Rahul Dravid is a widely acknowledged Test legend, but we sometimes forget how good a one-day cricketer he also became after a stop-start beginning to his 50-overs career. In this edition of What We're Watching, we relive some of his best efforts in ODIs

The Waqar takedown in Toronto
Dravid missed the bus for the 1996 World Cup but he churned out big runs for Karnataka during a title-winning Ranji Trophy campaign that season. A deserved ODI debut came right after the World Cup, and he first hit the high notes in that format later that year in Toronto, finishing the bilateral series against Pakistan as India's highest scorer, with 220 runs at 44.00. The highlight of the tournament was a takedown of the fiery Waqar Younis, whom he hit for 19 runs in an over, going 4, 2, 4, 6, 3, the six coming off a pull shot that was something of a trademark of his batting at the time.

Taming Donald in Durban
Dravid made his maiden Test hundred on the 1996-97 tour of South Africa, and he carried his form into the ODI tri-series that followed, scoring a brilliant 84 in the final in Durban. That innings is particularly remembered for his mid-pitch war of words with Allan Donald after he hoicked him for a six over long-on. That confrontation isn't part of these highlights, but you can watch his audacious strokeplay here, as India fell narrowly short while chasing a challenging revised target of 251 in 40 overs. Donald called his sledge one of the "worst moments" of his career.

Breaking the century drought
Say the words "Independence Cup" and "Chennai" to any India or Pakistan fan and the first thing they'll remember is Saeed Anwar's majestic 194 - then the highest individual score in ODIs. Less remembered is Dravid's 107 - his maiden ODI hundred - which gave India a fighting chance as they embarked on a daunting chase of 328. Already a mainstay of the Test team, Dravid now seemed locked in as India's ODI No. 3 as well.

The turnaround
Things didn't quite pan out that way, though, as Dravid's ODI career hit a brick wall in 1998, a year in which he averaged 21.76, with a strike rate in the mid-50s. Critics panned his inability to get out of first gear, and he was in and out of the ODI side all year. He seemed set to miss out on the 1999 World Cup, but he turned it around in the nick of time, on his comeback tour of New Zealand. Having scored a century in each innings of the Hamilton Test, he began the ODIs with a chanceless 123 in Taupo.

It was the perfect start to what would eventually be Dravid's best year in ODI cricket, which included a stellar World Cup in England, where he topped the tournament run charts with 461 runs, including two hundreds. His 145 against Sri Lanka in Taunton, in a then record ODI stand of 318 with Sourav Ganguly, perfectly encapsulated how much he had broadened the scope of his ODI game - keep an eye out for the six over extra cover, off Muttiah Muralitharan.

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