Rahul Dravid plays his last game today in the ODI format of the sport when India take on England in the fifth and the final match of the series. The match will be played at Cardiff in Wales in what is now called the SWALEC stadium.
Dravid made his ODI debut in 1996 in a series in Singapore and will play his last match in Wales, two non Test-playing nations! In both the series, Dravid hasn’t been at his best but what is vital is the stability and the runs that the great batsman provided in between those two series.
Dravid will end his ODI career with almost 11k runs and an average more than 39. His strike-rate of 71.16 before the start of the final ODI has divided opinions about his place in the side, but rest assured that graph has always been an improving one in his career. Always a team-man, Dravid agreed to donning the gloves behind the stumps, in order to allow his then-captain Sourav Ganguly to go into games with an extra batsman which helped them get to the final of the 2003 World Cup.
Interestingly, even Indian captain MS Dhoni spoke at the toss about how Dravid was the best wicket-keeper batsman the side ever had, as far as the statistics are concerned – an oft-forgotten fact. In the 73 games that he kept wickets, he held 71 catches and affected 13 stumpings but most importantly, rarely allowed much to go through.
Dravid was not a certainty in the ODI format because of his inability to up the scoring towards the early part of his career, but he turned the corner in 1998-99 on the tour of New Zealand. A century in ODIs at Taupo was followed by an excellent World Cup in England where he topped the run-scoring charts with a couple of successive centuries in that tournament.
From then on, there was no looking back as he forged a brilliant partnership with Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly in the ODIs to help the side get to the final of the 2003 World Cup.
The period between 2003 and 2007 saw Dravid plateau in the ODIs, but he did enough to keep his place, which included a 90 at Bristol after the shoddy World Cup campaign. India had crashed out of that World Cup in the first round.
For two years between 2007 and 2009, Dravid got only one chance to play in the ODIs before being dropped again and confined into wilderness. It was after an excellent Test series against England this year that the selectors surprised everyone including Dravid himself. While he agreed to play in these five games, he promptly announced his retirement from the format.
Sachin Tendulkar has called him “the unsung hero of the Indian team, despite having such a remarkable career” while his former Karnataka and Indian teammate Anil Kumble said, “Rahul's approach has changed in the way he uses the pace of the bowler, looks to take the early singles and keep the board ticking over.”