With Dravid at the Other End: A Tribute to The Wall of Indian Cricket

No Indian batsman will have Rahul Dravid as his batting partner at the other end any more.

The nice guy who finished almost first, Rahul Dravid is truly one of the all time greats to have played the game. His traditional cricket records are astounding – 13200+ runs at an average of 53 odd – ahead of everyone except Sachin Tendulkar, 36 Test hundreds, 210 Test catches, and for someone thought to be unfit for ODIs, he still is the 7th highest rungetter in ODIs with over 10000 runs and 83 fifties. Predictably, he also holds the record for facing the highest number of deliveries by a Test Batsman over his career – some 31000+ balls. Perhaps that is the ultimate record for a man who seemed to be always there at the other end for the team.

withdravidattheotherendIndividual performance statistics on their own obviously demand that history will look at him as one of the all time greats. But more important than that was the irreplaceable, intangible value that Dravid held for the Indian team. Like salt in every great dish, Dravid’s contribution in India’s great performances has been essential and vital, but missed only when it is absent. The taste of the dish has always been attributed to the spice and the other ingredients.

When Sachin scored his previous highest ODI score of 186, he was involved in a 331 run stand with Dravid. When Sourav scored his highest ODI score of 183, he was involved in a 318 run stand with Dravid. When Laxman scored his highest Test score of 281, he had a 376 run partnership with Dravid. When Sehwag scored his triple centuries – both in Pakistan and South Africa – he shared 410 run and 268 run partnerships with Dravid. Again when Sehwag scored 293, Dravid was at the other end in a 237 run partnership. In the eight 300+ partnerships in Tests and ODIs since 1999 by Indian batsmen, Dravid has been involved in five. Overall, he has been part of 88 century stands, 19 with Sachin (a record), 12 with Laxman, 10 each with Ganguly and Sehwag, and even 7 with Gambhir.

Till the last 4 hundreds he scored (3 of which came in losing causes against England in 2011), only one of his first 32 hundreds was in a Test that India lost. His average in India wins is 66+ against overall average of 53 odd.

Though often overlooked, Dravid also had partnerships with Kumble and Harbhajan as a fielder. Caught Dravid bowled Kumble accounted for 55 catches, and Caught Dravid bowled Harbhajan accounted for 50 catches, out of his 210 record catches by a non-wicketkeeper.

There used to be a joke about the importance of the ‘control sample’ in Market Research, and how one could reach wrong conclusions if one did not employ a control sample to isolate causal factors. It said that a researcher had whiskey with soda, vodka with soda and rum with soda on three separate days, and got inebriated on all three days after a few pegs. Later he published a thesis that it is not the drinks but the soda that causes the intoxication, because that was the only common factor.

In that case, the researcher was wrong. But in the case of Rahul Dravid and his partnerships, it is Dravid that has been the underlying, often unsung, factor in the intoxication caused by Indian batsmanship over the past 15 years. He has been the wind beneath the wings, holding ground while others take flight. No other Indian batsman will have the privilege and the luxury of having Dravid at the other end any more. Someone else will have to hold that end now.

Take a bow, Rahul Dravid!

Of Skill, Temperament and The Wall: Investing Lessons from Rahul Dravid’s batting

A couple of days back I was privileged to watch one of the best recent displays of classical Test Match batting by Rahul Dravid. That day (as so many times in the past too), Dravid secured a painstaking century on a minefield of a pitch to get India into a position of victory. He has done so earlier on similar pitches against much lethal bowling and in worse team situations. What is amazing is he was never directly focused on getting the runs. Runs seemed to be incidental outputs. His singular focus was to handle each ball as it comes, survive and score when possible – which in turn led to the century and eventually set up India’s victory. Dravid has been following that approach for the past 15 years, ball after ball, match after match, year after year – and it is no surprise that he is India’s second highest run getter in Tests.

dravid1Well – this note is not about his achievements or why he remains my favorite Test batsman. This is about the approach he brings to batting. There is so much to learn for individual investors from the way Dravid bats. If only one thinks of oneself as Dravid, and everything around him as the markets – the pitch, the bowls coming down, the excitement,  the team situation, one will realize the value of his approach and its application in the area of investing.

Dravid’s approach to batting is akin to Graham’s or perhaps even Buffett’s approach to investing . The first rule is never lose your wicket i.e. never lose money. The second rule is always follow the first rule. His expertise and experience in handling pitches like Sabina Park is tremendous, but he is still a student. He still does not know what exactly it has in store – i.e. which ball will seam and which will bounce, and does not try to pre-judge. Very much akin to the vagaries of the market which are futile to predict. His mind is almost trained with a plan for every over that sounds like – leave, leave, defend, leave, score, defend. His patience wears off the bowlers, so that they start bowling to where he wants them to.  dravid2

They try out-swingers which he leaves even if slightly off line, bouncers which he ducks without any ado, inswingers and short pitched balls which he gets behind and defends solidly. And finally he gets a wayward delivery on his legs which he flicks, or one that is wide outside the off stump which he drives. The entire process and journey by which he collects his runs and builds his innings is amazing, and more or less guaranteed to provide success if anyone could follow it well.  Wickets keep falling and other batsmen score faster with boundaries from the other end, but when Dravid is at the crease, he is still thinking – leave, defend as his natural choices by default, and only if the ball is in his zone, he scores. And those opportunities surely come more often than not. When everyone around him is struggling – including the bowlers unable to comprehend what the ball will do next on this pitch, fielders bored with nothing seemingly happening, and non-strikers flashing their bats in a bid to do something – Dravid is patiently batting – in his zone.

dravid3Isn’t the experience that normal individual investors have in the market similar to what batsmen face at pitches like Sabina Park most of the time? Sometimes you do have belters in big bull runs where you just get bat to ball, and it flies to the boundary. Investors that invest the way Dravid bats may temporarily look like fools on such belters. But most of the time, the markets are pitches like Sabina Park. You never know which way it will go. Defend or Leave is perhaps the best option for most individual investors on most deliveries thrown at them. Patience is then the biggest virtue, specially when you have a long innings to play. And when the market wears out and throws you a sitter, you grab it and accumulate your runs. If you do this ball after ball, match after match, year after year, through multiple economic cycles, good form or bad, a couple of things are sure. It is very unlikely that you will get out on a bad ball i.e. you are unlikely to suffer huge losses due to making bad investments. Most investors never recover or get back to markets after that. And finally, it is very likely that you will end up with a tally like Dravid’s by the time you are done.

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