Mumbai: Rahul Dravid has admitted the form he has been in during 2011 has set him up strongly for a final tour to Australia, where India are set to play four Tests against a different-looking home side than they have encountered in the past. Confident of India's chances against an Australian side coping with injuries and under an inexperienced leader in Michael Clarke, Dravid said a series win would fulfill a burning desire.
"In terms of personal satisfaction in terms of batting, yes I am very happy. I got more runs in 2002 but that seems so far away, so [I] can't even remember what it was like," he told CNN-IBN's sports editor Gaurav Kalra in a free-wheeling interview. "I think some of the runs that I got this year classify as what you call 'tough runs'. They were in pretty tough conditions when the team needed it. So, in that sense, I do feel this was one of my better years personally as a player. Obviously the tour of England was disappointment. From that point of view it was disappointing, but from a personal view this year probably is among the best that I have had."
Dravid goes into the four Test series in the middle of a golden run; he has scored 1,067 runs this calendar year including five centuries. Asked whether felt he was in the same mental frame as when he toured Australia in 2003-03 – he came off a career-best run in 2002 and was averaging 78.25 in 2003 before travelling to Australia – Dravid felt the runs accumulated in 2011 had definitely set him up for a tough tour.
"Runs behind you don't necessarily translate into runs in the future but what I can definitely say is that I go there in a good space. I feel have been hitting the ball well," he said. "I feel quit relaxed when around the group and in the team and am comfortable with the contributions that I am making. I think it's a good time to be travelling.
Dravid has been part of series wins in Pakistan, the West Indies, England and New Zealand, but a series win in Australia has been elusive. In his own words, a series win there would be the benchmark for players of his generation. "Australia is the benchmark, definitely. They had some absolute legends and still have some great players, and they have been the kind of team that you set your mark against. It would definitely be special to go and do well there."
Despite the loss of some of the legends he mentioned, as well as a host of injury concerns, Dravid reckoned this current Australian side would be a challenge. "I still think they are a good side. I know they don't have the big names they had in the past, but they have got some emerging players, some good young players. You can clearly see that they have got a lot of potential and any Australian team is going to hard to beat on home soil. But quietly, I think as a team we should be confident in our own abilities and I really like the look of the way our pace attack is developing. Hopefully we can stay fit and I believe we give ourselves a good chance."
In three tours to Australia, spanning 11 Tests, Dravid has scored 972 runs at an average of 48.60. Dravid struggled during his first tour, in 1999-2000, with just 93 runs from three Tests, but was a revelation in 2003-04 when his 619 runs at 123.80 – including an epic 233 in the Melbourne win – helped India draw the series. The 2007-08 trip was less successful, as it came in the middle of a batting slump, with four Tests resulting in 237 runs without a century.
Ahead of his final tour to Australia, Dravid reiterated that he did not set specific goals for himself. "I don't have any thing in terms of my own numbers or statistics that I want to achieve in Australia," he said. "I want to win a Test series there try and help the team win in Australia. That is something that we have never done. So every time you go and tour there you want to get that goal. Its not going to be easy, it’s never is, but I think the team’s goal is to try and win a series."
Having passed 13,000 Test runs recently - becoming just the second player after Sachin Tendulkar to do so - was an achievement Dravid admitted he had never considered possible when he began his career. However, he said that he would have swapped some of his personal glory for more Indian Test victories.
"I wouldn't have minded scoring five hundreds or a thousand runs less if we could win a series in Australia. I think those of are the kind of memories that stay with you. I think the greatest memory for me now is not necessarily statistical. It's not the number of runs, it's those magical moments. It's winning in Kolkata and Rawalpindi. The series wins in Tests stay with you. I think that's what you would play for at this stage."
That he is one of the top Test batsmen in the world while being the oldest active cricketer speaks of Dravid's commitment to his craft and his fitness. Addressing the issue of whether having a dedicated work ethic spoke for his success, Dravid said it was also a credit to how the game had evolved.
"It tells you that fitness levels have risen, and that's thanks to the access that we have today - to physiotherapists and trainers. Sports science has improved tremendously since the time I started and I think it means players are fitter for longer periods of time. Especially as batsman, if you are disciplined about things you can prolong your career for periods of time. It's a question of getting everything right and getting the technical side of things right. Then you have all this help to tap into in terms of your physical fitness. If you are doing these things you can ensure that you play for pretty long periods of time."