A file photo of Rajasthan Royals' captain Rahul Dravid from IPL 5. (AP Photo)
Sachin Tendulkar is struggling, Ricky Ponting is all at sea, but Rahul Dravid - 40 and retired - is not short of impact. Leading Rajasthan Royals in IPL 6, Dravid is making his critics eat their words by scoring runs and leading like a man on a mission.
No body gave Rajasthan a chance to be sitting on top of the table after two weeks of IPL 6. Not many thought Dravid could be inspirational in T20s, leave alone leading by example. But Dravid is making all his critics eat humble pie. As a batsman, he is among the top ten run-scorers of this edition and as a captain he has four wins in five matches so far, with his team on top of the table. Not many saw that coming, except Dravid, who knows how to get the best out of himself and his team.
Against Mumbai last evening, Dravid demoted himself down the order, recognising the situation demanded quick runs and there are others - of course younger than him - who could get the job done. It worked. Dravid had a DNB against his name, but Rajasthan got the runs they wanted and in the end beat Mumbai by 87 runs.
But that doesn't mean Dravid can't score quickly. In fact, he has already done that this season with two half centuries in four innings. Against Delhi, Dravid stroked 65 off 51 balls and against Pune 54 off 48. And though he failed in the other two innings, his 145 runs so far at a strike rate of 110.68 put him at No. 10 in the list of top run-getters this season.
Before the start of IPL, Dravid admitted that his fitness was not what it used to be but he put in the hard hours to take it close to where it used to be during his international career. "It was definitely a little more difficult [than before]. Playing all the time there is a motivation to stay fit. There is a motivation to stick to your routine, but I had a whole year off [after retiring]. I had eight months off, so I found it a little difficult in the initial period, but over the last two and a half to three months, I have really buckled down and worked really hard preparing for this event," he had told the IPL website.
Dravid also recognises his responsibility as a captain and the synergy he needs to maintain with the coaching staff. "I am not the coach. Paddy Upton is our coach. We have coaching staff who are supporting. I am playing this tournament as a captain and a player, and there is additional responsibility. I am closely working with the coaches and managing a lot of things but my focus is on captaining and trying to put in a good performance," he had said.
Surely Dravid is making his workman-like approach weave its magic for Rajasthan, like we have seen - for years.