This piece from Kunal Pradhan is in my opinion the best write up on Rahul and the way he sums it up is brilliant.
Rahul Dravid took a single off the first ball of a new spell by Glenn McGrath and watched from the non-striker’s end as Mohammad Kaif battled for survival over the next five deliveries.
It was October of 2004. The city of oranges was in full bloom, celebrating the end of a hot summer and licking its lips at the prospect of a citrusy winter. At the VCA stadium, India, led by Dravid, was trying to save the “final frontier” on an unusually green pitch from a marauding Australian team that had already won the first Test in Bangalore.
Tottering at 75-4 in reply to Australia’s first innings 398, the hosts had reached a point on the second day of the match where the Kaif-Dravid partnership was the only thing that could, perhaps, save them from imminent defeat.
At the end of that rare mid-afternoon over from McGrath, the batsmen met for a conference in the middle of the pitch. “He’s bowling out of his skin,” Dravid said, and Kaif, having faced five unplayable deliveries, smiled back in agreement.
“It’s going to be tough,” he continued, “but we have a chance if we can see off this spell. Otherwise it’s all over.”
Kaif said he would do his best, but Dravid told him that he had a better plan: For the rest of McGrath’s spell, Kaif would stay at the other end against Warne, while Dravid would take on the might of the Australian fast bowler playing his 100th Test.
This, Dravid hastily explained, was not a reflection on Kaif’s calibre especially since he had been in good form over the last couple of months. It was just something that he, being the more experienced player, needed to do at this pivotal moment of the match.
“It’s settled then,” Dravid said, waving away any polite opposition that Kaif may have had. “No more singles until McGrath is in the attack. Forget about the scoreboard. You stay put at your end. I will see him off from this side.”
Dravid scampered across to the business end off the second ball of Warne’s next over and resolutely marked his guard.
Over the next 18 deliveries, McGrath and Dravid were engaged in a kind of battle that defines Test cricket. McGrath tried everything to entice Dravid into playing a false stroke, to get him to fish outside off, to york him, and to take him by surprise with a short ball. Dravid, stubborn and determined, soaked in the pressure, lunging forward to pat away deliveries directed at his stumps, and refusing to go near anything more than an inch outside off.
“It was a spell of bowling that is best watched from the non-striker’s end,” Kaif said later. “I can’t think of any other batsman who would’ve volunteered, let alone insisted, to do what Rahul was doing.”
India scored six runs in the next five overs (a two and a four off Kaif’s bat against Warne) as Dravid cocooned himself from temptation. In the commentary box, the experts criticised him for going into a shell, for being over-defensive, for appearing to be clueless against quality bowling on a seaming track. They didn’t realise that Dravid had assessed the situation and chosen to face the firing squad alone.
This cat-and-mouse game went on for the next twenty minutes. Two more overs, Dravid told Kaif at the end of McGrath’s third, and we’ll be home dry. “He’s starting to get tired now.”
Kaif patted out another maiden, and Dravid negotiated the first five deliveries of McGrath’s next over without mishap. But McGrath, by now aware of what was going on, got a ball to leave Dravid ever so slightly, and kiss the edge before flying straight to Warne in the slip cordon.
The scoreboard recorded an innocuous 140-ball, 173-minute 21 against Dravid’s name. India lost the match two days later.
In the end, it was a small, almost insignificant knock: a tick in the failures column for a batsman who has succeeded against fiery spells all over the world. But it showed that he always, unfailingly, even during his forgotten innings, put the team before himself. More than his ability, or his records, it was this that made Rahul Dravid special.