DUBAI // Rahul Dravid did not flinch or pause for thought when a verbal bouncer from The National came his way at yesterday's SportAccord Convention. Five days after he had helped his Royal Challengers Bangalore team to third place in the Indian Premier League and on the eve of the World Twenty20 championships in the West Indies, one of the world's finest batsmen was asked to declare his favourite format of the game he has served so well.
"Test cricket, undoubtedly," he said. " There is no greater satisfaction than doing well in Test matches all around the world." Dravid has certainly done that during a magnificent 14-year career that has enabled him to become one of only eight players to hit more than 10,000 Test runs and earn the distinction of becoming the only batsman to score a cen-tury against all of the other nine Test-playing nations.
Known as "The Wall" because of his brilliant defensive capabilities, Dravid, 37, a former Indian captain and still regarded as the mainstay of their Test batting line-up, has still been able to adjust his game comfortably to the demands of the one-day international game and the helter-skelter world of T20. "I'm happy to take part in any kind of cricket but I feel strongly that all three forms of the game should be protected," said Dravid, who was named Cricketer of the Year and Test Player of the Year at the 2004 ICC awards.
"We must ensure that the loyal fans of Test cricket are properly catered for. They have been following the game for many years. It is important that we strike the right balance." Nevertheless, like most cricketing luminaries Dravid is sold on the smash, bang wallop of the shortest form of the game and expects the IPL to go from strength to strength after its successful third series went the way of the Chennai Super Kings on Sunday evening.
"There is obviously a danger of overkill but at the moment it is going really well," he said. "The introduction of Twenty20 has appealed to audiences all over the world and created interest in areas where cricket was never taken seriously." Dravid offered a straight bat to the thorny issue of security which reared its ugly head again with two explosions in Bangalore which forced a hasty rescheduling of the concluding matches of the tournament.
"Everything we do is part and parcel of the world we live in," he maintained. "Security in India is no different from anywhere else. In fact I think India has been a relatively safe country to play in." Dravid was then asked to comment on the controversy surrounding Lalit Modi, the driving force behind the money-spinning IPL, who was suspended from his office as chairman and commissioner because of alleged financial irregularities and amid controversy over the ownership of the league's new Kochi franchise.
Again The Wall lived up to his nickname. "Inquiries are taking place so it's hard for me to comment," he said. "But from a player's perspective we want to see cricket highlighted for the right reasons and be featured on the back pages of newspapers, rather than on the front. "But what is important for the league is that it wins over the trust of the people who pay to watch the matches. We can't afford to let the fans down.
"At the end of all this we want the paying public to believe that those who are representing them are representing them in a fair manner." firstname.lastname@example.org