While most opt for aggression, the one thing which you could say about Rahul Dravid is solidity. His game is not built for aggression, he hardly seems the sort who has an aggressive bone in his body. Even in his post-match interviews he comes across with the kind of non-confrontational, articulate air normally the preserve of politicians.
But for a man who plays a game which conjures up various metaphors about life and death, his game has always been about calmness and common sense, about survival before risk and almost always about total dedication to the cause.
Perhaps that is why I’ve always warmed to him. He’s never been flashy, not a showman or narcissist cravenly hogging the spotlight, he has always been the man for the lesser role, akin to that played by a straightman to a comedian.
Some batsmen go out seeking to make headlines, Dravid does anything but. While others in this Indian team, the Sehwags, the Tendulkars and the Laxmans, have flourished with greater style and to greater applause, Dravid’s role has always been about the greatest effort and the greatest effect for the team.
Hence why the news that filtered through about his latest century against New Zealand was so welcoming, not because of the runs that he scored but the confirmation that if anything “The Wall” as he is known was still intact, still capable of scaling heights which were once so easy.
For a man who makes every innings an effort, a struggle for survival, it can’t have been easy watching the very things you pride yourself on, solidity and doughty defence being so easily breached as he struggled scratchily for runs and any semblance of form.
But this innings, this century, was a throwback to those better days when even the finest could spend days on end driven to the point of despair in trying to penetrate his defences and provide a platform for another mighty Indian total.
More importantly though it was simply a riposte for all the critics, all those calling for his head, aiming to bring down the curtain on his long and distinguished career in favour of something new and exciting but unproven and untested.
Surely Dravid deserves better and will certainly get better as the critics have to wait a little while longer.
In truth, while India may not need him as much as they once did, it would surely be folly to discard him so quickly. Granted his age and recent form are against him, but the old maxim remains as true as ever: form is temporary, class is permanent.
In a team full of strokemakers, full of star names and attractive batsmen, Dravid’s role is often understated and devalued. As Frank Keating once described the great English batsmen Ken Barrington: he is “the solid trellis which allowed the Fancy Dans to parade their blooms”.
Dravid plays that role perfectly in this Indian side, opting for stoic defence to allow his partner to flourish at the other end as Dhoni did against the Indians.
In an era of Twenty20 cricket he is perhaps out of step with the needs of the modern generation, but then Dravid has always been an anachronism, a classical batsmen playing in a very modern world.
Perhaps that’s the brilliance of him. That in a cricketing world which values showmanship and image above all else, he has shown that age-old qualities can still thrive in the modern game.
That is his gift, the wonder of “The Wall” encapsulated. His values are ancient, but they are indisputably important in Test cricket-a game which remains remarkably unchanged despite all that has gone on around it-and something which India continue to value and rely upon.
It is this which makes him unique and important to this Indian team. While tougher challenges may lay ahead for him with South Africa around the corner, if anyone can deal with a challenge it is the man who will forever go down in cricketing folklore as Rahul Dravid, “The Wall”.