The late Peter Roebuck, one of the world's greatest cricket writers, once exclaimed that removing Rahul Dravid from the crease would possibly need gelignite, an explosive material invented by Alfred Nobel.

Roebuck was observing Dravid withstand a fearsome Australian pace attack with his trademark fortitude, attrition and immense powers of concentration.

He wrote: "Only the most resourceful players can withstand such an intense Australian attack for a long period of time. Dravid is such a man. Something more than attrition is is needed to remove him. Gelignite is the most obvious alternative but the match referee might baulk at that. Australia searched for a weakness as a dentist does for holes and could find none. Thereafter, it was a matter of waiting for a mistake. It was a long time coming."





The decision to retire from international cricket didn't require that long. Dravid said on Thursday that he had been mulling over it for a while, and thought this was the right time to depart and make way for a new generation of Indian batsmen.

It will be difficult to replace the legendary batsman, for whom, in the words of my friend and cricket writer, Rohit Brijnath, "decency and determination were not conflicting virtues". Something which many of the talented and brash young cricketers would do well to remember.

On Friday, Dravid said he never took the media's nickname for the patient batsman, 'The Wall', seriously. The Wall conjures up images of a frustratingly impenetrable obstacle, but Dravid was much more than that.

Nobody describes it better than Roebuck again, writing on a carefully crafted 332-minute-long Dravid innings.

"Somewhat to his chagrin, Dravid has been described as the "wall' of Indian batting, a tribute to the sense of permanence to be found in his batting. Certainly, there is something eternal about his work in the middle. Moreover, his innings are constructed brick by brick," he wrote.

"But to regard India's first drop merely as an obstacle is to underestimate his abilities. Dravid is a batsman of the highest class whose form in recent years indicates that he deserves to be included in the ranks of the major batsmen of the period. He has scored runs against all sorts of bowling on all kinds of pitches."

As the innings continued, Roebuck summed up David's qualities as a true Test virtuoso.





"Dravid has a simple game founded upon straight lines. Reasoning that runs cannot be scored in the pavilion, he sets out to protect his wicket. Curiously, this thought does not seem to occur to many batsmen, a point many a long-suffering coach could confirm," he wrote.

"He defends his stumps with skill and strength of mind. Australia's fast bowlers tried to upset him and might as well have been attacking a tank with a slingshot. Attempts to test his patience were no more effective. Dravid reads long books and does not expect a man to be shot upon every page."

Another time, another place, another cricket writer of repute and Dravid's skills are again put into perspective.

It's the epochal 2004 India tour of Pakistan, Dravid is walking to the crease in Karachi, and writer Rahul Bhattacharya is in the press box.

"The innings was entrusted now to Dravid, who had emerged as the one man in the world who could be trusted with any situation," wrote Bhattacharya. "He accepted with customary poise; urgent, but still mindful of the fate befalling Tolstoy's peasant, who ran all day for land but died at sundown."

Dravid departed one short of a hundred in the 48th over. He had scored 99 of India's 349 runs. India won the match by five runs.

Chris Lynn and Rahul Dravid are two diverse cricketers when you compare them as batsmen. One well-built, can hit a long ball, other not so muscular but who can play innings which would define matches in its own way.

However, there is one thing that connects both, they both value their performances in one format of the game- Lynn in T20 cricket, Dravid in Test cricket.

22 years ago, Dravid played his first Test for India. The lover of the format that he was and continues to be, there could not have been a better place to start off. At Lord's, a ground which emphasizes on the values that red-ball cricket provides, just like he does.

For him, it was as if everything had come together. Right from the opening game, the tone was set for what he was to do a lot during his career- save India from trouble. There he was, with Sourav Ganguly, trying to get India back on track.





And then, on 95, it was over. A faint tickle had ended a debut innings, which would have fulfilled a lifelong dream and a mere five runs had separated him from achieving it. When next was he going to get a chance? Neither did he know nor did we.

For the next 15 years, he played at various other sporting venues in the world, faced up to the best fast bowlers, encountered several dicey wickets and overcame them, scored a lot of hundreds that helped India win matches.

Barring perhaps the hundred at Kolkata against Australia in 2001, there was one constant in every other Dravid hundred- a lack of emotion. As if he wasn't happy yet with his efforts. As if he had done nothing significant yet and sure enough, he converted quite a few of those centuries into bigger scores

In 2011, when he embarked on his fourth tour of England, he did a few things that batsman of his caliber needn't had to. Not one to exemplify the happenings behind the scene, Dravid came to Lord's and occupied the spot which Tillakaratne Dilshan had, a month ago.

The reason? Walking out to bat after having sat there, the Sri Lankan right-hander had gone on to score a monumental 193 against England in the early part of the summer.





Now you would think that he did not have to go and sit in a place where someone else had scored a hundred to get one for himself. Dravid was too good a player to do that.

But it was perhaps indicative of the fact that despite having scored a hundred everywhere around the world, somewhere at the back of his mind, not getting the five runs in 1996 remained. That arguably India's most selfless cricketer also had one last wish in the game which he hoped he could fulfil.

Not getting a hundred at Lord's would not have made him any less the player that he already was. But perhaps, once, just once in his career, Dravid thought about himself. He maybe told himself that this was his last chance and if it meant he had to occupy a specific place, so be it.

After watching the opposition rack up the runs, he walked out at 3. All equipment in place. Through the same gates that first saw a 23-year-old, come out with butterflies in his stomach and 15 years on, was to witness a much-wiser player take guard, one who had gone on to maximise the potential that he possessed.

Nothing had changed since that day. India had their backs to the wall and he needed to stand up again. Wickets fell around him. His trusted partners in many a great partnership- Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman- fell, but he hung around.

There was no sign of desperation, no sign of urgency. It was as if after getting to the middle, he had forgotten all about his preparation and realised that if it was meant to happen, it would. The English bowlers probed away and unlike that day in 1996, he left a lot more in 2011, the shouldering of arms rising as he inched closer.

At 94 not out, he knew he was close, but also knew he had fallen at this stage before. At any other ground perhaps he might not have had any jitters, but at Lord's, he had a moment to erase from his mind.

For once, he might have hoped he received some help from somewhere. He did, though a back-of-a-length ball from Chris Tremlett, which in Mike Atherton's voice for Sky, " he fairly drilled it to the boundary".

95 was in the past, but the memory remained. Of falling short. Of not converting an opportunity. Of not fulfilling a dream.

The following ball, Tremlett once again obliged, this time with a ball on his pads, the kind Dravid would put away in his sleep.

He sensed the moment, flicked it past mid-on and got back to two, but before getting to the crease, celebrated with a raise of his bat with his right arm and then from down-to-up punched the air coupled with a screech unlike ever seen before, even surprising the guys watching it live.

He took his helmet off and perhaps with that, also took off years and years of pain, which was stuck in his mind.

The wait for those five elusive runs had finally ended, 15 years later.

Here are the highlights from that innings: