India vs England: Rahul Dravid and Brendon McCullum — a contrast of style and attitude - Firstpost - Firstpost

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Picture a street fight, with people gathering rapidly and noise levels growing. As it all brews, imagine Rahul Dravid walking by. He’d show some adroit footwork, dodge the scufflers and be on his way with a typical shake of his head and a cynical smile at the goings-on. Now, try and visualise where Brendon McCullum would be – he’d most likely will be right in the middle of the scufflers, trying to push them apart and if need be, push hard. Eventually, he too would be on his way, but not before he gets some mud on his trousers from the rolling around. Dravid, on the other hand, would be spic and span. That pretty much would define these two as cricketers and coaches as well.

That is not to say that Dravid can’t be in a fight. Only that he’d rather settle things amicably, using his classic bat as a scalpel to prick at all the right places and decide the argument in his favour. McCullum, on the other hand, would use his bat like anything between a sword to a hammer to get the same results.

These are the two legends of cricket who will be facing off from Friday as India return to the Test arena after a fairly long time to decide what was left incomplete in 2021 – the series in England.

India were under the coaching of Ravi Shastri when the two teams had met earlier. While Shastri was more from the McCullum school of aggressive cricket, he didn’t have to deal with the New Zealander when the sides met and India left with a 2-1 lead after there was a lot of talk about how the series would be settled, including suggestions of a forfeit, till it was decided that India would be back in 2022 to finish the series.

Things have changed on both sides since. Shastri has given way to Dravid while Rohit Sharma has replaced Virat Kohli in the captaincy role. For England too, there is a new captain in the shape of Ben Stokes and McCullum is now on the coaching seat instead of Chris Silverwood.

The two coaches were chalk and cheese when it came to playing cricket. Dravid was arguably the most compact Indian batter since Sunil Gavaskar and correct to the T when it came to playing his shots. So much so that there was a time in his One-day International career when his being so correct was a big hurdle in his getting quick runs. One good reason why his T20 International career never really took off.

Even as a coach, Dravid isn’t one to wade into a fight. He’d rather sit on the side and figure his way out of the tiff with technical and strategic superiority. He will not back off from a fight, but let the more aggressive members of his squad to front that.

McCullum’s approach is visible in the way England batted in the series against New Zealand. Jonny Bairstow and Stokes were the front-runners in chasing down targets at some insane pace and you could see McCullum’s delight as they took up his way of batting and with some impact.

India were never able to forget Brendon McCullum once he hammered those 158 runs for Kolkata Knight Riders against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the inaugural IPL. That was how he played most of his cricket – aggressively.

Dravid’s record as a Test cricketer makes any comparisons between the two a little redundant, but McCullum often scored big centuries at ridiculously rapid rates, including a triple-century against India. Even in his last Test, the Kiwi hammered 145 runs off just 79 deliveries against Australia!

Rahul Dravid – 164 Test matches, 13,288 runs, an average of 52.31, 36 centuries with a best of 270 and 200 fifties! This man was the heart and soul of India’s Test batting and his contribution is going to be among the biggest to cricket overall.

Not ever the most prolific of improvisers, Dravid still managed to score 10889 ODI runs as well, though he was by far the happiest when in whites.

His way to deal with the arguments with fast bowlers, especially when the top-order was struggling, was typical of the man we described in the opening para – walk away, as much as you can, leave the ball, let them get tired out, and then score in your own inimitable style and fluidity. The arguments were won with poise.

It is now time for India to show the head coach’s poise when they meet England in the deciding Test. Not running away from the scrap, but sidestepping and using the counter-punch like Dravid, while McCullum’s men will come out, all bats swinging.

Quite a contrast of styles. But for sure, will be absorbing to watch.

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