Former Indian skipper Rahul Dravid celebrates a hectic 49th birthday this Tuesday – busy helping the Kohli-helmed Indian team tackle South Africa for the 3rd Test match in Newlands, Cape Town.

Birthdays are a great time to look back on the years gone by – something Dravid may be experiencing as he returns to South African soil. Around sixteen years ago, the ex-captain made history – besting the home side in a Test match for the first time, during India’s 2006-07 tour of South Africa.

As Dravid hopes to rewrite history with the ongoing series, many longtime fans can’t help but reminisce about The Wall’s early days – including one very special Test series from 1997.

One For The History Books

Rahul Dravid

The Dravid that won during the 2006-07 tour was a very different man from the one who stepped on the field in 1997. Barely a year old in international cricket and fresh off his 25th birthday, Dravid was yet to forge his legend – but this Tendulkar-captained Test match would provide a spark that resulted in Dravid’s absolute domination during the 2000s.

For starters, India was playing for honor and little else. Down 2-0, the third match in the series was an all-or-nothing affair where Dravid, hungry for runs and a chance to prove himself, would become something of an overnight sensation.

The Wall’s First Test Century at 25

Rahul Dravid

At the time, sports reporters gushed about Dravid’s many qualities – from an innate sense of sportsmanship to his game temperament and technical prowess – qualities that would take front-stage at Johannesburg that fateful Thursday.

Dravid walked out to bat 3rd in line. Taking a calm, methodical approach, he endured opposition from Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock, slowly pushing past 50 runs and making his way into the 90s. Dravid ended up not only bagging his first-ever Test cricket century, he also nearly scored another half-century as well, capping off the first innings at a phenomenal 148 runs, giving SA a heady target of 410.

While we always knew Dravid was a dangerous batsman to go against, his keen sense of maturity and steadfastness seemed to be there even during his younger years. Speaking to Lokendra Pratap Sahi of The Telegraph, Dravid took a moment to address the growing weight of expectations from fans and the team alike.

Actually, I don’t get affected by what people write. Cricket is a funny game, the same people who praise you to the skies one day will, the next day, find fault with your technique, temperament, whatever…

I believe in being positive, in learning all the time, I am in the middle of a long season and hopefully, by the time it ends, I will be a better cricketer and a better person.

While Dravid brought the thunder back again with 81 runs in the second innings, so did Johannesburg’s weather. The city was lashed by a rainstorm that took India’s plans off-course.

“I remember it raining and not us being able to win the game. That I remember well. It was nice personally in some ways to score the first Test hundred as an international player. It makes you feel you belong and achieved at that level,” Dravid told reporters, as he revisited old memories on 2nd January, 2022.

“On a personal level, that was really nice. In a lot of ways, It sort of set me up and gave me confidence for the rest of my career. But yes, the disappointment was it was raining on Day 4 and Day 5 and we didn’t have enough overs to win a Test match which we probably deserved. People like Srinath were there but we didn’t have the depth that we have right now. Still we came close to really winning a Test match,” he said.

Dravid Draws on Memories

Rahul Dravid

Dravid’s desire to beat Proteas on their own turf was stoked yet again in the aforementioned 2006-07 season, where in his prime, he led India to their first SA test match victory – ending a 14-year loss streak against the South Africans.

While the 06-07 series went South Africa’s way, Dravid isn’t quite done with them yet. As the coach, he has the opportunity to rewrite history once again – this time as the brains behind one of India’s strongest-ever squads.

“As far as what it means personally, it’s very different as a player and as a captain, having obviously won here when I led the team in 2006-07. That was a really lovely memory as well. You know, as a coach, our role is to support and help the team and it’s really their success. I know it would mean a lot to the group of guys to be able to win a Test match here,” he said.

India’s tour of South Africa, 2021-22 will continue until January 23rd, 2022.

(Image Sources: BCCI, Cricket Australia)