Cricket: World cup - Dravid top of the hit parade

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The Independent Online
FOR A man who was considered purely a Test match batsman until a few months ago, it has been an extraordinary World Cup for Rahul Dravid.

Although India look to be heading home they cannot blame the outcome on Dravid, who has been in top form from day one. He has been involved in World Cup record second and third wicket partnerships - with Saurav Ganguly he put on 318 against Sri Lanka (a record one-day international stand for any wicket) and with Sachin Tendulkar 237 against Kenya.

Until this year he was not rated by the selectors as a one-day performer, but the quietly confident 25-year-old has shown that skills and good habits learned in the Test arena can pay dividends in the shorter version. "There are runs to be had but the ball and the conditions take a bit of getting used to," he said of the current tournament in England. "It's almost like Test cricket initially as you have to be a bit more cautious. Before, a team would look to charge to a hundred in the first 15 overs. Now you are happy to reach 50 or 60, as long as you don't lose wickets."

India's top order was one of the star turns of of the tournament - Dravid is top aggregate scorer with 432 and Ganguly second with 350 - but the team has failed to capitalise on the great starts.

Dravid scored 54 against South Africa, failed in the defeat by Zimbabwe, then stormed back with successive centuries - 104 not out against Kenya and a brilliant 145 against Sri Lanka - before top scoring with 53 as India beat England to pip them for a Super Six place. Tellingly, when he and Ganguly - along with Sachin Tendulkar - were skittled with just 12 on the board in their first second stage match against Australia, India's victory hopes disappeared.

Dravid, who bounced back with 61 in the victory over Pakistan, lamented: "We had one bad day against Zimbabwe." But, if his side are out, they will leave some good memories.