I remember seeing him on TV, in flannels, fending off one ball at a time. We used to think,”Is he ever going to score or is he just going to
defend every ball?” Mr. Padding we used to call him. Never did we realize that we would soon become fans of his or that he would have much more catchy nicknames like Jammy and more appropriately, The Wall!
Starting off as ‘Just a Test player’ might have been difficult, but it did not take him long to be included in the ODI team as well and what a journey it has been since. Be it the 1999 World Cup, the 2003 World Cup or the 2003-04 series against Pakistan, he proved his mettle.
But we will still remember him as the classy player who piled on runs in test matches and helped India win, with his finesse. I still remember waking up at 5 in the morning just to watch him score his double hundred against Australia in the 2003-04 seasons! Then there’s the partnership with VVS Laxman during India’s epic win at the Eden Gardens against Australia. Then there are those innumerable centuries against England. Centuries against all test-playing nations, a feat few could achieve. Record number of catches (wasn’t standing at ‘Slip’ his favorite position? Letting nothing slip away) and partnerships. Living up (or rather, Standing up) to his reputation of ‘The Wall’, the man who with his class and prowess, stood in every other country’s way to victory.
Even during this season’s debacle in England, the Wall stood tall with 461 runs while all else was in ruins. Becoming the second-highest run-scorer in tests was another record accomplished. Being recalled for the ODI series was probably a Godsend, as he didn’t let us down there either. What surprised most were his back-to-back sixes off 3 balls in an over. For someone who did not like lofty shots and managed to stay happy with beautiful boundaries, sixes were probably a way to show the world that he hasn’t left any stone unturned. Be it batting at various positions, bowler (off-spinner right?), wicket-keeper, skipper; he has tried it all and excelled at most. The sixes might have been his way of bidding adieu to his ODI audience.
But the Wall still stands, for many more test matches to come.