Old Certainties

In case anyone had failed to notice, many of the old certainties of cricket have gone for good these past few years. At one time, at this stage of the year, English cricket was all there was. And that meant a timelessly unchanging calendar in which there were five or six Tests a summer and the one at Lord's was always second. Tests abroad were only played in the winter months.

Now, though, things are different. Tests and ODIs are played all over the globe all the time. Twenty20 tournaments come thick and fast. The impression you're often left with is of a game that's trying to eat itself.

But one of the good things about this is that if you've got time on your hands on a June evening you can watch an innings like the one Rahul Dravid played in Kingston a few days ago. As usual, Siddhartha Vaidyanathan's masterly piece captures the essence of an innings which was dripping with resonances.

As Siddhartha says, the innings carried echoes of some of Dravid's greatest days, the most resounding being the twin top-scores of 81 and 68 which took India to a victory of similar proportions on their previous visit to Sabina Park in 2006. Last week's innings was classic Dravid: watchful, technically assured, patient to the point of cliché, but never pedantic in the manner of a Boycott or Kallis. A chance to score - as when one of the seamers drifted towards leg stump - was rarely missed and the runs were collected with the type of counter-intuitive flourish familiar to all who have been watching Dravid for years.

For a long time now there's been a feeling - expressed here more than once - that the age-related decline of India's greatest contemporary batsmen was inevitable, and, of course, one day it will happen. But there is no sign that it is happening yet.

Dravid and Tendulkar, both 38, and Laxman, 36, await England next month. As in all of life, there are few certainties, but one thing here is certain: England's bowlers, so inconsistent and profligate against Sri Lanka, will need to up their game.

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