From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.35 :: NO.12 :: Mar. 22, 2012
There was and is only one Rahul Dravid. There can be no other. I will miss Rahul in the dressing room and out in the middle. I have shared the best moments with him.
- Sachin Tendulkar
It's hard to accept that the most dependable individual of Indian cricket has decided to bid adieu. For, there is no adequate replacement in the Indian dressing room. It seems so fresh, as if it was just yesterday, that one saw Rahul Dravid walking briskly to the middle, taking guard and constructing his Test debut innings brick by brick at Lord's. He fell short by five runs of a century, but it did not really matter. He had taken the first step to greatness and the cricket world was privileged to enjoy his batsmanship.
By deciding to retire on his terms, Dravid has only underlined his strong character. He was not going to be a burden on the team. It was a decision he had mulled over after the England tour. He had succeeded, but the team had been ravaged. His best efforts had not helped the team.
Then, the series in Australia left him wondering if he was past his prime. He was not, but then the critics, some former players, had savaged him in very harsh terms. Obviously, Dravid was hurt and the decision to retire carried him into the annals of cricket as one of the most distinguished students of the game and one of the greatest ever to have exhibited his class at the crease.
“It has been 16 years since I first played a Test match for India, and I feel it's time for me to move on,” said Dravid in his prepared statement. “I have had a wonderful time, but now it is time for a new generation of young players to make their own history and take the Indian cricket team even further.” His humility and spirit were so beautifully reflected in his message to his well-wishers.
A man of few words, Dravid, 39, was considered by many an introvert, but he was game for fun in the right company. His banter with his teammates would light up the dressing room. There was none as expressive as Dravid when he held a bat. When he occupied the crease, it became a demonstration of correctness in the middle. Bowlers would strive to take his wicket because it added lustre to their collection. They tested him with their best arsenal. And he countered them with his sublime technique.
Dravid's battles with the best of bowlers were classics. He loved a contest. He actually grew in determination when he realised that the occasion demanded the best from him, and the fans were the beneficiaries of such titanic clashes. Dravid constructing his innings with flawless technique was just as the textbook would teach you. No wonder he was the role-model most sought after by a majority of coaches around the world.
I was amazed at the level of concentration that marked his cricket. The way he prepared, guided the youngsters, made them feel very comfortable. He was a true perfectionist and made that extra effort to attain the best. Right from his Ranji Trophy debut, I saw a spark every time he batted. It was a privilege to have played with him.
- Anil Kumble
For all his grand achievements, Dravid remained a humble person on and off the field. “I was fortunate to be part of a wonderful era when India played some of its finest cricket at home and abroad. Many of my teammates have become legends, not just in India but in the wider cricketing world. I admired them, learnt from them and I leave the game with wonderful memories and strong friendships. It is a great gift to have,” he did not forget his colleagues in his farewell speech at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Virender Sehwag was generous in his praise. “I have a lot of respect for Rahul. I am glad he left cricket on his terms. Personally, I learnt much as a player and as a person from him. His humility, desire to help, respect for elders and affection for juniors were genuine. No one can fill his shoes. To me, he will remain the best No. 3 and easily our best batsman when playing overseas. He was umatched when it came to delivering under pressure.”
Dravid had forged a special bond with V. V. S. Laxman. They met during their junior cricket days and their friendship took them places, creating some amazing associations that benefited Indian cricket immensely. “I saw him during a junior match and as always he got a century against Hyderabad. I was standing at short-leg and I could see the intensity and passion on his face. We came together in Duleep Trophy matches and I can never forget how he taught me to tackle reverse swing (Duleep Trophy at Alwar in 1995-96). We both got centuries on a difficult pitch. It is vivid.”
As Laxman observed, Dravid was the personification of an impeccable batsman. “He always wanted to bat more and more. I liked the way he built his innings, session by session. He was so helpful, never trying to impose his opinion in the middle. He never interfered and it helped me to relax at the crease. He has had a fabulous career. I will remember the way he prepared for an innings and his selfless contribution. To help the team have its best combination, he agreed to keep the wickets too and was most comfortable at any batting position. A true role model,” said Laxman. A non-controversial cricketer who fiercely protected the traditions of the game, Dravid was a “special” friend for Anil Kumble. “I was amazed at the level of concentration that marked his cricket. The way he prepared, guided the youngsters, made them feel very comfortable. He was a true perfectionist and made that extra effort to attain the best. Right from his Ranji Trophy debut, I saw a spark every time he batted. It was a privilege to have played with him.”
Sourav Ganguly may have felt that the right time for Dravid to retire was after the 2011 series in England, but the team sorely needed him for the challenge in Australia. It is another matter that Dravid fell short of his own standards. And, when he dropped a few easy catches, Dravid knew it was time to introspect. “He changed the face of Indian cricket with that innings at Eden Gardens (against Australia in 2001). I have some fond memories of the time we spent. Our debut was so special. I loved his technical abilities. I loved the way he played the fast bowlers. Dravid was a special talent,” said Ganguly.
I have a lot of respect for Rahul. I am glad he left cricket on his terms. Personally, I learnt much as a player and as a person from him. His humility, desire to help, respect for elders and affection for juniors were genuine. No one can fill his shoes. To me, he will remain the best No. 3 and easily our best batsman when playing overseas. He was umatched when it came to delivering under pressure.
- Virender Sehwag
Sachin Tendulkar was lavish in his praise for Dravid. “There was and is only one Rahul Dravid. There can be no other. I will miss Rahul in the dressing room and out in the middle. I have shared the best moments with him. Our many century partnerships are testimony to the hours we spent together in the middle. For someone who has played 164 matches and scored over 13000 runs, no tribute can be enough.”
The final word will be Dravid's as he remembered the fans in the most poignant moment of his cricket journey. “I would like to thank the Indian cricket fan, both here and across the world. The game is lucky to have you and I have been lucky to play before you. To represent India, and thus to represent you, has been a privilege and one which I have always taken seriously. My approach to cricket has been reasonably simple: it was about giving everything to the team, it was about playing with dignity, and it was about upholding the spirit of the game. I hope I have done some of that. I have failed at times, but I have never stopped trying. It is why I leave with sadness but also with pride.”
A future in the commentary box beckons Dravid but it can wait for some time. He has other priorities. “Being away from my family became harder and harder through the years and I look forward now to spending time at home and doing the simple things, like just taking my sons (Samit and Anvay) to school.”
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