The initial minutes of Rahul Dravid's ‘retirement' press conference spoke volumes about the man.
As he settled into his chair next to the BCCI president N. Srinivasan and Anil Kumble, lensmen, in their bid to freeze the moment, stood up and zoomed their cameras in.
Dravid gently told the photographers, “there are people behind you.” He repeated the words and the clamour subsided. It reflected his attention to detail and the ability to stay calm under chaos. These are two traits that stood him in good stead in an incandescent career which paused with his farewell address at the Chinnaswamy Stadium's P2 Hall here on Friday afternoon.
The man, whose innumerable fire-fighting innings revived India in a 16-year long career made rich by 13,288 runs from 164 Tests besides his 10,889 tally in ODIs, quickly announced his retirement from the longer version and first-class cricket.
For a snapshot of Rahul Dravid's career, click here.
The speech continued his tradition of excellence with the spoken word that he has charted since the Bradman Oration in Australia.
He thanked every one ranging from his family and friends to the cricketing system and the media. “No dream is ever chased alone,” he said and lauded the selectors, who have a thankless job. “The selectors had, on occasions, more confidence in me than I had in myself.”
Missing the camaraderie
Ever the team man, Dravid acknowledged that he will miss the camaraderie. “I am going to miss being part of a unit. The joy of bonding together and striving to achieve a goal made cricket special. 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 and I leave the game with wonderful memories,” he said.
Dravid paid his respects to the Indian fan and reiterated his personal philosophy on playing cricket. “The game is lucky to have you (Indian fan) and I have been lucky to play before you. My approach to cricket has been simple: it was about giving everything to the team, playing with dignity and 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,” he declared and the hall erupted in applause.
Mr. Srinivasan, then spoke about Dravid's immense value and emphasised that the former India captain cannot be replaced. Dravid's friend and the KSCA president Anil Kumble discussed the sheer enjoyment he gained from watching his State-mate's runs that scripted Indian triumphs.
Soon it was time for the question-answer session and Dravid squared up with aplomb, much akin to his batting. “I had a glorious run and I felt it was time to move on for the next generation of young Indian cricketers to take the team forward. When you leave something like playing for India, it is tough. But it also wasn't a difficult decision because I knew in my heart that the time was right,” he said.
Dravid stressed that the decision was taken after extensive introspection and added: “There was no Eureka moment. It came after a lot of contemplation. At the end of the day, there is a huge amount of satisfaction that even though I might have failed in certain times, I have always given it my best shot. There are no regrets.”
Test cricket's second highest run-getter clarified that irrespective of his form in Australia, he would have retired. “I was sure that after the Australian tour, I would sit down and look at a lot of things. I would like to think that I would have come to the same conclusion,” he said and mentioned that he discussed the issue with family, friends and his team-mates including Sachin Tendulkar.
On his slip-ups
The world record holder of the highest number of catches (210) in Tests was quick to state that a few gaffes in the slips, did not hasten his exit. “Over the last year, I have dropped two or three catches which I could have taken. Nothing frustrates me more than dropping a catch. I can get over getting out but when I drop a catch that stays with me for a long time. But the decision was not based on that,” Dravid asserted.
The Dravid-theory based on quintessential hard work was also dwelt upon when he said: “When I look at the present players, I know that I was not as talented as these kids. Obviously just being talented does not necessarily mean that you have a successful Test career. There are lot of things that go with it – how you face the challenges and how you deal with things which are sometime internal more than external. It will be really interesting for me to sit back on my couch and watch some of these young talents establish themselves over the next two or three years.”
The interface with the media was not just about serious quotes and Dravid's dry humour surfaced often. Asked about his nickname ‘The Wall', Dravid quipped: “I used to joke they were setting up me because after I fail, it is easier for them to say that the foundations are weak, the wall is missing. I never really thought that I was a ‘Wall' whenever I walked out to the middle.”
Dravid, who spoke about the pride of sharing the dressing room with Tendulkar, Kumble, V.V.S. Laxman, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Harbhajan Singh, is now looking forward to the simple pleasures of life like dropping his sons — Samit and Anvay — to school. The duo was an energetic presence in the front row along with its mother Vijeta. Perhaps they know that their father will be a regular at home.
Before that the Indian Premier League beckons and fans will have another glimpse of Dravid, the Rajasthan Royals captain, in what could turn out to be a farewell tour of a nation, he represented with distinction all these years.