An icon bowed out with grace at a packed hall inside the Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Friday afternoon. Rahul Dravid, one of the greatest Indian batsmen ever, announced his retirement through a meticulous speech that dealt with all the influences on his illustrious career.

After the flurry of flash bulbs slowed down, Dravid said: “I would like to announce my retirement from international and domestic first-class cricket. It has been 16 years since I first played a Test match for India. Once I was like every other boy in India, with a dream of playing for my country. Yet I could never have imagined a journey so long and so fulfilling. I have had a wonderful time, but now it is time for a new generation of young players to make their own history.”

For a snapshot of Rahul Dravid's career, click here.

‘No Eureka moment'

Dravid, second only to Sachin Tendulkar for the sheer quantum of runs (13,288 in 164 Tests with 36 centuries and 210 catches), stressed that there was no ‘Eureka moment' which helped him decide on retiring from a game that he has enriched with gutsy runs laced with a gentleman's demeanour.

“I arrived at this decision after considerable thought. Even if things had gone in a different way in Australia, I still believe that I would have arrived at this decision,” said the 39-year-old batsman, who was not at his best during his stints at Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide.

The former India captain finished his speech with the words: “I leave the game with wonderful memories and strong friendships. It is a great gift to have.” The immediate heart-felt applause reflected the enormous respect that he garnered in a riveting international career since 1996.

The accolades continued when BCCI president N. Srinivasan, who has known Dravid since his club cricket days for India Cements in Chennai, said: “Not only has Rahul been a great player, he has been a great ambassador for cricket and for India. He is irreplaceable.”

Anil Kumble, Dravid's former teammate and current president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association, was equally effusive in his praise and said: “It has been a glorious career embellished by Rahul's contributions to many a memorable victory. Rare are those individuals that hold the unique combination of exceptional talent and commitment. He is someone who is constantly in search of perfection.”

In the end, even in retirement, Dravid struck the perfect note.

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