A fortnight into retirement — or to paraphrase brother Vijay, the rest of his life — and he had been racked by no introspection or bothered by no rethought over his decision to quit international cricket, Rahul Dravid assured the gathering.
“It's slowly sinking in,” he said. “Like I said on the day of my PC, it's a big relief in some ways. I don't have to worry about getting bowled again.”
Thankfully, with IPL commitments still on his plate, he hadn't yet been forced into going grocery shopping, Dravid joked. “Anyway, the idea is to make such a mess of it the first few times that you aren't asked again.”
On Wednesday at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, with a star-cast of other celebrated sons in attendance, the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) honoured Dravid. Admitting that he felt “emotional” at the venue, the 39-year-old recalled his joyous times in Karnataka cricket and his long association with the KSCA over the course of the evening, expressing gratitude at the rich tributes that had been paid to him on retirement.
“I have been touched and humbled by everything that has been written about me,” Dravid said. “Without sounding arrogant, I'll say that I expected the tributes — because I've seen them when cricketers before me have retired. But what touched me was that people had taken the trouble to think about it. They were not casual, but instead took the time and effort and wrote some really nice things about me.”
The KSCA presented him with a plaque, on an occasion enriched by video messages from friends, relatives, a teacher from school, and former Australia captain Steve Waugh, someone Dravid admitted to idolising.
Thanking the KSCA for its role in his career, Dravid said he felt fortunate “to have grown up in a state with such a legacy”. “I'm also lucky to have had people like Javagal Srinath, Anil Kumble and Venkatesh Prasad around to show me the right path and guide me. It would have been difficult otherwise.”
The Ranji Trophy and Karnataka's fortunes therein held a special place in his heart, Dravid said. “I can recall Delhi chasing a total of over 700 against Karnataka in the final (1981-82) and then Karnataka defeating Bombay in 1982-83. I remember that vividly in fact. I used to come to the stadium to watch Ranji Trophy games"
His successes with Karnataka were among his career's most cherished moments, Dravid said. “I'm lucky to have played for Karnataka. I feel proud. The three Ranji Trophy triumphs are as big highs in my career as any innings I've played.”
Asked if he thought he had left the Indian team better than he found it, Dravid felt it wasn't for him to say. “I'd like to believe some things have gone forward,” he said.
“There are always challenges; you have to reassess things and think how you could've done better — it's true of the individual and Indian cricket. Some things might be better, some not.”