Bangalore, Mar 9: Batting great Rahul Dravid, the second most prolific batsman in the game's history and India's middle order bulwark for years, today bid adieu to Test cricket, bringing down the curtains on a glorious 16-year career.
The 39-year-old Dravid, a former India captain, became the first of the three ageing greats of Indian cricket, besides Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, to retire in the aftermath of India's disastrous Test tour of Australia.
“I would like to announce my retirement from international and domestic first-class cricket. It is 16 years since I played my first Test match for India and today I feel it is an time to move on. 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,” Dravid said at a press conference here.
“No dream is ever chased alone. As I look back, I have many people to thank for teaching me and belieiving in me. My junior coaches in Bangalore and at various junior national camps inculcated in me a powerful love of the game which has always stayed with me,” said Dravid who was flanked BCCI President N Srinivasan and former captain Anil Kumble.
“My coaches at the international level have added to my craft and helped shape my personality. The physios and trainers worked hard to keep me fit—not an easy job—and allowed me to play late into my 30s.
“The selectors, who rarely receive any credit in India, occasionally had more confidence in me than I had in myself and I am grateful for that. The various captains I played under offered me guidance and inspired me. Most of all i have to thank the teams i played with.”
Dravid said he would leave the stage with wonderful memories he shared with his team-mates who are legends of the game.
“I was lucky in my early years to play for Karnataka team which was trying to forge itself into a strong side and they were years of fun and learning,” he said.
“In the Indian team, 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.”
Characteristic to his simple but dignified approach to his cricket, David said he had tried to uphold the spirit of the game.
“My appoach 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.”
He also thanked the cricket fans for their support during his long career.
“Finally 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,” he said.
Dravid had a disastrous tour of Australia where he scored only 194 runs in eight innings at an average of 24.25. Even more disappointing was that Dravid, known for his solid technique, was bowled in six out of the eight innings.
There was intense speculation about Dravid's future following the Australian tour and his decision to hang his boots will now turn focus on another batting great VVS Laxman who too had a disappointing tour.
Dravid had already announced his retirement from ODI cricket in England last year after been surprisingly recalled in the ODI team due to his stupendous performance during the Test series against England in which he scored three centuries.
Nicknamed ‘The Wall' for his dour defence, the always thoughtful-looking Dravid walked into international cricket sunset after making his debut in June 1996 though he will lead the Jaipur-based Rajasthan Royals side in the fifth edition of the Indian Premier League.
Dravid ended his Test career with 13,288 runs - behind only Tendulkar (15,470 in 188 Tests) -- in 164 matches, with 36 hundreds and 63 half centuries at an average of 52.31, the 270 against Pakistan being his highest score.
Initially considered a liability in the one-day arena, he re-invented his game over the years to meet the demands of the shorter format which he played from April 1996 to September 2011. He scored 10,889 runs from 344 ODIs with 12 centuries and 83 half centuries at an average of 39.16.
Under his captaincy between October 2005 and September 2007, India won Test series in the West Indies as well as England but had a disastrous World Cup in 2007 when they were knocked out in the first round of the tournament. He captained India in 25 Tests and 79 ODIs.
Dravid's captaincy coincided with Greg Chappell's controversial tenure as India coach, but that did not affect his performance with the bat, as he garnered 1736 runs at 44.51.
Never a natural athlete, Dravid's immense levels of concentration also came in handy as he also holds the world record of highest Test catches -- 210 -- mostly at the slip cordon. He overtook Mark Waugh to become the most successful slip catcher in history. In addition to this, he has 196 catches in ODIs.
Asked how long he took to reach his decision to retire, Dravid said, “For a year now after each and every series I have assessed ... when I came back from Australia I wanted to take the emotion out of it and look at it dispassionately ... I have spoken to Sachin and to my team-mates and all of them were supportive.
Dravid denied that his poor form in Australia had been factor in his retirement decision.
“I would like to believe irrespective of how the Australian series had gone, I would have assessed a lot of things and come to the same conclusion.
“I dont think I based this decision on on series, it's a culmination of a lot of things. These decisions are based on a lot of things.”
“It was an honour and a privilege to play with the galaxy of cricketers I played with ... fortunate to play in an era which was pretty successful in Indian cricket, for me to be sharing a dressing room with them was an honour.”
On the high and lows in his long career, David said, “When you play for 16 years, you will face highs and lows. There have been many disappointments and great highs. There is a huge sense of satisfaction that I have always given it my best shot. I have left no stone unturned in trying to become the best cricketer I can become. Absolutely no regrets.”
Dravid said he thought it was right time for him to call it quits so that younger players take Indian cricket forwrad.
“I felt it was the right time for me to move on, for a next generation of cricketers to play and take the team forward ...a lot of these decisions just come to you in different ways ...I just felt the time was right. I needed to move on.”
He said he has no regrets though it was a difficult decision to call it quits.
“Yes and no. It's all I've known, from that point of view it was a difficult decision. but I knew deep down the time was right. I was very happy and comfortable in what I had achieved and what I had done,” he said.
“When you play for 16 years, you will face highs and lows. There have been many disappointments and great highs. There is a huge sense of satisfaction that I have always given it my best shot. I have left no stone unturned in trying to become the best cricketer I can become. Absolutely no regrets,” Dravid said when asked if he has any regrets.
On his critics, Dravid said, “You have to deal with criticism and praise as well.”
Asked if there was a point that made him think of retiring, Dravid said, “There was no eureka moment ... for me it's come with a bit of contemplation, a bit of thought with the family ...”
“If you make a decision during a series, then I think it is great. I have been part of nice farewells. But I made my decision now. Just to keep playing for the sake of playing one more match was not right. That's not how I have played the game. The only reason I played a cricket match for India was to try and win a match for India.”
Asked if the nickname “The Wall” meant to him, Dravid, “I never took it seriously to be honest ... it was a nice line for newspapers ... I never thought of it, I know people called me that fondly so I respect it.”
Dravid made it clear that apart from playing in the IPL, he will not play in any domestic cricket.
“Not really, I believe we have a lot of young talents in Karnataka. I felt I'd just be blocking a youngsters place by playing Ranji Trophy,” said Dravid when asked if there was a temptation to consider a season in domestic cricket.
Dravid, who has played many match-winning innings in his long career, was hard-pressed to pick his favourite innings.
“Hard to pick one innings ... 180 at Kolkata, 233 in Adelaide... the couple of innings in Jamaica on a low scoring wickets ... Headingley ... it's hard to pick one innings. It's hard to choose between your sons.”
Asked if he has any future plan to play a role in Indian cricket, he said, “That's for other people for judge, not for me to make that decision. What will I do? I have the IPL and then a couple of months to relax. I have not decided. Come June I'll decide what lies ahead of me.
“A little bit of time away from the game will be good for me. A lot of people I respect have told me if you get away from the game for a while, it will give you a better perspective of it,” he said.
India were battered and bruised in Test series in England and Australia, but Dravid refused to believe that Indian cricket at Test level has gone down.
“We are all disappointed about England and Australia. Having said that I believe Indian cricket is in a good place. There is a bunch of talented bastmen waiting in the wings. When I look back at myself as a 23 year old, I was no where near as talented as some of these kids. But talent alone is not enough. I hope two or three can establish themselves and play for the Indian team for a long time. It's going to be a challenging and interesting time.”