Three weeks ago,Rahul Dravid announced his retirement at a formal press conference in his hometown of Bangalore. Back then,he was articulate,measured and meticulously spelt out the many reasons for his decision to hang up his boots.
On Tuesday,as the Indian cricket fraternity came together as one to celebrate his glorious career,Dravid stuttered,with brief pauses in between sentences necessary to hold back his tears. He even admitted that the pact he made with himself,about not crying at any of his felicitation functions,was being tested to the limit. For once,Dravid didnt seem prepared. After all those years of having allowed his dynamic mind to fight his battles,he was finally letting his heart do the talking.
This,in more ways than one,was the final goodbye to all that he treasured during his lengthy and fruitful association with his beloved sport. Today,as he walked towards the podium,he crossed those team mates he shared a special bond with,and those with whom he had a few professional differences.
Heroes,past and present
In addition,those in the audience also included his heroes the men he admired and whose autographs he sought as a kid. Not to forget the next brigade of Indian cricketers,whom he had inspired to be the best in the world. Most importantly,his family the father whose dream he lived,the mother who made plentiful sacrifices,the wife who has run the family as a single mother in his own words,and sons Samit and Anway,who have missed seeing their father for a major part of their young lives.
Here,he was bidding a final adieu to his fondest of memories. Finally,Dravid was saying goodbye to exactly what he is going to miss in his retired life. Cricket has give me a lifetime of experiences. What I will miss most is being part of the dressing room,the banter,the camaraderie but not so much the rap music, he said.
The last three weeks (since his official announcement) have given me time to sit back and take it all in. It is only in June I will probably get time to be unemployed and have a lot of time on my hands, said Dravid,insisting he was still trying to stay fit in lieu of the IPL,while adding that going to the gym wasnt enjoyable anymore. The interim period,he said,also resulted in his crossing off buying groceries from his list of post-retirement household chores and focus solely on cleaning and the kids homework.
While thanking every single cricketer he played alongwith,both for Karnataka and India,the former India captain also praised the BCCIs role in enhancing the reputation of Indian cricket during his time.
I still remember back in 1996,we were treated as second-class citizens. We were the team that got the first tour of summer in England and got sent to some of the smaller grounds. The officials in BCCI have ensured that we are now the big boys of international cricket and that we dictate the terms, he explained.
Dravid also spoke at length about the legacy of Indian cricket that he inherited from some of his heroes present in the audience and hoped he had taken it forward during his time as an Indian cricketer.
Speaking of legacies,his team mates,both present and former,spoke about his outstanding contribution to the team,singling out specific roles he generally doesnt get much credit for.
I was lucky to have a vice-captain like you for the five years I was captain. Many talk about my captaincy but the amount of work done by you and John (Wright) behind the scenes is what helped Indian cricket become successful, said Sourav Ganguly.
As a wicket-keeper,he has taken some catches which many regular keepers wouldnt have. Not to forget he could play most of the sports well,be it soccer or badminton, added Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
VVS Laxman and Anil Kumble also paid their respective tributes to Dravid,while the man he shared a record number of Test partnerships was conspicuous by his absence. Despite the event being held at stones throw from his residence,Sachin Tendulkar,away vacationing in England,couldnt attend the felicitation.