Joined: 27 April 2009
It was nice to be with Rahul Dravid in the same dressing-room after a long time. We were in Dubai for the MCC match and this was Rahul's first outing after he had quit international cricket. He was relaxed, with no more worries or need to plan for a series ahead. Rahul surely has the right to enjoy his life now the way he wants to. He has earned it.
Such is the rule of sport: all good things have to come to an end, even for someone who finishes with his head held high. There are many ways in which he could have done it, but Rahul Dravid chose to do it his way, not at the end of the hustle and bustle of the tour of Australia when everyone was gunning for the heads of India players. It was similar to the way he quit as captain after the 2007 World Cup, where he took time off after our tour of England and took a call once his mind was clear of all inhibitions. He has been like this all his life, very organized, even in the midst of crisis on the cricket field. He had this in himself, that matters around him be well. He loved walking out from an organised dressing-room, ready to take on the best of opponents, fiercest of challengers, the most crucial situations. He thrived on it.
I'm sure that somewhere after the tour of Australia, or at the end of the Adelaide Test, he had made up his mind. These decisions are such big ones, especially in terms of something that is very close to a player's heart. The decision to stop, the thought that you will not hit a cricket ball in a Test again can be heartbreaking. Rahul will continue to make money from the sport or from whatever he does in life because when you play for so long, other avenues open up. But it can never give the satisfaction of a square cut through point or a drive through midwicket off a fast bowler. That is what it means to a sportsman and that is why this decision must have been a well-thought out tough one.
For me, it was the right decision. I would have wanted to see Rahul walk off the ground with a Test hundred or a win and that is why I felt the tour of England would have been the right place to finish.
RAHUL SHARAD DRAVID was born on January 11, 1973 in Indore, but began his career further south of the country, in Bangalore. With 13,288 runs from 164 Tests, he finished behind only Sachin Tendulkar in the number of runs scored, but the 31,259 balls he faced were the most by any batsman in the game.
We have known each other for a long time. We went to England with the Kailash Ghattani team, our initiation on foreign soil when the first signs of a moustache were just visible. We made our Test debut together. I remember Lord's fondly now. At that time we were focused on our individual effort for the team and the game, intensely focused to make a mark for ourselves, and those five days just flew past.
We both got off to good starts. Rahul was really unlucky to miss out on the hundred which he truly deserved. He was caught behind for 95, and he walked. Three years later, we made our debut together in the World Cup, and by then we had found a place for ourselves in Indian cricket. That first match was against South Africa at Hove. The previous day Rahul and I sat together on the sidelines of the ground, sharing the excitement of playing the first World Cup. We talked about the opponents' comprising Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Lance Klusener, Jacques Kallis and how to counter one of the best fast-bowling attacks in world cricket at that time.
For me, Rahul's biggest contribution, along with the players of his generation, is that he has forced Indian cricket to be noticed overseas. When we started our careers, we were considered soft overseas. Since 2000 it was the heralding of a new face of Indian cricket. All of us who were a part of the fresh team wanted to make a statement to the world about Indian cricket, that India had the capability to hold their head high abroad.
With the advent of the new coach, there was a distinct effort from the team. With the likes of Rahul, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Anil Kumble and the arrival of the youthful and fearless Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh, a new chapter unfolded. It will remain etched in India's cricket history forever. Rahul as vice-captain, John Wright as coach and I as captain decided on a policy that we needed to be fully convinced about a youngster before giving him a chance in the squad and once he was in he would get sufficient opportunity to show his mettle before we took a final call on him.
One of the finest moments in Indian cricket, the Adelaide Test win in 2003, was engineered by Rahul Dravid. Getty Images
As captain, it was heartening to see all of us were on the same plane. Watching Rahul's career unfold was not a surprise. He was a tremendous team man who never said "no" anytime you looked to him. He always had the technique and ability to survive at this level, but he compounded that with a will and determination to succeed. When you get past 13,000 Test runs, you will go through innings and games where you will play very, very well. I have always judged a player on the basis of how he has performed away from home conditions. But if I have to pick one of Rahul's best knocks, it would be against Australia at Kolkata.
Rahul and Laxman not only won the Test and thereby turned the series, they also changed the face of Indian cricket. The best period of his batting was from 2001 to 2005. The knocks at Eden Gardens, Adelaide, Headingley, Rawalpindi and in New Zealand before the 2003 World Cup were some of the best. If there was a drop, it was since the 2006 tour of South Africa. For the first time, I felt he was finding it hard to get his act together as a batsman.
Like anyone in world cricket Rahul also had some tough years, especially in 2008 and 2009, but showed remarkable strength of character to turn it around on the tour of England. In fact, it started off in West Indies, just before the Indian team arrived in England.
His decision is the right one because I would not want to see someone as great as him play in an era where the team's performance is on a dip. He has also made a statement to the selectors, that the team needs a change. He made it clear that the time has come to take decisions.
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