Bangalore, Mar 9: Rahul Dravid announced his retirement on Friday and later took questions from a big contingent of journalists present at his press conference at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Here is the Question and Answer session of Dravid with the media after his retirement.
Question: What prompted you to take this decision?
Rahul Dravid: Like I said, I felt it was the right time for me to move on. I had a glorious run, a wonderful run. I felt it was time to move on for the next generation of young Indian cricketers to come on and play and take the team forward. A lot of these decisions they just come to you in some ways.
Q: How difficult the decision was?
Dravid: Yes and no. When you leave something like playing for India – a life that I have lived for close to 16 years and five years before that of first class cricket, it is tough. It is not easy. It’s all I had known all my growing life. It was a challenge. Yes, from that point of view it was difficult decision. But it also wasn’t a difficult decision for me because I knew in my heart deep down that the time was right. I was very happy and comfortable in what I had achieved and what I had done. It is hard in a way and it’s also easy in a way.
Q: Any achievement which could have left you more satisfied and plans for the future?
Dravid: If you play for 16 years, there are going to be times in your career where you have to face some incredible highs and some disappointing lows. That is part and parcel of being an international cricketer, especially for one who has played for a really long time. While I say there are many disappointing times in my career, there have been some great highs. At the end of the day, there is a huge amount of satisfaction that even though I might have failed in certain times or failed in achieving certain things, I have always given it my best shot. I have left no stone unturned to try and become the best cricketer I could ever become. I think that leaves me with huge amount of satisfaction. Definitely there are no regrets.
Q: Anything you want to tell your critics?
Dravid: Absolutely not. I respect the fact that when you play international sport in a country like India where there is a huge amount of passion, you have to learn to deal with it. It is a part of a challenge of being an international cricketer. We have to accept criticism and we have to learn to deal with it. They are the two sides of the same coin. I think the media has been kind to me.
Q: Did the Australian tour debacle make any impact on your decision?
Dravid: I don’t follow every word that is written. But I know that you get criticised when you don’t do well. I would like to believe irrespective how the Australian series had gone, in my own mind I was sure that after the Australian tour, I would sit down and look at lot of things. Now it is easy for me to say but I would like to think that I would have come to the same conclusion. I have confided with my friends that I would sit down and assess the situation after the Australian tour, not only about my own position but also where Indian cricket is at and what should be the way forward.
Q: How long it took to arrive at this decision? Did you speak to Sachin?
Dravid: For a year now I have been aware of the fact that after each and every series, I have assessed the situation where I was and this was no different. I came back from Australia and I wanted to take the emotion out of it and spend a month at home, think dispassionately. So I came to this decision and I knew that I was clear in my mind. I have spoken to Sachin. I have spoken to a lot of my team-mates. Everyone was incredibly supportive, also right through my career. That’s it.
Q: How as it Playing with legends?
Dravid: It was an honour and privilege to play alongside a galaxy of stars and legends whether it was Sachin, Anil, Sourav, Srinath, Laxman, Sehwag, Harbhajan. Maybe I am missing out a few names here. I was fortunate to have played in an era which was successful for Indian cricket. Some of the guys that I have played with my sons will not understand but if they go on to follow the game, they will realise that I have played with some of the great players and what they mean to Indian cricket. Sharing a dressing room with them was an absolute honour. I have learned a lot of things from them in the last 16 years as a person and a player.
Q: What about timing of the decision? You could have announced during a series?
Dravid: Of course it would have been nice to do well and contribute in the last series. These decisions are based on lot of other things and not just on one series.
Q: Adam Gilchrist dropped a catch of Laxman, which made him to think of retirement. Any moment like that which sparked the decision?
Dravid: I don’t think there was an Eureka moment for me. For each one it comes differently. For me it has come after a lot of contemplation, with friends and family. It is difficult to give up the shirt but you have to realize that this moment has to come to everyone. As you play international cricket and see greats retire while you were playing, you know that this will come to everyone. While it will be difficult, I make no mistake in saying that I love playing for India.
Q: Why this urgent decision to quit?
Dravid: I didn’t wake one fine morning and took the decision. For me, I needed to be sure that I was playing the game for the right reasons and to be able to achieve great things for Indian cricket and achieve wins. I have done that for the last 16 years and I feel the time was right. I know that I had a great run and I had given it some thought.
Q: Was there a temptation to play one more Test match?
Dravid: If you make a decision during the course of the series, then I think it is great. I have been part of some nice farewells but I made decision now. I had the time to think and contemplate. Just to keep playing for the sake of one Test, I don’t think it was right. I don’t think that was the way I played the game. It was important for me to move on. I needed to play for the right reasons. As much as I respect other people’s feelings I should have played another Test, I hope they will respect and appreciate my feelings.
Q: What does the "Wall" mean to you?
Dravid: I never really thought of it and took it seriously. I will be honest with you that when people call me Wall I used to joke they were setting up me because after I fail, it is easier for them to say that there is a brick in the wall, the foundations are weak, the wall is missing – for the people who put the headlines and make the copies. So they would say let’s put the Wall so that later we can ‘use’ it. I know that a lot of people call me that very fondly and I respect that. But I never really thought that I was a Wall whenever I walked out to the middle.
Q: Did dropped catches of late influence the decision?
Dravid: It didn’t influence in making the decision. But yes over the last year, I have dropped two or three catches which I could have taken. Whenever you drop a catch, it is disappointing. And as people who have played with me will tell you, nothing frustrates me more than dropping a catch. I can get over getting out, after 15-20 minutes but when I drop a catch, that stays with me for a very long time. And, it really hurts in a lot of ways. But the decision was not based on that. As a slip fielder, you drop some catches. That is part and parcel of the job. A fewer you drop, the better you are.
Q: Your best innings?
Dravid: It is hard for me to pick one innings that means lot to me. Obviously there are two or three that comes to the top of my head. The 180 in Kolkata and the partnership with Laxman, the 233 in Adelaide, the couple of innings that I have played in Jamaica for Test win on a low-scoring wicket, Headingley, Rawalpindi… I guess there are quite a few that come to the top of the head but it is hard to choose between your sons.
Q: Were you inspired by Sir Don Bradman's line "leaving the game better than you found it". Also, would you like to be part of building a road map for Indian cricket?
Dravid: It is for other people to judge whether I have left the Indian cricket than I started off. It’s not for me to make that decision. In terms of what I will do, I have got a couple of months in the IPL and after that, in June I will have some time to put my feet up and relax and see what is ahead of me. I am sure that there are many opportunities and ways with which I will be able to contribute to the game. I feel it is wrong to use the word contribute because sometimes you feel the game is too big for you to contribute. I will play my part may be in helping kids. I have not made up my mind. Come June, I have to sit and think what lies ahead of me.
Q: Did you inform selectors about it?
Dravid: I had a personal conversation. To be fair, I have kept them informed and involved them. But what I have conversed is a personal thing.
Q: Where do you see Indian cricket heading to, particularly in Tests. Do you see anybody coming close to you?
Dravid: We are very disappointed by the fact that we didn’t do well in England and Australia. Having said that, I still do feel Indian cricket is in a good place. There is some really exciting talents coming through. As to who will replace me, in the last two years I have felt, there have been exciting talented batsmen waiting in the wings who can definitely step up and take over. They have got the talent and skills required to be successful. When I look back at myself as a 23-year-old when I played for India, and then look at the present players, I know that I was nowhere near as talented as these kids. Obviously just being talented is just not necessarily mean that you have a successful Test career.
There are lot of things that go with it – how you face the challenges and how you deal with things which are sometime internal more than external. And, I think it will be really interesting for me to sit back on my couch and watch some of these young talents as they establish themselves over the next two or three years. I hope two or three of them can establish themselves and play for India for a long time. In my generation, myself, Sachin, Ganguly and Laxman and Viru (Virender Sehwag) who came in late and Gauti (Gautam Gambhir), we were able to establish ourselves in the Indian team and it makes a big difference. If you have people coming in and out all the time, that means that probably they are not performing well enough. That breeds in instability if you don’t get performances consistently. It is really interesting and challenging time to see which one of these kids will stand up.
Q: What are you comments about rift in Indian team?
Dravid: Absolutely not. Like you said, it is speculation and rumours and there is no truth to it.
Q: Was there a temptation to play one more domestic season?
Dravid: Not really at Karnataka. Most of the guys in our side are pushing for South Zone selection and things like that. To be honest, I felt that I would be blocking an youngster’s place by playing another season of Ranji Trophy. Sri (Javagal Srinath) did ask me but said no.
Q: What are you plans for the future?
Dravid: I have not decided on what comes after June. I truly believe that a little bit of time away from the game will be good for me. I have played this game for 20 years and lived in a cocoon so to speak, a surreal world. It has been away from reality in some ways and so many former cricketers have told me that if I get away from the game for me a while, it will give you a better perspective and you will be able to come back and look at things differently. When you play, it is difficult to see things from outside. Whatever decisions I take will be based on the fact that I have a young family and want to spend time with them.
Q: Will you miss the training?
Dravid: I will miss that a lot. I have lived the routine, going to the KSCA (Karnataka State Cricket Association) or NCA (National Cricket Academy) every morning. My wife says you have to get out of your routine. My new routine will be buying the groceries and going to pick my sons from school, dropping them to school.
Q: Who is the next Wall?
Dravid: I wouldn’t like to name one particular player. I would like to say that there is a huge group of young Indian players who can be better than Rahul Dravid. I would love to believe that in 16-17 years, you will be attending a press conference of a player who has done lot more than I have.
Q: Who are the toughest bowlers you have faced and how was Shoaib Akhtar?
Dravid: Shoaib was a very good bowler, a fast bowler but he was not probably the best I have played. He was a good bowler no doubt about that. People like McGrath, Muralitharan, Ambrose, Walsh, Akram, Waqar, Shane Warne.. they are great bowlers. I had the privilege of playing alongside Anil Kumble, Srinath, Harbhajan in the Indian side. There were some great bowlers in my time and it was always a challenge to come up good against them.