Bangalore, Jun 22: Retiring Sunil Joshi was showered with rich tributes by his Karnataka mates and former India great Rahul Dravid described him as an "ornament" of the game and Indian cricket.
As Joshi made his way to the podium at the P2 Hall of M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Thursday to bid adieu to the game, his friends, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad and Roger Binny joined him to congratulate and appreciate what the left-arm spinner had done over the years for Karnataka and India.
The most fitting of tributes came from "The Wall", who sat next to Srinath, the secretary of Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA).
"I think, when I look back at what Sunil has achieved all these years, I think he has been an ornament of the game, and of Indian cricket," Dravid said.
He continued: "To travel 40 miles everyday to practice and then come back and struggle the way he did to get into the Karnataka Ranji side, was not easy. It was not easy to break into the Karnataka side and he played many State junior games, many pentangular tournaments before he played for Karnataka. I think those years of hardship helped him. To get that one Ranji Trophy cap was not easy and Joshi cherished and valued that cap. That's one great thing I will always remember about Joshi."
The former India skipper thought Joshi carried the legacy of Karnataka spin bowling ahead.
"I don't want to mention all those names, but he lived up to that great spin legacy that Karnataka has had. It is people like Sunil who make Ranji Trophy, make domestic cricket what it is. His experience, class helps younger players and also rivals. I remember while captaining him in a game against Hyderabad, he bowled the first over and he bowled the 45th over too at the end of the day and that is Sunil. Anyone who has played with you will always recognise your contributions and I wish you the very best."
Former India paceman Venkatesh Prasad called Joshi "son of the soil."
"Joshi is the true son of the soil. He has been a great servant of Karnataka cricket," Prasad.
Prasad also revealed how good a cook Joshi was. He recalled how he joined Joshi's food while on the tour of New Zealand.
Kumble said: "For someone coming from such a small town like Gadag and to make a mark for himself is a fantastic achievement. He was an exceptional all-rounder and will be missed by the Karnataka team."
The former India captain felt Joshi should have played more for the country.
"He should have played a lot more matches for India," the KSCA president felt.
Srinath, who said he shared the KSCA dormitory with Joshi in initial days, said the spinner from Gadag was an inspiration for him to stay away from home in tough conditions.
"Staying in Bangalore was difficult for me, and I used to suggest Joshi that we go back to our respective places. But Joshi wouldn't budge and that encouraged me to stay on and continue training," Srinath said.