Bangalore, Aug 30: Karnataka wicketkeeper VS Thilak Naidu, who was once close to making to Indian team, bid adieu to first class cricket at this home ground M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Naidu announced his retirement in front of his family, friends and former and present Karnataka team-mates which included Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Venkatesh Prasad, Sunil Joshi, Dodda Ganesh and others.
The 34-year-old right-hander played 93 first class games for Karnataka since making his debut in 1998-99 season. He was a part of the state Ranji Trophy winning side in his first season. Since then, Karnataka is yet to win the premier domestic championship. Overall, Naidu featured in 81 Ranji Trophy games for the state team. He played 10 Duleep Trophy and 1 Irani Trophy games.
The State Bank of Mysore employee, also played for India Under-19. In 2003, he was part of the India ‘B' team led by Rahul Dravid in the NKP Salve Challenger Series.
Naidu, known for his stylish batting and an encouraging voice behind the stumps besides getting under the skin of the opposition batsmen too often with banter, scored 4,386 runs. He took 220 catches and had 17 stumpings. He hit eight hundreds and 24 half centuries. His highest score was 167 not out and averaged 34.80. He also played 53 One Day games scoring 1,108 runs with seven half centuries. He took 59 catches and had 14 stumpings.
"My father inspired me to be on the winning side. More than the number of runs, it mattered to win games for the side. My uncle Rammurthy Naidu told me to take up wicketkeeping," Naidu said.
"It has been a wonderful journey. I played for Karnataka with a lot of pride. I played more the 95% of my matches for Karnataka. I love my state. I thank the selectors, coaches and fellow cricketers," said Naidu.
Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) President Kumble, Dravid and former India all-rounder and 1983 World Cup winner Roger Binny were present with Naidu on the dais.
Kumble said 34 was not the age to retire. "34 is not an age to retire," he started off.
"Thilak has been an exceptional player for Karnataka. He was a flamboyant in his style of keeping," he added.
"He had one foot in the Indian team. He was very close to national selection. It is unfortunate that he didn't play for India," Kumble stated.
Dravid recalled how Naidu came close to winning the India cap in early 2000 when he played in the NKP Salve Challenger Series in Bangalore.
"In early 2000, during the Challenger Trophy, Thilak came close to being picked for India. With a bit of luck and things going his way he could have made it. But still he can hold his head high having been the backbone of the Karnataka side for more than a decade," Dravid said.
Binny said Naidu, as a schoolboy was a hardworking player and it was "cruel" on him that he did not make it to the next level.
"He was a very confident schoolboy and hardworking. He had one foot there (Indian team) but missed the boat. He couldn't go to the next level, it is cruel on him," said Binny.