'When you've played at the top, it's hard to settle for second-best'

Rahul Dravid looks ahead to life after retirement, back at his career and captaincy, and at the changing status of Test cricket

Interview by Sharda Ugra

March 29, 2012

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It has been a fortnight since Rahul Dravid retired and already the world has turned upside down. First, he couldn't grab a helicopter to beat the Bangalore morning traffic to get to the interview on time. Then he couldn't take his eyes off a large glass jar of what looked like multi-coloured sweets (jelly beans? M&Ms?), grabbing a few on his way out of the coffee shop at the Leela Palace. (Ya-boo to you, skinfold tests.) And finally, this otherwise studious, decorous and meticulous man is completely relaxed about the fact that the last leg of his playing career will pan out in front of an adoring, singing, dancing IPL audience, for whom "dot ball" might as well belong to children's activity books and "well left" is a Google Maps instruction.

Just before setting out for his stint with the Rajasthan Royals, Dravid gave his first interview after retiring from international cricket, where he looked back on his career, the way ahead for the Indian team, and taking the hard road to retirement.


Rahul Dravid bats at the nets in Adelaide, Adelaide Oval, January 22, 2012
"After England I felt I was in good form and that I needed to go to Australia, and I felt that it was going to be a tough tour and that it wouldn't be right to walk away after doing well in England" © Getty Images
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How does a player pick the right time to retire? How did you? What's the different between a slump and a sign that your time is up? What separates doubt from foresight?
It's actually very hard to tell if there is such a thing as a right time. All your career, you're taught to never never give up. You're fighting, you keep improving, you always think you can sort out problems. I never thought about going out on a high or going out on a slump. A lot of people told me: "You will just know, Rahul, when the time is right." Obviously there are other things that come into consideration. Where you are in your life, where the team is at that point of time, what the future challenges are, how you fit into that. Even if someone doesn't tell you, you've been around long enough to know where you stand. There are the immediate challenges of tours like Australia and England, which you think are tough, and you want to try go there and make a difference.

In the end it just comes down to knowing and being comfortable with it. And I just think, while I had been thinking about it, I was most comfortable doing it at this stage. If things had not gone well in England, maybe I would have been comfortable doing it then. Obviously after England, I felt I was in good form and that I needed to go to Australia, and I felt that it was going to be a tough tour and that it wouldn't be right to walk away after doing well in England… it may sound silly, but just wanting to finish on a high - that hadn't occurred to me, in the sense that I wanted to go when I was comfortable.

There was a period in 2008, the end of 2008, when I was really struggling and not getting runs, and there was a lot of talk of me being dropped. If I had been dropped at that stage, I would've still continued to play first-class cricket. Not in the intention of trying to make a comeback - I know that if I had got dropped at 36 or 37, the likelihood of me making a comeback would have been very slim. I wouldn't have played for wanting to make comeback, but because I still wanted to just play the game. It was a game I loved and I still loved enjoying playing it. I probably would have continued playing Ranji Trophy at that stage. And how long that would have lasted, who knows.

But to end a career with the IPL?
In some ways it's like a weaning-off period. Playing cricket has been such a big part of my life, so to just walk away might have been hard. Some of the senior guys who've retired and played the IPL say the IPL's a good way, in some ways, to slowly wean yourself off the drug that is cricket.

What do you assess when making a decision to retire?
It's a combination of things. The important thing to remember is how much are you contributing. That's a major factor. As you get older these things do come in, and that's why I said that England for me… it was important for me to keep contributing.

After actually retiring, did you ever think: what if this is a mistake?
I think the best question someone asked me about this retirement thing is Eric Simons. I called him up and said, "Eric, I'm retiring." And Eric said, "When you made that decision, Rahul, did you feel relief or did you feel disappointment?" And I had never thought about it that way. It was a feeling of relief and I did feel it. I've not regretted it.

I've lived this life for 20 years. I haven't regretted it and I hope it won't regret it, and I still can have a Twenty20 bash. I guess it's only in June, when I'll sit down and the Indian team will play another Test match again - I don't know, I might miss it. We miss a lot of things. We miss college, everyone wants to go back to Uni and live that life again, but you know that's not possible. Hopefully you move on. You will know that there are other things to do and other challenges.

What about international cricket won't you miss it, apart from the travel and being away from family?
In a cricket career your life is in some ways controlled for you. You have no control over schedules, you have no control about where you want to play, you don't have control over that as a cricketer. I think while I'll miss the routine and knowing what to strive for, I think I'll enjoy the flexibility of being able to make some choices about things I want to do. I'll enjoy the luxury of now having that choice.

What is it about life after cricket that you think a player fears the most?
Each one has his own fears, when it's something you've done all your life. And when it's the only thing that you've known, it's almost like starting out fresh again. It's almost like going back to college, like going back to what you felt like when making a decision about whether you want to do commerce or engineering. The only problem is, you are doing it at 40 rather than at 17 or 18 and with skills you've worked on for 20 years at the exclusion of other skills. You have to start all over again. That, I think, in a lot of ways can be daunting to people, and it's not easy, especially, if I may say so, because you are used to competing and playing at an extremely high level. You pride yourself on a certain level of competence and a certain level of ability.

Very rarely people can, I think, step out of something they've done for 23 years and attain the same standards in whatever they do. When you are used to playing at that top level, it's hard to accept that sometimes you have to settle for being second-best. I guess that's the way it's going to be. You can't expect a guy at 40-41 to become "world class" at something else.

 
 
"Mentally sometimes you are fresher when you are younger. You've not been worn down so much. So your response to defeat, failure, success, pressure is better. As you get older, the freshness gets lost, the sense of excitement"
 

What do retired players tell you about coping?
I have spoken to people who retire, and specially coaches. Whether it's been conversations with Kapil Dev or through the years with John [Wright], Greg [Chappell], Gary [Kirsten], and even Duncan [Fletcher] now. All of them have gone through that and they say it takes a bit of time to get used to. You get used to it and then there are new things to challenge you and you must move on. Each one is different, I guess.

Before you actually retired, was there a time in your career that you were so totally fed up that you actually wanted to throw it all away?
Obviously the period just after the World Cup when we lost, in 2007, was difficult. It was the first phase in my career other than the first couple of years when I was establishing myself, that I got dropped from the one-day side. Other than that I had a pretty smooth run for a long time. That was tough in terms of some of my performances, that whole period, 2007-08, getting knocked out of the World Cup and not performing so well after I gave up the captaincy for a while. I think that was a really hard period, when I questioned myself a lot and wondered whether it had all just disappeared and gone away.

I thought I'd really had a good run and I could have walked away in 2008 and felt pretty comfortable with what I had done and achieved, and I wouldn't have regretted it at all. Because I've always tried to do my best - you've always got to try to be the best you can be and hope that the results fall your way. If it hadn't worked out, it hadn't worked out. But I was lucky to get a chance to play a couple of years of cricket.

How much was working on your fitness a part of pushing yourself through the last four or five years from then on?
I spent two-three years working with Paul Chapman, who was the strength and conditioning coach at the NCA and the NCA's physios and trainers, on raising the bar of my fitness. I was lucky that we had all those people there here. I saw in those physios and trainers and in Paul, a resource, really good professional people who could help me. And I sort of decided to utilise that completely. I did make a conscious effort to try and raise the bar of my fitness, because if I wanted to keep playing at this age, I didn't want any of the younger guys or people in the field to feel that I wasn't fit enough to be there.

Sometimes performances you can or can't control, but fitness I think to a large extent you can control. I'm not saying you can control everything in fitness - there are a lot of guys who have injuries, who, whatever they do and whatever they try, sadly they can't do much about. But in most things, fitness and diet and stuff like that, you have responsibility over it.

Performance… sometimes you practise and work hard and still things don't pan out. But fitness is a lot simpler. I said, "Look, I'll make an effort to be as fit as I've been. While I did try, it was hard to say I've been at my fittest. In some areas I was fitter than I was at 24-25 and in some areas I was not. But I'd like to believe that till I finished my career, I set a pretty high standard of fitness for myself and I didn't let anybody down in terms of the effort I put in in terms of my physical fitness.

Did it have a direct impact on your game in the last few years, you think?
It's hard to co-relate the two. You do perform better when you're fit, you do feel better about yourself, but it's hard to say. Even when I was doing badly in 2007-08, I was pretty fit. Was I really fitter in England last year than I was in 2007 when I was doing badly? Really, no. Probably I was fitter back then when I was in England, so no. Sometimes fitness is a good thing to have but you have to recognise that fitness takes you only so far, and skills are the most important thing.

Fitness just helps you execute those cricketing skills for longer and more consistently maybe. If someone thinks, "I'll spend the off season working on my fitness and I'll come back a better cricketer," I don't think that's enough. You need to spend a lot of time working on your skills and honing your skills.

When cricketers go into their late 30s do they sense what the outside world observes as a fading of their skills? Slowing down of reflexes, eyesight etc?
I didn't sense it like that personally… but maybe we are trained not to sense it, who knows? Maybe sometimes these things are better judged from outside. As a player you will never admit to weakness, to a slowing down of skills. You're not trained to admit these things. You have bad patches when you are 24-25, and it's only when you have bad patches after 35-36 that people say your skills are down, the eyesight is gone. Maybe it has not, maybe it has nothing to do with age and you're just going through bad form and you happen to be 35. After 35, I felt as fit in terms of physical fitness - if you judge fitness in terms of sprinting a distance, running a distance, whatever yo-yo tests we have and weights you lift - as I was when I was playing my best cricket, at 28-29. I was probably doing more in terms of some things now than I was when I was young.

How do you judge eyesight? If you go to a doctor and ask him, he will you've still got 20-20 vision. Maybe [time] just wears you down - the travelling, the pressure, the dealing with expectations, those things slowly start chipping away, chipping away. It's hard to put a date to it and say, "Now it's started decreasing and now it has decreased."


Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman in the field, Cricket Australia Chairman's XI v Indians, Canberra, 1st day, December 15, 2011
"It's got to move on from being the team that was led by my generation, which is already happening slowly" © Getty Images
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The best explanation I've heard for this is that mentally sometimes you are fresher when you are younger. You've not been worn down so much. So your response to defeat, failure, success, pressure is better. As you get older, the freshness gets lost, the sense of excitement. Like what you experience the first time you walk into Lord's. After you've been there three or four times, maybe that sense of wonder goes. That's the best explanation of why after a period of dealing with some of the same things, they become more difficult, rather than a fading of skill.

In that way Australia must have been the tour from hell? You went there with the best intentions, the best preparation, and it all went badly. What went wrong?
I think Australia was disappointing. In England I felt we had quite a few injuries and I just felt we weren't necessarily as well prepared as we were in Australia. Australia, I thought we went there with the best of intentions, the guys cared. They played better, they pitched the ball up, we had some opportunities in the first Test, we didn't grab them. We had them at some 210 for 6 and then they got 320 and we were about 220 for 2, and Sachin got out that evening and I got out next morning. Having said that, you have got to give them credit. They bowled well, pitched the ball up, they swung the ball.

From a personal point of view? All the bowleds?
It was disappointing. You set high standards for yourself. I felt that getting out is getting out and obviously constantly getting out…

So it really doesn't matter whether you were out caught, lbw, stumped, bowled, whatever?
I don't like getting out, period. How it happens is almost irrelevant. But yeah, obviously it happened a few times more than I would have liked, no doubt about it. The beauty of it is that now I don't have to worry about it.

But those are challenges you face all your life. I think that is what differentiates people who play for long periods of time from others, because they keep getting asked questions. Top bowlers and top bowling attacks keep asking you different questions. For some, it is getting out in a particular way, for some it is the ability to play spin, for some to play pace. For some it is a different bowler, a unique angle, on a different wicket. These questions keep getting asked and you have to constantly keep coming up with answers. Most of the guys that I know who have played over a period of time have constantly been able to find answers to the questions that keep getting asked. You become a problem solver, a solution finder. I'd like to believe that if I had continued, I would hopefully have worked on this area [getting bowled] and got better at it.

Much is said about body language and neither you or the Indian team was big on body language. In your experience, how much did that count in a competitor?
I feel now that now good body language is sometimes equated to being abusive or aggressive, and I think that that's not true. Each of us is different, and I think there's people who show more of their body language in a particular manner and that's what works for them, and fair enough, I'm not saying that that's wrong.

Body language can mean different things. Just because someone is not over-the-top competitive doesn't mean he's not a good competitor. Or it doesn't mean he's not in for a fight. There are external people and internal people. It doesn't mean that people who are more internal are less aggressive. They can be as aggressive.

Sometimes the toughest bowlers, I found, were always the guys who gave away nothing in terms of the way they thought - what got them angry, what got them frustrated. They were very, very hard guys, because you knew they were just focused on bowling and doing the best they could. Someone like McGrath, someone like Ambrose. When I played Ambrose, it was a great education for me. He never said a thing. I've never heard him speak; I don't know what he sounded like and I was on tour for four months. He gave you nothing. He pitched every ball on the spot, he was proud of his skill and his craft; he wanted to take wickets and he ran in with intensity.

You knew that intensity, you could sense that intensity with them. They did it throughout the day without showing you much. There were a lot of guys who would shout, stare at you, swear. But you knew they did not have the stamina or the fitness to survive till the end of the day. You could tell that they were emotionally violent but that they would fade.

Then there were people like Warne or Murali. Warne was dramatic but he was also incredibly aggressive. You knew that when he got the ball in the hand, he was going to come at you. I judge aggression on the way people perform.

The bowlers I respected or feared or rated were not the ones who gave me lip or stared at me or abused me. More the ones who, at any stage of the game, when had they had the ball in hand, they were going to be at me and they were going to have the skill and the fitness and the ability to be aggressive.

 
 
"There were times then I could have done things differently with the captaincy. Being probably a little less intense. Maybe I was so keen to do a good job that I got too caught up in it"
 

And that was easily picked up.
You could tell that very quickly. You can see the spell of a guy who's just raved and ranted, and after tea you can see he's just not the same bowler. He's not doing the discipline thing. The team might require him to be bowling one line and blocking up the game because there's a big partnership developing. And they are more interested in trying to be aggressive, to do their thing and trying to be the hero. It becomes about them, not about what the team is trying to do.

Coming from a country like India, with a technique attuned to playing spin, what was it like tackling Murali and Warne. What were the methods you used to face them?
No matter how much practice you have, these guys were great bowlers. They had variation, consistency, control. There were some great spinners during that time - Murali, Warne, and I was lucky to play with Anil and Harbhajan, two guys who bowled well for us. You had Saqlain, who bowled well against us in a couple of series. Daniel Vettori was extremely consistent; bowled good tight lines. So these guys were good. I like to believe we played some of the world's greatest spinners better than some of the other teams did.

One of the things is that because we had so much practice, maybe we read some of these guys better. One of the things we did better was that whenever a bad ball was bowled, we were able to punish it, and we had the guys who had that skill. There was a certain amount of pressure on the spinners bowling at us, that they had to be at their A game all the time. And when they were at their A game, they knocked us over a few times, no doubt about it. But you had to be at your A game to do well against us, and you can't be at your A game all the time.

What do you make of the general notion that struggling against fast bowling is worse than struggling against spin?
I think that sort of thing is a throwback to the days when there was no helmet, so there was a fear of injury when facing fast bowling. People were scared, and everyone would have been scared, but I guess those who showed it were considered weaker and that was not considered good to be. Also, I think subcontinent tours in the old days were not considered the No. 1 tours - people didn't necessarily value their tours to the subcontinent as much as they valued tours to England, Australia or South Africa. That has changed now and it's pretty obvious that, with the kind of audience and support that cricket generates in this part of the world, a tour to this part of the world is extremely important now.

Honestly, if you want to be a good batsman you have to prove yourself in all conditions. To say that it is okay to do badly in the subcontinent, to do badly against spin, is not acceptable anymore. It's slowly changing. When I look at the media in England, Australia, South Africa, in the past sometimes they would almost have a casual attitude to performances on subcontinent tours. They are also putting a lot more focus and emphasis on it now. When some of their players don't do well on the subcontinental tours, they get criticised and it gets pointed out and questioned, which is a good thing.

Your captaincy had some good results and at the same time many dramas. What, firstly, did you like about job?
I enjoyed the decision-making process in the middle. The actual captaincy side of things was good. I enjoyed being part of the process of trying to build a team, trying to be creative, to see how we could get the best out of players, see how we could win and compete with the resources we have. Those are sides of captaincy you enjoy.

There were some good results. In the end you have to accept that you are judged a lot by the World Cup in India, whether you like it not. Obviously that World Cup didn't go well and didn't pan out the way I had hoped it would. So I guess it clouds a lot of what happened. But I think there were some good results and there were some tough times, like with a lot of captains, but the overriding impression that tends to stay is that World Cup. I'm not here to justify anything. I recognise that I always knew that was going to happen. That's the way it is.

Was captaincy something you were actually looking forward to doing?
I was vice-captain for a long time and I was part of the process, so yes, I knew that if there was an injury or something that happened, I would be the next guy in charge. You're part of the management and decision-making process, you're contributing, you're ticking all the time, so you know you have to be ready. I also knew that me and Sourav were also of the same age and it might not happen. When it did happen, I was extremely keen and excited about trying to do a good job of it.

Did the Chappell drama weigh you down as a captain? When you look at it now, should you have done something differently? Maybe behaved out of personality and been confrontational with him? Or did you believe you and Chappell were on the same page but the environment soured very quickly?
I think when you look back at any stage of your career, there are things you could have done differently, and that captaincy period is no different. In terms of intention, of what we were trying to achieve, I have no doubt in my mind that you know it was on the right path. Sure, we made mistakes, sure, there were things that we did right, and maybe some of the results didn't show up right away, they did show up later on, but that's just the way it is.

I'll be the first one to admit - and my whole career is based on looking to improve and try to do better - that there were times then I could have done things differently, in the way that I approached it and handled it. Being probably a little less intense. Maybe it came to me that I was so keen to do a good job that I got too caught up in it. I got too tense, too anxious or too keen about it in some ways.


Rahul Dravid consoles Virat Kohli after the close defeat, Bangalore v Mumbai, Champions League Twenty20 2010, Durban, September 19, 2010
"Questions are going to be asked about Kohli, and how he comes up with solutions or answers is going to decide how long or how successful a career he is going to have" © Getty Images
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Do you think that captains can actually lose teams and that at one point you lost the team?
Maybe it is. I don't know if you lose the team. You can lose players in your team and you have to try and fight and get them back sometimes. Or sometimes it's phases that players are themselves going through in their own careers that pushes them away from the team. In some ways so you can lose players. I don't think you can lose a team. Then there are times when you are making tough decisions about doing certain things that not everybody in the team likes. Then you need results to go your way. At a time like that, if results don't go your way then sometimes it becomes easy for people in and around the system to sometimes, I guess, pull in different directions. Eventually it does become about results. It's not all about results but results are incredibly important. And I think, specially as we've seen in India, results in big tournaments.

Why did you stand down from the captaincy after the England tour in 2007 that had gone well?
Maybe I just lost the enjoyment of the job. I got a certain joy out of captaincy, and maybe there was a period on that Engand trip where I just lost the joy of the job. I'd been playing and captaining non-stop for three years and I also had a young family. I lost a certain enjoyment, and I generally felt that the captain of India should be someone who is extremely eager and excited and wakes up every morning wanting to captain the team. Maybe in that time there were days that I didn't feel like that.

When you retired, you called your team-mates and spoke to them before making the announcement. When you quit the captaincy, you just vanished. What was that about?
When I look at it in hindsight, I could have handled it better. I didn't want to make a fuss about it at that stage, and I think a lot of people got upset with me more about how I handled it rather than the decision in itself. So you learn from that, you learn from the mistakes. Maybe I could have handled it a bit better and done it in a better way than I did.

Now that you're about to go into the IPL as one final hurrah, what is your response to the impact of Twenty20 cricket on Indian cricket?
The reality is that when I grew up, playing Test cricket was the ultimate. It mattered professionally also in terms of making a living from this game, which does become important at some point. You had to play Test cricket consistently for a long time to do that. But now you don't need to play Test cricket. The advent of Twenty 20 and the IPL has meant that it is possible to make an extremely good living from the game without having to play Test cricket. In the past you had only the cream at the top who were making a good living, but now it's spread a lot more and you have a lot more people who make a very good living. It is one of the great positives of the T20 and the IPL.

But there is obviously the danger that players might sell themselves short. If they face early stumbles or hurdles early on in their Test career or in first-class cricket, there might be a few who may choose to stick to T20 because they are better at it and they are making better money from it and they don't want to risk losing that.

India will face this challenge a lot more because a lot more Indian players play in the IPL. So how we address that challenge and go out and make people and players value Test cricket - that will come down to scheduling. We have to schedule more Test matches per year. It will come down to compensation. You've got to compensate Test cricketers adequately now. It'll come down to marketing, how you market Test cricket, glorify its history. It'll come down to coaches at junior levels, how they talk to their wards, how they inspire them about Test cricket. It'll be about stories, it'll be about media. Everyone will have to play their part.

There have been some good examples recently of people who have been good players in Twenty20 and have come out and done well in Test cricket. It's a good thing for kids to see that you can succeed in all three forms of the game. That's important. I have no doubt that a lot of the kids playing today in the one-day and Test side have grown up having Test cricketers to admire. But it's kids who are my children's age or a little older, who are now getting interested in the game for the first time and are seeing the IPL, it's those kind of children that we need to educate and talk to about Test cricket.

The responsibility lies with the ICC and the boards to schedule enough Test matches. They might have to make a few sacrifices in terms of money. I have no doubt that if you play enough Test matches, kids will want to play it. People might not come to the grounds that easily, and that's why it's important to explore other avenues - whether it is day-night cricket, or venues where we play it, and the context of Test matches. We have to accept that people don't have the time, but there is still huge interest for Test cricket. People follow Test cricket, whether it's on television or the internet, in India as much as elsewhere.

In the last few years in as much as there have been fears, the number of the articles that get written about Test cricket, the number of people who follow it passionately, who talk to me about Test cricket - that hasn't changed.

 
 
"It was important for me how the team was projected. We were going through a rough patch, we had come out of this match-fixing thing. We were always known as poor travellers. Each team has its own image; that's what you want to change"
 

In this Twenty20 age, how must India handle the passing of a great generation of its Test players? After 8-0, how can the transition be made smooth?
At some stage there is going to be a whole new generation of players. I know there are always links between one generation of players and the others; there is always a middle-level of management - players who have been around and are still going to be around for a few years. Two or three guys might retire in the next couple of years, whenever that is, who knows? But after that there are going to be guys who are going to be around, and the responsibility is going to lie on these guys to step it up. Guys like Sehwag, Gambhir, Harbhajan, Zaheer, Dhoni himself. Not only as players but also as spokesmen. As people who decide the culture of the team, the way the team is run, the image they want to project of the team, regarding which form of the game is important to this team. It will be a group of players, who I think are already seniors, who will set the tone for the next generation coming through.

That cycle goes on, that cycle will go on. It's got to move on from being the team that was led by my generation, which is already happening slowly and will continue to do so over the next few years. I'm not saying the seniors need to be replaced, they will be the sounding boards. But the direction and the culture of the team over the next ten years will have to be decided by this capable group of young players.

Virat Kohli is now seen as the leader of a younger generation - do you see him as your successor in the No. 3 slot?
He's got the talent - that was obvious from the time he was an Under-19 kid. He didn't have a really good [first] year at Royal Challengers Bangalore but you could see that there was talent. That's not going to change. He's got the talent to succeed at this level and it's great to see the evolution of this kid, from what we saw at 19 to what he's becoming now. His consistency of performance and his ability to play in different conditions and score runs in different conditions - that's great.

And he's got to keep doing that. As with any career and anything that you play for a long time, questions are going to be asked of him. On the technical front, on the physical front, on the mental front. On how he deals with failure, with success, with all that happens around him in Indian cricket. Questions are going to be asked about him, and how he comes up with solutions or answers is going to decide how long or how successful a career he is going to have.

Indian cricket can hope that someone like Virat, who has seemingly made that transition from a precocious talent to a performer at the international level, is able to have a long and successful career. The strength of your team is finally built around people who can have long and successful careers. You can then build a team around him and some of the other young guys.

Do you worry about where Indian cricket is at the moment - that we are going to be a very good, competitive team in ODI cricket rather than a successful Test team? Or that all of this depends on ensuring that your fast bowlers conveyor belt doesn't go around so quickly?
I wouldn't say I'm worried. I would say there are challenges that Indian cricket faces today. Some of these are challenges that have always been there in the history of our game - whether it is finding good quality fast bowling allrounders or finding opening batsmen, or finding real fast bowlers. These challenges have to be addressed, and it's no point worrying. There are lots of positives about Indian cricket.

It's going to be a whole new level of thinking, a whole new level of leadership, of thought, that is required. Like I said, of how the team is going to project itself. You can't just let things flow. If we just let things happen, they will happen. You might get lucky, you might suddenly find a brilliant player or a brilliant fast-bowling allrounder from somewhere, but there needs to be serious thought put into the way the team is and what is the way forward and how we want to see the Indian team, not today but ten years ahead.

When we got together as a group of guys in 2000, it was important for me how the team was projected. We were going through a rough patch, we had come out of this match-fixing thing. We were always known as poor travellers. It was said we were scared of fast bowling, we were arrogant, rude, or that because of match-fixing you can't trust anyone. These were the things that you wanted to change. Ten years later, now there is another challenge. Each team has its own image; that's what you want to change. Maybe this team now has the image where it's said they are very good one-day players, they are not that good as Test players. You keep hearing talk around the place about what impact the IPL might have, how everyone will only want to play IPL and how it might affect our Test cricket. Hopefully these guys will go on challenge that notion, to show us that it is not the case.

The day before the next Test that India plays, if the team called you into the dressing room to make a speech, what would you say to them?
I wouldn't go in! I don't know what my future might be. Somewhere along the line I'm sure I'll bump into the guys. I'll catch up with them. But I don't know if I'd be really comfortable walking into an Indian dressing room now. In some ways I just think that when you move on from there, you move on.

I don't think I was good at speeches, even as captain. The people who inspired me and mattered most to me and whom I looked up to were people who actually walked the talk. Who didn't necessarily speak a lot but you knew that they put in 100% - what they did was an example more than what they said. I did say a few things but I don't think I was the guy who gave a lot of speeches. So, well, if I did go into the dressing room again, I would just tell them that it's their time now, my time has passed.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by jay57870 on (March 31, 2012, 13:32 GMT)

In his stirring speech, Rahul acknowledged his longtime teammate Sachin a few times. He referred particularly to Bradman's chat with Tendulkar as "more than mere approval ... it was as if the great Don had finally, passed on his torch. Not to an Aussie or an Englishman or a West Indian. But to one of our own"! This should dispel any notion of a divisive Rahul versus Sachin debate. Rather it should be about Rahul AND Sachin. After all (per S. Rajesh), the two have "more partnership runs and century stands than any other pair ... 6920 runs in 143 partnerships at 50.51, with 20 century stands." More importantly, they did the heavy lifting - along with Ganguly, Kumble & Co - in leading Team India from the depths of the 2000 match-fixing scandal to great heights later in the decade. They did it with dignity, courage & integrity. As Sachin put it: "There was and is only one Rahul Dravid. There can be no other. I will miss Rahul in the dressing-room and out in the middle." That says it all!!

Posted by jay57870 on (March 31, 2012, 13:27 GMT)

Sharda - This interview reaffirms Dravid's preeminence as a great cricketer respected around the world. That's why he was the first non-Australian invited to deliver the 2011 Bradman Oration last year. According to journalist Daniel Brettig, it was a "meticulous, wide-ranging and fascinating speech ... perhaps the most significant delivered since the Oration began." His erudite insights covered a wide range of salient topics impacting the game today. His views are open-minded, refreshingly different (from many comments posted below). He called Indian cricket a "microcosm" of India itself: It stands not "just for sport, but possibility, hope, opportunities" & rejected the "cliched image" of it being only about money & power. Yes, he credited BCCI for spreading revenues & opening doors for aspiring cricketers - Zaheer, Munaf, Yadav, Sehwag, Dhoni - from all corners of the nation, especially small towns. And IPL for bringing foreign & local players together in the dressing-room! (TBC)

Posted by D.Sharma on (March 31, 2012, 11:40 GMT)

20 days on and there are still articles about Dravid. He is finally getting the overdue recognition he deserves!

Posted by   on (March 31, 2012, 10:43 GMT)

Truly vintage Dravid. Good piece of work, Sharda Ugra and Cricinfo Editorial Team

Posted by McGorium on (March 31, 2012, 2:04 GMT)

@S.Jagernath: Averages difference of under 3-4 runs per innings is not statistically significant, IMHO. Kallis is not better than SRT because his average is 0.75 runs higher (or the other way around). As you mention, Dravid was India's de facto opener for much of his career, and on occasion, the de jure opener as well. He has often protected INdia's strokemakers from the new ball. He is certainly not the greatest overall batsman India ever produced (that would have to be SRT), but he is certainly the best modern test batsman India ever produced, behind SM Gavaskar. SRT's 50 100's and aggregate run are largely an artifact of his early debut at the age of 16; Dravid was 22-23 when he made his debut, and their averages are largely comparable. Even Ponting or Kallis might've equalled or surpassed SRT in aggregate runs had they made their debut at 18-19 instead of 22-24. SRT isn't head and shoulders above his peers, IMHO. Marginally better maybe when you consider his longevity, but no more.

Posted by   on (March 30, 2012, 20:17 GMT)

Rahul is one of the great player in the era of cricket.he is quite a decent player,whose luck or faith was not with him.when he was captain, all is not well in indian dressing room and bcoz of coach,india lost to bangladesh in world cup.and he has to pay the price. he is a class player who plays for team not for individual milestone. and again ahen team is not performing well in last 8 tests, bcoz of captain rude character , he has to loose his place. i really really want to see him play test cricket for another 3-4 yrs bcoz he has the potential to perform.not like others who play for records.

Posted by S.Jagernath on (March 30, 2012, 14:55 GMT)

Rahul Dravid is the most difficult batsman to rate,he had the best technique of any batsmen of his generation but unfortunately was not the player with the highest average or most runs.His average not being higher than 55 is mainly due to the fact that he had to open & was often at the crease very early due to Virender Sehwag's foolishness.His main competitor is Ricky Ponting,who often struggled against swing & quality spin.Ponting also benefitted from a carbon-fibre reinforced bat for a period.Dravid should then be regarded a little more highly than him.

Posted by   on (March 30, 2012, 14:21 GMT)

He failed only in the last three tests. In 2011 he top scored in world cricket with 1145 @57 plus. People who do not deserve to tie his shoe laces called for his retirement. He won a test match for India against windies in June 2011 and scored 3 outstanding centuries against England thereafter. He did drop a few catches and would thought hard about it. He also said that he would not have had any qualms if he was dropped in 2008. This cricketer should have been born in a different era. He is a realised soul and no man made evaluation can judge him.

Posted by Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas_Atheist on (March 30, 2012, 13:47 GMT)

@AbAdvani, take a bow! I couldn't have said it any better. "Selfless cricketers put the nation ahead of individual milestones"; "We would have won the Asia cup too had Sachin not robbed India off victory by slowing down in the slog overs to score his century - Rahul would never have done that - that's the difference between Rahul and Sachin". You kept it so simple yet so powerful. And yes, Rahul would never have done that - that's no clairvoyance. That's a simple fact we all have arrived at by seeing how Dravid went about, in the wake of team needs vs his own personal milestones.

Posted by Johnny_129 on (March 30, 2012, 13:42 GMT)

How come WI don't keep comparing Lara to Viv...Aust don't keep comparing Hayden to Ponting - it may have got an occasional mention. Yet Dravid fans keep comparing him to SRT and creating a rift amongst Indian fans and possibly the team! THEY ARE BOTH GREAT SERVANTS OF INDIAN CRICKET. Dravid was excellent and for a large part of his career batted better than SRT BUT SRT will always remain the greatest in the hearts and minds of MOST CRICKET FANS. Lest we forget, SRT was batting for India when he was 16 - when most so called modern day great were barely off their mothers milk! Selfish cricketers do not win World Cups!

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