Rahul Dravid, who announced his retirement from international and domestic cricket on Friday, has said the next few years will be interesting and challenging times for Indian cricket and that he believed the next generation of batsmen are capable of achieving more than he had.
Dravid's retirement has coincided with India's worst phase as a Test team in recent times, having lost eight consecutive Tests in England and Australia and mixed results in one-dayers. Fans and the media have been calling for either a phased or complete revamp of India's batting line-up and Dravid's step was the first high-profile departure in the aftermath of the Australia tour. Dravid admitted that the results were painful but said India's future looks healthy.
"We are all disappointed by the fact that we didn't do well in England and Australia, not just for the cricketers, but for people all around," Dravid said. "Having said that, I feel Indian cricket is in a good place and I think there are some really exciting young talents coming through. As to who will replace me, there are some waiting in the wings who can definitely step up and take over."
Dravid was India's best batsman in England in 2011 by a fair distance. However, he suffered an unexpected slump in Australia, scoring 194 runs in four Tests at 24.25. The seniors were persisted with in all four Tests despite failing, while the in-form Rohit Sharma was benched. Virat Kohli's century in Adelaide, which was followed by a passionate and uninhibited celebration, only increased the calls for phasing out the seniors for accommodating more youngsters. Dravid said talent is not in short supply in India.
"They've got all the talent and skills required to achieve success at this level," Dravid said. "When I look back at myself as a 23-year-old when I played for India, and when I look at the talent on show now, I just know that I was nowhere near as talented as some of these kids.
"Just being talented doesn't necessarily mean you will have a successful Test career. There are a lot of things that go with it, how you face the challenges and deal with things that are more internal than external. I think it will be interesting and really fun for me, as I sit back on my couch, to watch some of these young players try to establish themselves over the next two to three years."
Besides Kohli and Rohit, the batsmen vying for the vacancies in India's Test batting line-up, at No.3 and No.6, include Suresh Raina, Cheteshwar Pujara, Manoj Tiwary, Ravindra Jadeja and S Badrinath. However, nobody has firmly established himself in the line-up (Jadeja is yet to play a Test), due to reasons varying from injury, to form, inconsistency in selection and adaptability in foreign conditions. Dravid said he was fortunate his generation was able to nail down a position in the line-up over a period of time.
"If you look at my generation, Sachin, Laxman, Sourav, Viru (Sehwag), Gauti (Gambhir)...we were able to establish ourselves. It makes a big difference. If you have people coming in and out, what that means is you are not performing well and it leads to instability. It's going to be a challenging, interesting time to see how these kids end up."
Dravid stopped short of naming a particular player capable of replacing him. "I wouldn't like to name one Indian player. I think there is a huge group of players that can be better than Rahul Dravid. I'm sure in 16-17 years' time you will be attending a press conference of a player who has probably done a lot more than I have."