The saddest bit about Rahul Dravid's retirement is that they don't make batsmen like him anymore. He belonged to a different era, of a type which the cricket academies no longer churn out. He is the last of the classical batsmen, correct and stylish. Unlike the power game of the current generation, concentration was the key to Dravid's game. There may be more celebrated batsmen and successful captains, but when it came to being a team-man, no one could match him. Ask him to open on a green top, keep wickets to lend balance to the side, Dravid was always up for it. As he declared his international innings closed on Friday, his thoughts on retirement:
What prompted this decision?
I had a glorious run and felt it was time to move on for the next generation of India cricketers to take the team forward. 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. But it also wasn't a difficult decision because I knew deep down that the time was right.
Any achievement which could have left you more satisfied?
If you play for 16 years, there are going to be times when you have to face incredible highs and disappointing lows. At the end of the day, there is satisfaction that even though I might have failed to achieving certain things, I left no stone unturned to try and become the best cricketer I could ever become.
Did the Oz tour debacle impact your decision?
I don't follow every word that is written. But I know that you get criticised when you don't do well. I was sure that after the Australia tour, I would sit down and look at a lot of things. Now it is easy to say but I would like to think that I would have come to the same conclusion.
How long did it take to arrive at the decision? Did you speak to Sachin Tendulkar?
For a year now, after each 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 and think dispassionately. I came to this decision and knew I was clear in my mind. I have spoken to Sachin and a lot of my team-mates. Everyone was supportive.
Playing with legends
It was a honour to play alongside a galaxy of stars and legends, whether it was Sachin, Anil, Sourav, Srinath, Laxman, Sehwag and Harbhajan. I was fortunate to have played in an era which was successful for Indian cricket. Some of the guys I played with, my sons will not understand, but if they go on to follow the game, they will realise that I played with some of the great players and what they mean to India cricket.
The timing of the decision… after a poor series in Australia?
Of course, it would have been nice to do well and contribute in the last series. Such decisions are based on a lot of other things and not on one series.
Any particular moment in the series which sparked the decision?
I don't think there was a Eureka moment for me. For me, it has come after a lot of contemplation, with friends and family. As you play international cricket and see greats retire, you know that this will come to everyone.
Did dropped catches of late influence the decision?
It didn't influence the decision. But over the last year, I have dropped two or three catches which I could have taken. People who have played with me will tell you that nothing frustrates me more than dropping a catch. I can get over getting out after 15-20 minutes but when I drop a catch, it stays with me for a very long time.
There must have been the temptation to play one more Test and wave goodbye in front of home fans?
I have been part of some nice farewells but I've made a decision now. Just to keep playing for the sake of one Test, I don't think it was right.
What does the sobriquet 'Wall' mean to you?
I never took it seriously. When people called me the 'Wall' I joked that they were setting up me because if I failed, it was easier for them to say there was a chink in the 'Wall'. A lot of people call me that fondly and I respect that. But I never thought I was a 'Wall' when I walked out to the middle.
Where do you see Indian cricket heading in Tests. Do you see anybody coming close to you?
We are disappointed that we didn't do well in England and Australia. Having said so, I feel Indian cricket is in a good place. There is exciting talent coming through. As to who will replace me, in the last two years I have felt, there have been talented batsmen waiting in the wings who can take over. When I look back at myself as a 23-year-old and look at the present players, I know I was nowhere near as talented as these kids. Obviously, being talented does not necessarily mean that you'll 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.
It will be interesting to 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. If you have people coming in and out all the time, it means they are not performing well enough. This breeds instability.