Such is the rule of sport that all good things have to come to an end, and this time it was for someone who can finish with his head held high.
There could have been ways in which he could have done it, but Rahul Dravid chose to do it his way, not at the end of the hustle and bustle of the tour of Australia when everyone was gunning for the heads of quite a few India players. It was similar to the way he quit as captain after the 2007 World Cup, where he took time off after the West Indies tour and took a call once his mind was clear of all inhibitions.
I’m sure that somewhere after the tour of Australia, or at the end of the Adelaide Test, he had made up his mind.
These decisions are such big ones, especially in terms of something that is very close to a player’s heart. The decision to stop, the thought that you will not hit a cricket ball in a Test again can be heart-breaking.
Rahul will continue to make money from the sport or whatever he does in life because when you play for so long, other avenues open up.
But it can never give the satisfaction he will get when he cuts through point or whips it through midwicket off a fast bowler. That is what it means to a sportsman and that is why this decision must have been a well-thought out and a tough one.
For me, it was a right decision. I would have wanted to see Rahul walk off the ground with a Test hundred or a win. I felt the tour of England would have been the right place to finish.
For me, his biggest contribution, along with the players of his generation, is that he has forced Indian cricket to be noticed overseas. When we started our careers, we were considered soft overseas.
Since 2000, with the advent of the new coach, there was a distinct effort from the team. With the likes of Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Kumble, and the arrival of the youthful and fearless Sehwag, and Harbhajan and Zaheer, and Yuvraj in one-day cricket, a new chapter unfolded.
As captain, it was heartening to see all of us were on the same plane. Watching Dravid's career unfold was not a surprise. He always had the technique and ability to survive at this level, but he compounded that with a tremendous will and determination to succeed.
When you get past 13,000 Test runs, you will go through innings and games where you will play very, very well. I have always judged a player on the basis of how he has performed away from home conditions. But if I have to pick his best knock, it would be against Australia at Kolkata.
Dravid and Laxman not only won the Test and series but also to an extent changed the face and confidence of Indian cricket. The best period of his batting was from 2001 to 2005. The knocks at Eden, Adelaide, Headingley, Rawalpindi and in New Zealand before the 2003 World Cup were some of the best. If there was a drop, it was since the 2006 tour of South Africa. For the first time, I felt he was finding it hard to get his act together as a batsman.
Dravid, a tough batting perfectionist
Rahul has had some tough years, especially in 2008 and 2009, but showed remarkable strength of character to turn it around on the tour of England.
His decision is the right one because I would not want to see someone as great as him play in an era where the team's performance is on a dip. He has also made a statement to the selectors that the team needs a change. He made it clear the time has come to take decisions.
(The writer is a former India captain who made his debut with Dravid)
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