Rahul Dravid is a man given to contemplation and impulsive decisions have no place in his life. Six months ago the Oval Test, where India suffered its fourth consecutive loss of the series, could have been his last. Had the series not seen the best of him, Dravid would have announced his retirement then and not on a muggy Friday afternoon here at his home ground.
In a press conference that could have easily descended into chaos and disorder, overflowing as it was with overexcited TV cameramen and photographers, Dravid was his dignified self, announcing to the world that he would never play international cricket again. He did this in front of his family, wife and children, who had been present at The Oval as well where Dravid had contemplated to walk away from the game.
“I had played so well in England and thought I had done enough to deserve to be on tour to Australia,” he had told HT on phone a couple of days ago.
On Friday, he first read out from a prepared text, and then answered a stream of questions with equanimity, grace and humour, without losing sight of the fact that he was speaking on his own career, which without doubt has been one of the finest in the history of the game.
The question raised a number of times was on the timing of his decision, on whether he would have liked to go when on a high and not after a terrible dip in his form. Like the man and the manner in which he has played his cricket, the answers were well-thought out, the sum and substance being he had arrived at his decision after giving it a great deal of thought.
On hindsight, it is obvious that had he known what fate awaited him in Australia, his outstanding form in England would not have tempted him to postpone what he had planned in advance.
But sport is dogged with uncertainties, something which outstanding sportsmen like Dravid strive to overcome in pursuit of excellence. It is also about giving your best to the team as the final lines from the text he read out amplified: “My approach to cricket has been reasonably simple, it was about giving everything to the team, it was about playing with dignity, and it was about upholding the spirit of the game. I hope I have done some of that. I have failed at times, but I have never stopped trying. It is why I leave with sadness but also with pride.”