It is an age-old predicament every sportsman confronts in the twilight of his career. When does he choose the moment to give up his most cherished possession, something he has lived for and enjoyed doing the most? The greater the excellence achieved, the harder it is to give it up, to wake up one day and convince oneself that "Enough, my mind and body need rest".
You have to be a super achiever, a perfectionist to be given time and space to make your own judgment on when you feel your body and mind are not in sync and instead of chasing shadows, it is best to step aside.
All this is easier said than followed. For, who is to decide when the loss of form is permanent and not an aberration very common to sport. The older one grows, each failure gets magnified and questions are raised on ones ability to turn the clock back.
All these questions came to my mind while watching Rahul Dravid play an innings of great solidity and impregnable defence in adverse batting conditions.
Here was a man whose past year or so had passed in struggling to put up decent scores while appearing vulnerable against the bouncing, moving ball. His invaluable assets - focus and concentration - had deserted him and he appeared to be living on borrowed time.
I had a brief conversation with him after he returned from South Africa.
No, he was not thinking of retirement. He did not think he batted all that badly and was unlucky to get out to some very good balls. But that was not bothering him as much as the fact that he had to live up to the high standards of excellence he had set for himself.
And the obvious question whose answer lay within him was would he be able to play like he has done for most of his distinguished career?
Like all outstanding sportsmen, targets must have been set, and it is likely he would have told himself, "let me see how it goes', especially in England where he would be tested to the limit against the moving ball.
Like a seasoned pro
On the Sabina Park wicket, where the ball moved, bounced and spun treacherously, Dravid played like a seasoned pro who was loving every challenge thrown at him. Every other batsman on that wicket appeared clueless and uncertain of what lay next, except for the leaner, fitter Dravid.
He tackled the bouncing ball with soft wrists, ducked away when needed with ease, but cut and drove whenever given the opportunity with the assurance of a man on the top of his craft. India would have been embarrassed by this lowly-rated West Indian team but for Dravid's contribution.
It is obvious from what one has seen so far in this series that India's second line, the so-called bench strength, is not as strong as we would like to believe. Hence, the form of men like Dravid assumes even more significance if India have to protect their status as the best team in the world this year.