A transcript of Rahul Dravid’s speech, made at the function organised by the BCCI to felicitate him in Mumbai on Tuesday.
To the BCCI, former India players, members of the Indian cricket team, my various other colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.
I’d made a pact with myself that I wouldn’t cry at any of the functions over the last two or three weeks. I think that has been tested to the limit today. It has been nearly three weeks since I announced my retirement from international cricket and first-class cricket. It has really given me a chance over the last three weeks to sort of sit back and, in some ways, take it all in, and look back on what, for me, is a dream come true.
At one time, I was like any other kid in the street, any other kid in India, with a love for this game and a desire to play for India. I feel so blessed that I have been able to live that dream for over 16 years. Obviously, like some of the other guys have mentioned, for the next couple of months [when the IPL will be on] it does not feel like I have retired in some ways. It is still time to stay fit – it is getting harder and harder, I’m not enjoying going to gym, but I am still being forced to, at least for the next two months.
It is only in June that I will probably get time to be unemployed, and have a lot of time on my hands. As Anil (Kumble) and Sourav (Ganguly) have warned me, it probably gets busier. I am not sure doing what, but we’ll just see…
I have had a chance over the last three weeks to try and think about what playing for India meant to me. What was this dream? What has it given me? Playing for India gave me the opportunity to travel the world, to play on some of the greatest grounds in the world. In cities and countries that I had only heard of on the radio, listening to radio commentary with my father or waking up in the morning and picking up the newspaper to see what Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, GR Viswanath had done the next day. For me to have the opportunity to play on these great grounds, to play against some of these greatest of players – players that I had growing up looking up to, it was fantastic. Cricket has given me a lifetime of experiences.
It has made me give joy to a lot of people by just playing a sport that I love. I have experienced some unbelievable victories and crushing defeats in my career as a first-class cricketer. What I have realised with it is everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive. Playing for India humbled me. It made me appreciate how lucky I was to be able to do what I did for so long.
When I look back on this long journey … you recognise that you have been very fortunate, very lucky. You have had the support of so many people who have made this dream possible. I truly feel that I have been in some ways at the right place, at the right time. For me to be able to be standing here in front of some of my heroes, people whom I admire, people whom I respect, and to be able to talk to you all … I think it has not been culmination of my efforts but the efforts of so many people who have gone into making this wonderful day possible.
I’ll probably miss out on a few people when I speak and I hope that they forgive me. But I would like to put on record and recognise so many people who were behind the scenes: groundsmen, scorers, umpires, people who organise a game. Wherever you go in India there are so many people who selflessly do honorary jobs to make this game possible for us, to set the stage for us. Without their contributions these hundreds would not have been possible, these memories would not have been possible.
When I look back on the various coaches that I have had, right from the time of the late Keki Tarapore, who first taught me the basics of the game, to the many coaches through my time at Karnataka, through all the international coaches that I have had, I feel each of them has added to my game. Each of them helped me become a better cricketer, and a better person. For that I am thankful.
When I stand here and I look at some of the senior players who have been kind enough to come for this occasion, I feel really lucky. As a young boy I dreamed of just being able to get an autograph out of them, just to be able to meet them. This sport has given me a chance to interact with some of them. I would like to thank all my senior cricketers, all my heroes, all my role models for inspiring me, for leaving behind a legacy that I was very conscious of, a legacy of Indian cricket that I was very aware of. It meant something to me, and of the life I wanted to lead. And something that I hope they will feel I have tried to take forward.
The various teams and cricketers that I have played with at Karanataka and in India have been the highlight of my career and will also be some of my fondest memories. Without my various team-mates … some of whom have spoken most eloquently and most touchingly of our time together. Thanks Anil, thanks Sourav, thanks Laxie [VVS Laxman] and thanks Mahi [MS Dhoni], your words have meant a lot to me. The memories we have shared as a team, and some of the victories and things we have achieved will be special and will remain special for me. I would like to believe that we took a great legacy of the Indian team forward. We have left a strong legacy for Mahi and his young team to take forward. I have no doubt that they will take it to even greater heights.
Anil, I will miss your intensity. I will miss your desire. I have learned so much from watching you. I might not miss some of the vegetarian meals – without mushroom, without onions, without garlic. But there is a lot that I will miss.
Sourav, ours was a great partnership. As you would expect with captains and vice-captains over a long period, it is a relationship like a husband and wife in some ways – it goes through its ups and downs. But I think we both agree that we came through with pretty much flying colours. There are some really good memories that we shared and there are some great moments that we can have a good laugh and a drink over, may be in the IPL.
To Laxman, thanks for one the greatest days in my cricketing career. Without you Calcutta would never have been possible. I was privileged to be able to have watched one of the greatest innings played by an Indian cricketer ever from the other end. Thanks for your friendship. Thanks for your conversations, thanks for your company at second slip, where many a topic, including Ranji Trophy to why contractors and architects are not doing a good jobs, was discussed.
Mahi, I think you can be really proud of what you have done with this Indian cricket team. To watch you lift the World Cup that day, it is almost a year to the day, was very special for me. Especially after what happened in 2007, to see a team and sea a group of boys go on to win the World Cup was indeed memorable. And to see something like watching Kapil Dev lift the World Cup as a ten-year-old that inspired me, to see a group of cricketers and a generation of cricketers that I had played with do it again in 2011 was special. I know that you have inspired a whole host of ten-year-olds by what you and your team did last year. There are challenges as you have noticed over the last bit of time, but I truly believe you have got the right temperament and right capability to take the legacy of Indian cricket forward.
A lot of the names and lot of the people I mentioned are legends, and have great records in terms of statistics. Sometimes the people who achieve great things, of course they do through hardwork and sacrifice, but they are also very lucky. I have played with a lot of people who in the book of history of Indian cricket probably would not be considered great, at least statistically, but in my eyes everyone who played the game with me and played it with an intention to win, with a desire to win and gave it everything was a hero. And I learned so much from you. It was inspiring to watch people work so hard and struggle so much and sometimes not achieve what they want and come back and do it again and again. I would like to thank all my team-mates for your memories, your friendships. Nothing of this would have been possible without you. It is something which I would dearly miss. Being part of an Indian cricket dressing room is something I would definitely miss – just the camaraderie, just the banter, just that striving … may be not the rap music.
I would also like to place on record my thanks to the KSCA, which was my local state association where I grew up, for their support, their guidance. Also the various officials at the BCCI for the various times when they gave me the right kind of encouragement and support. It has been a fascinating journey for me to see where Indian cricket has gone from the time I started in 1996. I still remember when we went for tours in 1996, sometimes Indian cricketers were treated, if I may use the word, as second-class citizens. We were the team that got the first tour of the summer in England, we were the team that got sent to some of the smaller grounds. The officials in the BCCI have ensured in 15 years times that we are the big boys of international cricket, that we dictate the terms. A lot of that has happened because of the performance of the players, but also because of the work that has been done by various officials, various office bearers with the BCCI during my time.
Over the last few weeks, I have also been really touched by the reaction to my decision to retire. All that I have read and listened to has really humbled me. It has humbled me not because a lot has been written and said, which in this day and age with so much media and publicity is bound to happen, but what really touched me was the care, the attention and the thought that people have put into writing some of the really nice things they have said about me. People have not gone about it casually. In fact, there are various qualities and virtues [of mine] that I have only discovered in the last few weeks, listening to people. I am not going to complain about that. It has been really touching. Thank you.
I may not be playing for India anymore but to the present Indian team what I would like to say is: guys, I will watch with great interest what I think is an extremely exciting and really talented group of young cricketers. I hope Indian cricket will always be a strong force, both on the field and off the field. And I have no doubt that I would take great pleasure, with a cup of tea and a biscuit in my hand, in watching you guys achieve great things.
Thank you very much.