It was evening of eulogy, emotion and bonhomie as the past, present and future of Indian cricket gathered in Mumbai to pay tribute to one of the greatest servants of the game, Rahul Sharad Dravid.
Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and MS Dhoni spoke fondly about Dravid, the cricketer and Rahul, the man.
“It’s been a great partnership with you, Rahul. When we look back, we can gladly say we will only remember the wonderful memories. I just spoke about the 55 catches you have taken [off my bowling].
“All of us know how he is as a person. During the evenings outs on tours, he would know exactly what I hated. He was at times lost in his own thoughts, probably thinking about how he would bat the next day or analysing the day’s proceedings. I know in the next couple of months he would be busy with the IPL. I tell you it’s going to get busier.”
“He was one of the huge pillars through which Indian cricket went forward. He is one of the greatest batsmen not just in India but in world cricket,” Ganguly said. “[Dravid] played in an era when Indian cricket went from strength to strength.
“I was lucky to have you as vice-captain for five years. During my captaincy, you and John Wright did a lot of work behind the doors to build a strong Indian team. You are one of the best No. 3 batsmen I have ever seen.”
“I will definitely be missing [Dravid] in the dressing room. When I first met you as a 16-year-old, playing for Karnataka Under-19, I was impressed with your passion for the game and your style. We then went on to play for India and I cherish our relationship that blossomed over the years.
“In 1996, Rahul made his debut at Lord’s where he got out after scoring 95. He must have been really disappointed not to have got his century. But he proved how much effort, hard work and pride he puts into his game when he scored his century at Lord’s in 2011. Celebrations showed how much it meant for him to score it at the Lord’s for his country.
“He has always been a very selfless cricketer. And that was proved by the various roles he has donned as a cricketer over the years. Right from opening the batting to keeping, he has always showed that for him the team comes first. All the best to Rahul as he prepares to spend the time with his lovely family. I would also like to congratulate his family for the upbringing and the way he has been. Even after achieving so much he has always remained grounded.”
“At a time when it is considered that aggression is verbal, he never said a word to the opposition. He showed the aggression through taking a catch or staying at the crease and channelising the discomfort and aggression in the best possible manner.
“He is one of the greatest to play the game and the greatest to play at No. 3. He has got the most catches. He was always ready to do anything for the country and the team when it came to opening the batting, wicket-keeping, or fielding at silly point or at the slips.
“India lost in the first round in the 2007 World Cup and then there was a phase were we won 20-22 matches chasing and Rahul bhai has been a part of both. He was someone who would walk through the obstacles.
“As a wicketkeeper, he has taken some catches which many regular keepers wouldn’t have. It is a tribute from a lot of youngsters who have learned from Jammy. Not to forget he could play most of the sports well, be it soccer or badminton. He is a true gentleman.
“His legacy will continue for us. I wish Jam all the best. I hope he continues to interact with young cricketers coming into NCA.”
Dravid thanked all his team-mates for their tributes.
“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, maybe 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 the Ranji Trophy [and] 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.”