New Delhi: Playing for one last time together in a cricket match, albeit for different teams in the Champions League Twenty20 summit clash here, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid on Sunday heaped encomiums on each other with the latter saying that his long time former India team-mate had inspired him to strive for excellence in the game.
Tendulkar's final T20 act and Dravid's last hurrah in competitive cricket were the talking points at the Feroz Shah Kotla here as the two legends got together though in the colours of Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals. The two legendary batsmen had announced that this would be their final Twenty20 season. (Also read: Gavaskar lauds Dravid as Rajasthan Royals' hero)
"Even though Tendulkar is of my age or two months younger to me, he is seven years senior to me as an international cricketer. When I came into the Indian team, in my third Test, Tendulkar was India captain. He was someone you would look up to as a young cricketer growing up. You saw this young kid do amazing things across the world. It was sort of inspiration for all of us playing first-class cricket," Dravid said before the start of the CLT20 finale.
"It was like, look if this guy can do it, we can also try to do it. The opportunity to try and share a dressing room with him, that was a huge motivation. For me to be on that England trip for the first time and share a dressing with him was a huge trip," said Dravid.
The 40-year-old Dravid had retired from international cricket at the beginning of 2012 while Tendulkar, who retired from One-Day Internationals last December, is in the twilight of his Test career. Together they have scored close to 92,000 runs in all formats of the game.
Tendulkar, who is also 40, returned the compliments, by describing Dravid as the 'master technician'.
"Absolutely, he is a master technician. Any day in my team, he will be number three, because there were so many innings in which he batted brilliantly. When the rest of the guys found it difficult, he was comfortable. He loved challenges and I knew we could bank on Rahul at the times of difficulty."
Tendulkar, who has already retired from One-day cricket but still playing the longest format, holds the record for most Test and ODI runs -- 15,837 and 18,426 runs respectively -- while Dravid has scored 13,288 Test runs and 10,889 in ODIs.
Tendulkar has also scored 100 international centuries (51 in Tests and 49 in ODIs).
The two cricket legends played together for the country for 16 years but rarely they have played against each other.
Asked about this, Dravid, who is leading the Rajasthan Royals side, said, "I can't remember playing against Sachin in Ranji Trophy for Karnataka versus Mumbai. Only played against him in West Zone versus South Zone. All our contests have been in coloured clothing, surprisingly, in spite of the fact that we played for so many years together. So one final time it is always great to play against Sachin."
Tendulkar also said that he would cherish this moment.
"I remember Rahul being part of Wills Trophy team when I was his captain but we played in whites. That was the first time I saw Rahul. I think it was way back in 1993-94 and since then we have been in whites and colours but playing in same team," he said.
"This is rare moment where we two actually get to play against each other in colour clothing, obviously in IPL. But on any other platform we have not been able to play against each other in whites and that would have been something special," said the senior batsman who is standing on the cusp of playing his 200th Test.
Tendulkar has not been in top form in this tournament, having scored only 20 runs in four matches with a highest of 15, but the Mumbaikar opened up in the semifinals against Trinidad and Tobago last night, hitting a 31-ball 35.
In the process, he completed 50,000 runs in all formats of cricket, becoming the first Indian to do so and 16th in the world. Before today's CLT20 final match, he has 50,009 runs in 956 competitive matches, which includes 551 List A matches, 307 First-class matches and 95 Twenty20 games.
Today's venue -- Kotla -- has been lucky for Tendulkar and it was here he struck his 35th Test century to surpass legendary Sunil Gavaskar.
Tendulkar did not have a great run as captain of the Mumbai Indians but played some memorable innings for the IPL franchise. In the T20 format, prior to today's outing, he had accumulated 2782 runs from 95 matches at an average of 33.11.
After playing in the last edition of IPL, which was won by his team, Tendulkar announced retirement from the format, but was somehow was convinced to play in CLT20.
Dravid, on the other hand, had a successful stint both as captain as well as a batsman in the Twenty20 format. He has scored 2528 runs from 108 matches at an average of 27.79.
He felt that IPL and CLT20 have helped India in doing better in the limited over formats.
"It (CLT20) is a great tournament. The crowd, the atmosphere. Some of the boys who are on our side, they never get to experience such things anywhere they go. And for them just to get the experience of playing against the likes of Tendulkar and others is great.
"And it's great for Indian cricket because a lot of these kids would go on to play for India and when they come in this sort of environment they are comfortable they know what to do. That is India has been doing exceptionally well in limited over cricket," Dravid said.
Tendulkar agreed and said the experience of playing with some of the best in the international circuit has helped Indian youngsters.
"It's a great tournament. You talk about players from West Indies, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and England, all the players love this tournament and look forward to it, such is the importance of IPL and now CLT20. We have thoroughly enjoyed being in the dressing room where we have got to know so many players we thought were just okay as a person but once you got to know them you find this is different and perceptions change about the players.
"It's about sharing knowledge with the players. It's not about senior players giving lectures to juniors, it is also about absorbing things and that has happened in the last six years. The bottomline is what Rahul said that Indian cricket is benefiting. You see so young players sharing dressing room with players from across the world. It's about understanding the game and that is what has happened to the Indian cricket."
For Dravid, it was also about shouldering additional responsibility as he had to weather the storm during IPL-6 spot-fixing and betting scandal.
For a man who has always relied on his instincts to look ahead rather than ponder over what had happened before, Dravid faced questions on the team's integrity and ethics stoicly and weathered one controversy after another when the Royals were rocked by the arrest and subsequent life ban on S Sreesanth and Ankeet Chavan. A decision is still awaited on Ajit Chandila.
After taking over the mantle of captaincy from Shane Warne during the fifth season of the IPL last year, Dravid made for a perfect leader.
"It's been a huge roller coaster. We had some great momentum going towards the end of IPL. Then some unfortunate incidents happened that brought us down a little bit as a team. Just the way the boys have responded even towards the end of the IPL and the way they have got together in this tournament I couldn't have asked for anything more," he said.
"It's been a privilege to me to captain this side and work with the support staff. It's been a fabulous journey and great ride."