New Delhi: India's wall for 16 years has decided to call it quits before it crumbled and the critics got ready to pick up the debris in a brutal way.
After bidding adieu to the one-dayers in September, one thought Rahul Dravid would play Test cricket for at least for another year or two, and this belief was backed by the form he enjoyed the last year. From January 2011 to January 2012, Dravid played 15 Tests and scored over 1200 runs with the help of five centuries and four half-centuries.
He had a disappointing series in Down Under as the Australian pacers revealed the cracks in his solid defence. We all know that it is time youngsters are introduced in the Test side. India skipper MS Dhoni had hinted that the seniors will be phased out and not axed immediately. But it was hard to think that it would be Dravid who would retire first.
Despite what the stats reveal, we all know he still has a lot to offer to the Indian cricket. Profession of journalism requires us to be objective and there are times when we have to report things factually and not what we think personally. Blogs give us that freedom to express what we feel.
Just a few weeks ago, the author of this blog had an article on Dravid and the chinks in his batting. That was a professional take. Today when he announced his retirement, the cricket fan in me felt miserable. Parting ways with a glorious and influential piece of your growing up is painful. It felt the same when Sourav Ganguly had decided to hang his boots three years back. When you have completed your journey from childhood to adulthood following the glorious careers of Dravid and his contemporaries, it becomes hard to believe they won't be a part of the Indian cricket team anymore. No matter what we say, we are not prepared to imagine a team without them.
Dravid was always a team's man and did everything that the team wanted him to do. With a career so unscathed, so illustrious, so dignified and so respectful, Dravid is undoubtedly the perfect example of the gentleman that cricket has always talked about.
He kept wickets in ODIs when Ganguly took over as India captain. That move not only cemented his place in the ODIs as he was struggling with his form, but also allowed the team to play seven specialist batsmen. It helped India reach finals of the 2003 World Cup. Dravid's performance behind the wicket was much appreciated although he was not a specialist keeper.
My favourite Dravid's knock is his 233 in Adelaide in 2003-04, where as Ganguly said he played "like god”. He had batted for over 14 hours and handed India a sensational win.
Today, when he has said goodbye to international cricket, the least we can do is to show our gratitude to the batsman who earned the names like Mr Reliable, Mr Dependable for saving India on numerous occasions. Thank You Dravid for giving us glorious victories, face-saving draws and a great lesson of sportsmanship.