'I'd made a pact with myself that I won't cry in any of the functions over the last two-three weeks. I think it is being tested to the limit today,' Dravid started off by saying. He could well have been speaking for those present or those watching and listening to him.
The office bearers of 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 won't cry in any of the functions over the last two-three weeks. I think it is being tested to the limit today.
It's been nearly three weeks since I announced my retirement from international cricket, and first class cricket. It's really given me a chance over the last three weeks to sort of sit back and in some way sit back and take it all in and look back on what for me was a dream come true. At one time I was like any other kid on the street, any other kid in India with a love of this game and the desire to play for India. And 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, with the IPL in the next couple of months, it doesn't feel like I have retired in some way. I am still trying to remain fit. It's getting harder and harder and I am not enjoying going to the gym, but I am still being forced to at least for the next two months. But it's only in June I think I will get time to be unemployed or have a lot of time on my hands but as Anil and Saurav have warned me, it probably gets busier — I am not sure doing what but we will just see.
I've had a chance over the last three weeks to try and think about what playing for India meant to me. What does it mean? What has it given me? What has it meant to me? Playing for India gave me an opportunity to travel the world, it gave me an opportunity to play on some of the greatest grounds in the world — grounds and 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 to pick up the newspaper and see what Sunil Gavaskar or G.R. Vishwanath or Kapil Dev had done, you know, the next day. For me to have the opportunity to play on these great grounds, to play against some of these greatest players, players that I, growing up looked up to, you know. it was just fantastic. I think Cricket has given me a lifetime of experiences. It maybe gives joy to a lot of people by just playing a sport that I love.
I have experienced, I think, like I said, great joy, I have experienced unbelievable victories and I have experienced crushing defeats in my career as a first class cricketer. You know what I have realised with it is that everything does pass and we can endure and we can survive. It humbled me. I think playing for India humbled me. It made me appreciate how lucky I was to do what I did for so long. When I look back on this long journey, I recognise that at a time like this you tend to reminisce and you tend to look back and you recognise that you have been very fortunate, you have been very lucky to have the support of so many people who made this dream possible for me. You know I truly feel that I have been in some ways at the right place at the right time for all this to come together, for me 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's been a culmination of not only my efforts but efforts of so many people who have gone into making this wonderful day for me possible.
I'll probably miss out a few people when I speak and I hope they'll forgive me but I would like to put on record and recognise so many people who work behind the scenes in our cricket. Groundsmen. Scorers. Umpires. People who organise the game. Wherever you go in India, there are so many people who selflessly do honorary jobs to make this game possible for us, who set the stage for us. Without their contribution, these hundreds would not have been possible. These memories for me would not have been possible.
When I look back on the various coaches I have had, right from the time of Mr Keki Tarapore who taught me the basics of the game to my so many coaches to my time at Karnataka, to all my international coaches I have had. I feel each of them has added to my game. Each of them gave me something that helped me become a better cricketer and a better person. For that I am thankful.
When I stand here and when 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 dreamt of just to be able to get an autograph of them, just to be able to meet them. And this sport and this game 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, something that meant something to me, a life I wanted to lead, and something that I hope they would feel I have tried to take forward.
The various teams and cricketers that I have played with — at Karnataka and in India — have been the highlight of my career and will also be some of my fondest memories. Without my various team-mates and some of those present here have spoken most eloquently and most touchingly of our time together. Thanks Anil. Thanks Saurav. Thanks Laxi. Thanks Mahi. Your words have meant a lot to me. I think the memories that we have shared as a team, of some of the victories and some of the things that we've achieved - like you all have rightly said 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've left a strong legacy for Mahi and his young team to take forward. I have no doubt that they would take it to even greater heights.
Anil, I will miss our intensity - I will miss your intensity, I will miss your desire. I learnt so much from just watching you. I might not miss some of the vegetarian meals without mushrooms, without onion, without garlic, but there's a lot of that that I'll miss.
Saurav, ours was a great partnership. As you would expect, with captains and vice captains over a long period, it's a relationship like a husband and wife in some ways — it goes through its ups and its downs. But I think we both agree that we came through with pretty much flying colours and there are some very good memories that we shared, there are some great moments that I think we can have a good laugh and a drink over, maybe in the IPL.
To Laxman, thanks for one of the greatest days in my cricketing career. Without you, Calcutta would never have been possible. I think I was privileged to be able to watch 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 job, were discussed.
Mahi, I think you can really be proud of what you done with this Indian cricket team. I think to watch you lift that world cup that day — it is almost a year to the day — to see a team and a group of boys that I played with go on to win a world cup was indeed memorable. And to see something like that that inspired me, watching Kapil Dev lift a world cup in 1983 as a 10 year old, to see a group of cricketers and a generation of cricketers that I played with, do it again in 2011 was special. I know that you have inspired a whole host of 10 year olds by what you did last year - what you and your team did last year. There are challenges as you have noticed in the last bit of time but I truly believe that you've got the right temperament and the right capability to take, what I think, has been a... to take this legacy of Indian cricket forward.
I would like to thank all of my you and all team mates and everyone I played with — and lot of the names I mentioned are legends — and have great records in terms of statistics, but I think, you know, sometimes the people who achieve great things — of course they do it through dint of hard work and sacrifice, but they are also very lucky. I played with a lot of people who, if you go down the record books of the 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 learnt 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 and your friendships. Nothing of all this would have been possible without you. It is something that I will dearly miss. Being part of an Indian team dressing room is something that I am definitely going to miss — just the camaraderie, just the banter, just that striving... maybe not the rap music.
I would also like to place on record my thanks to the KSCA which was my local state association when I grew up, and I thank them for their support, for their guidance. Also the various officials of the BCCI for, at various times, giving me right kind of encouragement and support. It's been a fascinating journey for me to see where Indian cricket has reached from the time I started in 1996. I still remember when we went on tour in 1996, sometimes the Indian cricket team was treated as, if I may use that word, second class citizens. We were the team that got the first tour in summer in England, we are the team that got sent to some of the smaller grounds. The officials of the BCCI have ensured in 15 years' time that we are the Big Boys of 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 during my time at the BCCI.
Over the last few weeks I have also been really touched by the reactions 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 was written and said — in today's day and age, with so much of media and so much of publicity, it's probably bound to happen. But what really touched me was the care, the attention, and the thought that people have put in writing some of the really nice things that people have said about me. I could see that people haven't, y'know, if I may use the word, gone about it casually. And I have respected that. It's been really touching, thank you.
I cannot end here today without recognising the role that my family has played in my career. My parents, who are here today, and my brother, at various stages provided me the encouragement, the support, and laid a foundation that allowed me to play my cricket. My parents have made many sacrifices to allow their son to be able to live a dream. I know that my dad has always been a great lover of this game and, I think, in some ways, I feel that I lived his dream. And, I think, as a son you cannot ask for anything more.
My own children Samit and Anvay have missed seeing me at various times. Whenever I have come back, irrespective of what I have done, whether I have done well or done badly, they always greet me with a smile and a hug. And I think, you know, that makes failure on a cricket field a really small matter. Touring over the last few months and year has been extremely difficult because of the fact that I have had to stay away from them. I look forward obviously to spending a lot of time with Samit and Anvay come June and take a more active part in their lives. I know I will enjoy it, I am not sure how much they'd enjoy it. But I know I am going to enjoy spending a lot more time with them.
My wife Vijeeta has been a constant partner through thick and thin over all these nine years. There have been many challenges and ups and downs but I think her strength has been critical for me. And more importantly, I think, Vijeeta has taught me that we must enjoy our successes and our good moments together. And I cherish them. She has raised our children alone and had to manage the house and build a lovely home all by herself, all the while by sacrificing her own career. Her friendship has been invaluable and I can promise now that I'll try and do the cleaning and the children's homework and, as Saurav said, maybe I'll stay away from the groceries, maybe he's had some prior experience.
I may not be playing for India anymore but to the present Indian team what I would like to say is that guys, I will watch with great interest what I think is an extremely exciting and really talented group of young cricketers. All I can say is I hope that Indian cricket will always be a strong force both on the field, and off the field and I have no doubt that I will take great pleasure, with a cup of tea and a biscuit in my hand, watching you guys achieve great things.
Thank you very much.