It could have been timed better, it could have come a little later, it could have been better celebrated but the retirement was always going to come some day. It is easier said than fathomed - the Indian test side without Dravid! The news on first instance was a moment of disbelief, followed by a moment of daze before logic struck saying that it had to come and the moment had indeed arrived. Dravid was never a glamorous character on or off the field, more of a thorough gentleman commanding respect from all quarters. His announcement was synonymous with his usual self - calm, composed, dignified and non-fussy. Dravid was, is and will always be remembered as a role model for his conduct, dignity, selflessness on the cricket field & off it along-with his technically impeccable batting. On the global scene the game has lost one of its modern-day great and an all-time legend.
The clock was ticking for Dravid much before, but an exceptional tour of England postponed this event (of retirement). Dravid turned 39 earlier this year which indicated unless he was in good form his end from international career was nearing its end, for he had hung up his coloured kit in September last year. Yet you expected a better farewell for the 2nd highest run-getter in test cricket. Rahul Dravid was always perceived as a test batsman, but >10000 runs in 50-over cricket is a record good enough to remind everybody about his skills in this format as well. In retrospection you would feel that Dravid didn’t get the attention and focus which he deserved; a side-effect of playing alongside names like Ganguly & Tendulkar. Despite of being a part of such an environment, he managed to carve a niche for himself which beautifully complimenting the rest of the team. His wicket-keeping in ODI cricket added to his repertoire simultaneously providing the team options to work with. Many would believe Dravid the test player was a tad better than Dravid the ODI player, yet we wouldn’t forget Dravid in the coloured avatar too soon.
Dravid the test player is a topic of praise, affection, and respect. Ever since he arrived on the scene alongside Ganguly, he went about notching up runs, records and wins for India. He is the only cricketer to have a ton in all test-playing nations of the time. He has faced most deliveries in test cricket (more than 5100 overs!), an indicator of his indefatigable concentration. There are plenty of other unique records which bear Dravid’s name, but his legacy is beyond stats & records. He has lived upto his nickname - Wall, standing up in tough weather, guiding the team to safety on most occasions. Whenever the team needed somebody to open the batting in an emergency, the captain didn’t have to look too much beyond Dravid. His consistency will always remain the highlight of his cricket. He never had a calendar year in test cricket with an average of less than 30, evidence sufficient enough to say something about his high standards.
Like most things in life, Dravid’s career too had its forgettable moments. He had a reasonable tenure as the captain, but moments like Multan in 2004 and the disastrous world campaign in 2007 are a couple of instances which created quite a flutter for the wrong reasons. His batting ever since he gave up captaincy late in 2007 was too erratic for his liking/standards. As an ODI batsman he would like to rewrite a few calendar years in a different manner. Also he would like to move over the memories of the last phase of his career as soon as possible; too many ‘bowled’ dismissals for a technically infallible player like him.
The retirement call signals the end of another glorious chapter (after Kumble & Ganguly) of the golden era of Indian cricket. This call consequently leaves a void for the number 3 batting slot in the test side. A couple of names would be vying for that position, but even those in the race would realize that they have really big shoes to fill in. The slip cordon would need a volunteer, one who can latch onto close, tight catches with tireless concentration. The team will need a batsman to don the role of anchoring one end in test matches on a consistent basis. The team will need somebody to put his hand up when placed in a precarious situation. On the bigger picture the team will need somebody to portray as the graceful ambassador for the team & country. These are big, big roles to essay, even bigger when you have to replicate the immaculate Rahul Dravid. The vacuum his retirement creates wouldn’t be felt sooner (maybe not in home conditions) but when the team travels abroad. Today marks the end of a glorious career; the curtains may have come down but the Dravid show will have a reverberating effect on all followers of Indian cricket for a long, long time.