Cricket: Great ‘Wall’ of India Rahul Dravid retires

Rahul Dravid pictured in 2003 during his time with the Saltires. Picture: Donald MacLeod
Rahul Dravid pictured in 2003 during his time with the Saltires. Picture: Donald MacLeod
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INDIA batting great and former Scottish Saltire Rahul Dravid announced his retirement from international cricket yesterday, saying it was the right time to “move on” and make way for the next generation of players.

The 39-year-old former India skipper, the second highest run scorer in Test history, announced his decision at a news conference in Bangalore.

Dravid has scored 13,288 runs in 164 Tests, including 36 hundreds, and became the first of India’s senior batsmen to retire from the longer format after the team slumped to eight consecutive Test defeats away from home. “I would like to announce my retirement from international and domestic first-class cricket,” a sombre-looking Dravid read from a prepared statement, confirming what many observers had expected when the news conference was arranged on Thursday.

“It has been 16 years since I played my first Test for India. I feel its time for me to move on. I have had a wonderful time but now its time for a new generation of young players to make their own history and to take the Indian cricket team even further.”

The father of two said he would now look forward to spending more time with his family. “Being away from my family became harder and harder through the years and I look forward now to spending time at home and doing the simple things, like just taking my sons [Samit and Anvay] to school,” he said.

Critics and disgruntled fans had called for Dravid and Vangipurappu Laxman, 37, to make way for new blood after India were whitewashed 4-0 in their last two away series in England and Australia. “I would like to believe that irrespective of how the Australian series had gone, in my own mind I was pretty sure that after Australia I was going to sit down and assess a lot of things,” Dravid said. “It is easy for me to say now, but I think I would have come to the same conclusion.”

The third member of the ‘Big Three’ Sachin Tendulkar has struggled for form since reaching his 99th international century a year ago and at 38, could soon be expected to limit his participation to Tests only.

Dravid said he had given his all to become the best cricketer he possibly could. “My approach to cricket has been reasonably simple: it was about giving everything to the team, it was about playing with dignity, and it was about upholding the spirit of the game,” said Dravid, nicknamed “The Wall” for his impeccable defence. “I hope I have done some of that. I have failed at times, but I have never stopped trying. It is why I leave with sadness but also with pride.”

Dravid enjoyed a three-month spell with the Saltires in the 2003 season, playing 12 times and amassing 600 runs – with his highest score an unbeaten 129 against Nottinghamshire in the National Cricket League.

Although his time in Scotland was brief, Dravid made an enormous impression for his adopted country, both on and off the pitch, and toured the country giving masterclasses to encourage youngsters to become involved in cricket. Former Saltires skipper and team-mate Craig Wright said on the news of his retirement: “Rahul was a great competitor, a wonderful cricketer and a true gent, you would struggle to find anyone who has a bad word to say about him, Rahul has to be considered not only one of the finest players of his generation, but one of the finest ambassadors the sport has ever seen.”

Last year, Dravid retired from the limited-overs formats of the game after India’s disastrous tour of England, where the team failed to win a single match.

The stylish right-hander, one of cricket’s most technically sound batsmen, also has 12 centuries in one-day internationals and while he will be unable to add to that tally, cricket fans will still be able to see him play in the shortest format. Dravid will continue to play in the lucrative Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament, where he will lead the Rajasthan Royals, replacing the retired Shane Warne as captain of the franchise.