Calcutta: Former India captain Rahul Dravid, a legend in his own right, spoke to The Telegraph on Sunday evening, hours after returning home (Bangalore) from the UK. The one-on-one was specific to VVS Laxman.
The following are excerpts:
Did Laxman consult you before deciding to retire?
Laxman didn’t consult me, but he did inform me before calling the press conference...I was in London then...We had a chat, yes.
Were you expecting Laxman to quit at this point in time, after he’d been picked for the two Tests against New Zealand?
I wasn’t, but Laxman felt it was the right time and we have to respect his decision...An individual alone knows best...Deep down, only he knows the level of his desire, his motivation, how much he can lift himself...Laxman always gave 100 per cent...For whatever reason, he must have felt he could no longer give that. Such decisions are very personal.
Laxman has conceded it was a “difficult decision” to make. How tough was it for you?
Difficult and easy...In a way, it’s difficult because you want to put away something that has been your life...At the same time, it’s easy once your mind is made up...There’s then a sense of relief...Deep down, you know when it’s time to go. I, at least, knew that and was comfortable with the decision I took. There’s something which tells you that it’s time to move on.
Did you sleep well the night you decided to retire and the night after making the announcement (in March)?
I did, because I’d given the retirement issue some thought on returning home after the Test series in Australia...I’d waited some weeks to see if, after those few weeks, I actually felt any different...I didn’t and that’s when I decided to move on...I’d waited as I didn’t want to rush into anything.
The India XI won’t ever again feature Laxman and you...For many, it’s tough to accept that reality...
But this had to happen...Happens in life, happens in sport...There will be new heroes and both Laxman and I are going to keenly watch which batsmen nail the positions held by us in the middle-order...Laxman’s Test debut was some months after mine and he’s quit a few months after I did.
Your India careers began just months apart, in 1996. How would you sum up Laxman’s innings?
Laxman played in one of the most successful eras of Indian cricket...He had class on and off the field...Justifiably, he took a lot of pride in what he did for the country, for himself and for his family. I have great memories of playing with him.
I suppose both of us will be best remembered for that partnership, a defining moment in the history of Indian cricket...I look back with a lot of satisfaction...Laxman certainly played one of the best innings by an Indian, his 281 stands out...But he had other defining knocks as well.
You yourself had a terrific 180, but Laxman’s 281 eclipsed you big time...
It’s difficult to look beyond an innings such as Laxman’s at the Eden...Being at the other end was a matter of pure joy, I had the best seat! What’s good is that we were able to post another 300-plus partnership, in Adelaide, in December 2003.
[At the Adelaide Oval, Dravid had the bigger score — a marvellous 233 to Laxman’s 148. Led by Sourav Ganguly, India again won, this time by four wickets.]
Laxman and you enjoyed each other’s company out in the middle, but did the two of you also challenge each other?
We all challenged each other, pushed the limits...With such excellence in the line-up, it couldn’t have been otherwise...If not for anything else, you pushed the boundaries as you wanted to earn the respect of teammates.
Well, what made the bond so special?
Probably the fact that we’d been playing with (for South Zone) and against (in the Ranji Trophy) each other for some years before getting to represent the country. We’d known each other for long.
What can the present and the next generation learn the most from Laxman?
That you can be tough and have the performances on the board without any outward show of toughness, without getting too emotional...Laxman showed one can be graceful and yet tough. Toughness shouldn’t be judged in one manner alone.
Hyderabad onwards, Sachin Tendulkar’s going to feel rather lonely...
Sachin had already been playing for six-seven years before Laxman and I started to play for India...I suppose it will be a little odd for him for a while (only).
Finally, have you taken a call on your future with the Rajasthan Royals?
(Laughs) In due course, in due course...I thought this interview was about Laxman and not me!