It seemed like any other day in Bangalore. Traffic moved at a snail’s pace. FM stations were still playing ‘Chamak Chalo’ and the locals continued to crib about how the temperature was a couple of notches higher than usual.
But there was one thing different. Bangalore’s favourite son was calling curtains on a huge chapter of his life. A chapter that not only rewrote records of the nation’s favourite pastime but also brought back words like determination, integrity and dignity to the gentleman’s game
The media room at the Chinnaswamy stadium (venue of Dravid’s exit press conference) had the national press trickling in much before the scheduled start. The mood was already nostalgic and the Karnataka State Cricket Association contributed by greeting everyone with despondent instrumental music from ‘Veer Zaara’ (Tere liye, hum hain jiye, honton ko siye…Dil mein magar, jalte rahe, chaahat ke diye).
Shortly after, in walked the man of the moment - Rahul Sharad Dravid with his father, wife and young sons by his side to be part of his farewell.
In pictures: Rahul announces his retirement
Rahul read out a statement that reflected on what the game had given to him and thanked all those who were a part of his journey, including his fans - “I would like to thank the Indian cricket fan, both here and across the world. The game is lucky to have you and I have been lucky to play before you. To represent India, and thus to represent you, has been a privilege.”
The response from most of the media was predictable. Questions centered around when and why he made up his mind to call it a day and what his future plans were. Rahul was his usual self – correct and composed. There was no visible sorrow on his face and no great outburst of emotion. Instead, Rahul and the people present looked back fondly at an outstanding career.
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I went to the Chinnaswamy stadium today afraid that I may burst into tears in front of my idol. Instead I got the chance to share a laugh with him. During the Q&A session I asked Dravid if he would miss the routine of an international cricketer – the training, the net sessions, the planning and the strategising. His answer was reflective - “I think I’ll miss that a lot. I’ve lived the routine for 20 years of my life. I’ve got up every morning and come to the NCA or the KSCA and I’ve trained. Like my wife says we’ve got to get you in to a new routine. So, maybe my new routine will be buying the groceries, picking up my sons from school.”
I then managed to get him break out into a rare laugh when I said I would be looking forward to bumping into him at the supermarket.
As I walked out of the stadium there was a large group of fans stationed outside Chinnaswamy’s main gate chanting ‘Rahul Dravid ki Jai’ (Cheers to Rahul Dravid). It suddenly became clear - today wasn’t an occasion to mourn the retirement of a legendary cricketer; it was a day to rejoice what he’s given to us and to the game.
Take a bow, Rahul Dravid.
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