THE WALL COMES DOWN
India batsman Rahul Dravid has confirmed his retirement from international and domestic first-class cricket.
Speaking at a press conference in Bangalore, the 39-year-old - who retired from one-day internationals last year - has now taken his leave from the longer form of the game, though he is still due to captain the Rajasthan Royals in this year's Indian Premier League.
Dravid said: 'I would like to announce my retirement from international and domestic first-class cricket. It has been 16 years since I first played a Test match for India, and I feel it's time for me to move on.'
Dravid scored 13,288 runs in his 164 Tests, a total bettered only by long-time India team-mate Sachin Tendulkar, and added another 10,889 in 344 one-day internationals.
His reassuring presence has anchored the largely flamboyant Indian top order throughout a 16-year international career, while his selfless approach has seen him serve in unfavoured roles as an opening batsman and even a wicketkeeper for the good of the team.
'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,' he said.
'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.
'Once I was like every other boy in India, with a dream of playing for my country. Yet I could never have imagined a journey so long and so fulfilling.
'I have had a wonderful time, but now it is time for a new generation of young players to make their own history and take the Indian cricket team even further.'
Affectionately known as 'The Wall', Dravid has played his part in a golden era of Indian cricket alongside the likes of Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman in a stellar batting line-up.
'I was fortunate to be part of a wonderful era when India played some of its finest cricket at home and abroad,' he said.
'Many of my team-mates have become legends, not just in India but in the wider cricketing world. I admired them, learnt from them and I leave the game with wonderful memories and strong friendships. It is a great gift to have.
'I would (also) like to thank the Indian cricket fans, 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 and one which I have always taken seriously.'
A devoted family man, he added: 'My wife, Vijeeta, has been a remarkable partner in my journey. She has made sacrifices in her own career and has almost been a single parent bringing up our children alone as I travelled abroad to play.
'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.'
Dravid, who marked his debut with an innings of 95 at Lord's in 1996, has made more than 13,000 Test runs and is second in his sport's all-time list of highest career run-makers behind only his long-time team-mate Sachin Tendulkar.
The former captain's contribution to an era of unprecedented Indian progress to the top of world cricket has included not only 36 Test hundreds, at an average of 52.31, but a willingness to accommodate the preferences of others by moving up and down the order.
It was as an emergency opener - after Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag's injuries - that Dravid rose above the collective failures of his team-mates, Tendulkar included for the most part, to make two of his three hundreds in India's 4-0 defeat in England last summer.
Dravid has also been a world-class one-day international batsman, with more than 10,000 runs in the book to prove it, and his abilities as a stand-in but nonetheless often regular wicketkeeper and outstanding slip fielder have also served India especially well.
He was unable, however, to raise his game one last time in India's recent defeat in Australia - their second successive by a 4-0 margin in Tests - where 'The Wall' was clean bowled in six of eight innings which mustered under 200 runs.
Dravid ends his career marginally behind Sachin Tendulkar, statistically, but he trails no one in terms of worldwide respect. The 'Little Master' is among the billions who look up to 'The Wall'.
'There was and is only one Rahul Dravid,' Tendulkar said. 'There can be no other. I will miss Rahul in the dressing room and out in the middle.
'I have shared the best moments with him. Our many century partnerships are testimony to the hours we spent together in the middle. For someone who has played 164 matches and (made) over 13,000 runs, no tribute can be enough.'
Is Rahul Dravid the greatest middle-order batsman of all time?
The India middle-order batsmen scored over 13,000 Test match runs at an average of over 50.
In a lengthy and illustrious career, "The Wall", as he became known, specialised in amassing high totals while displaying great concentration and technical ability.
The stats and facts, as well as the opinions of his peers, makes Dravid's a professional cricketing career of the highest quality.
Dravid's top Test score was 270, made in more than 12 hours against Pakistan in 2004. It is the longest Test innings by an India batsman
Dravid made 13,288 runs in 164 Test matches, second only to team-mate Sachin Tendulkar's 15,470 in Test history.
He made his Test debut as a 23-year-old at Lord's in 1996 and amassed a world record 19 century partnerships with Tendulkar. He has been involved in 80 century partnerships with 18 different partners.
Dravid is the only man to score Test centuries in all 10 Test-playing nations, and also holds the record for the most outfield catches in Test cricket, with 210.
In 344 one-day internationals, Dravid scored 10,899 runs, and was top scorer in the 1999 World Cup in England with 461.
Dravid made 69 in his final ODI, against England in September last year.
He captained his country in 25 Tests and 79 ODIs between October 2005 and September 2007, during which time India won Test series in England and West Indies.
In 2011 Dravid enjoyed a superb tour of England, scoring three centuries in four Tests when India's other big names struggled.
Having quit international cricket, Dravid will lead the Rajasthan Royals in this year's Indian Premier League which runs from 4 April to 27 May.
What they say about Dravid:
"I was like every other boy in India, with a dream of playing for my country. Yet I could never have imagined a journey so long and so fulfilling. No dream is ever chased alone." - Rahul Dravid , announcing his retirement
"He was totally a class act, on and off the field. A terrific role model for youngsters with his work ethic, with the way he carried himself, with the way he applied himself. It's going to be a bit void in Indian cricket now. I think you really won't find anybody playing with the same tactical virtuosity that you saw with Rahul Dravid." - former India captain Sunil Gavaskar on BBC Radio 5 live
"There was and is only one Rahul Dravid. There can be no other. I will miss Rahul in the dressing room and out in the middle." - Dravid's long-time India team-mate Sachin Tendulkar
"He has been a great ambassador for the game and for India. It is a sad day for me because I've seen him grow as a player.'' - Board of Control for Cricket in India president Narainswamy Srinivasan
"I knew the man behind the bat. Not often do you find a person as exceptional as his achievements." - former India team-mate Sanjay Manjrekar on Twitter
"I wish my friend Rahul Dravid and his family all the best in his retirement! I have total respect for him." - legendary former Australia spinner Shane Warne on Twitter
"Rahul Dravid has retired. The world's most respected cricketer over the last 20 years. A legend." - former England captain Michael Vaughan on Twitter
"Rahul Dravid, what a legend. Plain and simple. Congratulations on an incredible career. India will miss The Wall." - England batsman Kevin Pietersen on Twitter
"As expected, Rahul Dravid has retired . A man of great stature, dignity and sportsmanship." - Former England coach David Lloyd on Twitter
"He was the model modern Test cricketer. He had a solid defence, tremendous concentration and discipline but also possessed handsome shots. Dravid is also one of the game's true gentlemen." - BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew
"They say sports serve society by providing vivid examples of excellence. To me the most vivid & dependable has to be Rahul Dravid." - Bollywood actor and Kolkata Knight Riders co-owner Shah Rukh Khan on Twitter
"Congrats to Rahul Dravid on an amazing career! You will be missed. Fantastic person and Cricketer! India's #wall" - South Africa batsman AB de Villiers on Twitter
"Congrats on a Fantastic, Superb International Career! The Great Legend Rahul Dravid !!The wall will be miss!!" - West Indies batsman Chris Gayle on Twitter
"Rahul Dravid is one of the all time greats of the game. One of the top 5 batters I played against. Lara Sachin Ponting Kallis the other 4." - Former England captain Alec Stewart on Twitter
"Jam it was a pleasure & privilege to have playd with u and ur presence in the dressing room alwys added to our confidence. Will miss u lots." - India batsman Virender Sehwag on Twitter
India would be 'foolish' not to draw on Rahul Dravid's vast experience now his playing days are over, according to Nasser Hussain.
And Hussain told Sky Sports News that Indian cricket now owes Dravid a debt of gratitude.
"He was such an honourable man - he's a great guy on and off the field - and Indian cricket would be really silly at this stage when they are in a turnaround period not to use the likes of Rahul Dravid eventually," said Hussain.
"I think Rahul wants to spend a lot more time with his family, so the final decision will be with him himself but Indian cricket would be foolish not to use someone with the experience and class of Dravid.
"There are a lot of politics in Indian cricket and there are no politics with Rahul Dravid; he just ends up doing the right thing. So hopefully he will be used but one thing that won't be taken away is that he's a class act on and off the field."
Announcing his retirement in his home town of Bangalore, Dravid said that "deep down [he knew] that the time was right" to move on - and Hussain agreed with the timing of the decision.
"I thought it was a very dignified decision, to be honest," said the former England captain. "Rahul is not only as good as his last innings, he's as good as his last 20 years in the game. He has been an absolute legend for India.
"A lot of credit has gone to the Tendulkars of this world and rightly so, but look back at the last 10 years in particular and any time there has been a difficult moment or a difficult tour, Rahul Dravid has stood up for his country in a very dignified, honourable way. He was a great guy on and off the field and India will miss him.
"You knew that he wouldn't give his wicket away; he certainly wasn't someone who got to 40 or 50 and thought 'that's it, I've got enough - I'll try to show off now'. He was someone that you had to get out because he was never going to give it away.
"He loved batting; he was at his happiest when he was batting for India. He didn't do it for the fame or the money, he did it because he enjoyed batting and he enjoyed playing for his country.
"There were little technical issues that we could work on; recently he's been bowled out in Australia a bit and at times you could find his outside edge, but all those technical issues were very minor. His main strength was his mental strength for batting long and batting in difficult times."
Hussain was on the field when Dravid made his Test debut against England at Lord's in the summer of 1996, making 95 in his debut innings.
"It amazed me, as it does generally with young Indian batsman, the calmness and the technique that they have and you could always see in Rahul that he was never going to be fazed," reflected Hussain.
"He wasn't someone who you could sledge and get under his skin, he was very calm at the crease and had a very good, solid technique. He would play at the same tempo, whether he was 100 not out or 20 not out which meant he would never really show you any kind of weakness.
"No-one knew he was going to be an absolute great - he's up there with the Tendulkars, the Laras, the Kallis', the Pontings - the greats of the game ever."