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I am ready for the second innings, says Rahul Dravid

Rahul Dravid's playing career ended last night against Mumbai Indians in the final of the Champions League Twenty20. While he ended up on the wrong end of the result, Dravid leaves behind a rich legacy. He sat down earlier on Monday with CNN-IBN sports editor Gaurav Kalra to reflect on his career.

Gaurav: We are joined today by former cricketer Rahul Dravid (both laughing). A former cricketer?
Dravid: I haven't thought about it until you mentioned it now. Actually, now I will be referred to as the former cricketer. Earlier, I used to be referred as the former Indian cricketer and now as former cricketer.

Gaurav: It has been something you have been doing for the last 20-22 years and for the last two seasons since you quit international cricket. You thought like a cricketer, you played like a cricketer, you executed it like a cricketer. And suddenly that cricketer is no longer a part of your life in that way.
Dravid: Even though I had quit international cricket, I always knew IPL was there for some period of time. It was there at the back of my mind. There was no way I was practising as much or training as much as I used to when I was an Indian cricketer. I was slowly falling back to a different routine. But at the back of your mind, you always knew that you had to perform as a cricketer at the IPL. So, you can say that, you had that sort of a thought which I don't have any more. So it's nice in a way for me because when you quit international cricket, it's a huge thing to leave. So [I was] having a little bit of it but also getting a chance to experience life outside of cricket, getting into slightly different kind of routine; and I really feel that I am ready to move on.

Gaurav: There was a lot of fuss yesterday: Standing ovation, guard of honour. I don't know how many cricketers had got out on one and had guard of honour for them. But obviously all well deserved. What were your emotions then, just knowing the reverence and the respect that you held in Indian cricket?
Dravid: Firstly, I don't like the fuss too much. So it's embarrassing a little. I was touched, extremely grateful. This game has given me so much and I keep saying, it's a bit of a cliche, but really the fact is I have received that kind of respect and affection wherever I have gone. And that was the thing with IPL as well that even though I quit international cricket, I got the chance to play the IPL and go back to all the main cities or most of the main cities where I played cricket as an Indian cricketer and go back and meet familiar faces and people, and go back to those grounds through the IPL. The affection and warmth I have received at all these places has really touched me. Yesterday was brilliant from both the teams and the crowd. To get that kind of reception was just brilliant. I am really grateful to my team for getting me that far and getting me an opportunity to finish in a grand final like this. I couldn't have asked for anything more.

Gaurav: I am going to ask you about the game in a minute. But I have one other thought. It's quite nice that when sometimes we talk about cricket we romanticise the game and fairly so. But yesterday's finish was quite nice because you were with Sachin Tendulkar, playing his last game in coloured clothes. Here are two of India's greatest batsmen. I know that you don't like epithets and things like that, but here you are with him finishing on the same stage and there was an emotion to the moment.
Dravid: It was nice. I think both of us knew that we had a job to do and both of us were trying to win a game of cricket but at the background there was an occasion to it and it was nice that I could share it with Sachin. I have shared a lot in my career with him and have shared so many partnerships with him. So it was really nice to share his moment and his final game in coloured clothing so to speak. I mean, he's still got some more time in Test cricket. The time for his final farewell will come, but in a way it was really nice to share that moment. And for me, just to play in that final and play a side like Mumbai Indians was really nice.

Gaurav: Both of you got bowled ironically in your last game. But it would have been a perfect finish had you won, but at the end, quite a big margin of defeat and to the marquee team in the tournament.
Dravid: Yeah, I think the fairy-tale finish would be the victory, but there is a lot to be happy about from our point of view, at least from the Rajasthan Royals' point of view, where we have come as a team and what we have achieved. We were a very different team from the Mumbai Indians. Yesterday, I was counting; they have currently eight different international players on the park and we had three. It was completely different formula and a completely different way about looking at building a team. So what we have got and the kind of resources we've had and the way we've built them up, I think it's great in a lot of ways - the whole season and the way we have performed in the Champions League Twenty20. It's been a great victory, not only for me but I feel really proud about being a part of the process. For everyone involved in our team, it's a combination of lot of things, lot of planning, thinking, hard work and strategising that goes into it. There are heart-warming stories of just seeing Sanju Samson develop into a cricketer, seeing Ajinkya Rahane grow as a cricketer in these three years. Stuart Binny has grown, Pravin Tambe's story, Rahul Shukla. That's just to name a few. If you talk about international cricketers, then Kevon Cooper and James Faulkner. These are all young kids. They haven't played a lot of cricket but we got the best out of them, and for me, that's great part of my time here.

Gaurav: You talked about strategising, planning and things like that but it's almost become a subject of great management study of a kind. The way Royals have empowered its players and you were seen as a leader or at least main person of that leadership group. Was that a very conscious decision? You used the word 'moneyball' team once. You used the terms finding the player under the radar, looking at the bottom line. You are a cricketer. You suddenly started to talk of this management lingo and put it into effect.
Dravid: I will be honest here. It's been a part of the Royals' culture even before I got here. So I don't want to take credit for that. I think the ownership here truly believes that there is a lot of untapped talent in this country which, given the right exposure and environment, can succeed at this level. So I think I came into that kind of environment and tried to make my bit to make it work. We tried to help create that environment. We tried to work with a lot of younger players. It's not easy all the time because when you are always pushed for results and if you are always saying winning is the only criteria, then you are under serious pressure. But I think that's the good thing about the Royals that we all want to win and there is a certain amount of pressure. I am not saying that we play a tournament not to win but there is recognition also that we are slightly different and so far we have always focused trying to get the best out of may be the undervalued and under-utilised players so to speak. Lot of the players coming to us, honestly, other than Pravin, are not the newbies that we pick up. Whether it's Sanju, whether it's Rahane, whether it's Binny, whether it's Rahul Shukla, they all had been at other franchises. They all played with other franchises and not possibly had that sort of opportunity. We saw some potential. We saw they were not getting that sort of opportunities. We got them here and helped them perform. I think that's fantastic. That's a great thing to see the young kids perform the way they do.

Gaurav: A couple of aspects I wanted you to touch on Rahul and I am particular about the players that you mentioned: Pravin Tambe and Sanju Samson. Here you are putting an 18-year-old kid to bat at No. 3 in a 200-run chase, in the final and trusting his abilities, and he is repaying that faith. Here is Pravin Tambe who was apparently a bell boy kind of a person with the team. He was helping the logistics of the team until a couple of IPLs ago. What makes you take decisions of this kind?
Dravid: Skills. We are not doing charity Gaurav and I am very clear about that. We are not a place where we are giving people chances. If they have the skill, we'll help them and give them the platform. It could be anyone. I remember Sanju Samson came to our trial and I saw three balls and said 'Wow! This kid is something special for an 18-year-old.' He has got something, same with Pravin. I never knew Pravin's age. I never asked his age. We were looking for a legspinner. Most of the legspinners were either taken in the auction or the guys playing Ranji Trophy cricket were already in some team. Then we thought of going to the next level and see whether there are any good legspinners around. We called a lot of them for trials from various places. From Mumbai and some boys from Rajasthan came, and Pravin impressed us the most. He had the most skills. We created match simulations for him and put him under some pressure against some very good batsmen, and he stood up to the test and so we said why not [take this guy]. I think Pravin has also grown as a cricketer in this Royals' environment. He had the opportunity of bowling to the likes of Brad Hodge and Shane Watson [in the nets], and for them to keep talking to Pravin, that's what we encourage. And the way they have taken it on has been brilliant. If you talk to Brad Hodge and you tell 'Look, why don't you help and mentor Pravin on how to bowl to a batsman who is going after him, what makes it difficult for you to play.' And these conversations will go during the IPL, and Pravin soaked that in. Not everyone is able to do that. But Pravin has done that beautifully.

Gaurav: Final couple of questions Rahul. One in particular about the entire last few months that have been a challenge. You acknowledged that in public and in fact no one has spoken about the challenge of these last few months as you. Now it's over and it's behind you and you are done as Royals' player as well. Tell us was there any stage, when the entire controversy first came to light when the arrests were made, that you thought 'I am not going to continue, I am going to give this up, I want to quit?'
Dravid: No, I never thought I wanted to quit. You get this feeling 'what's happening here! What's going on! This is nonsense.'

Gaurav: One of the players had his best performance as an international player under you as captain.
Dravid: We spent a lot of time and energy on that player [Sreesanth]. A lot of time, energy, mental space, conversations right through the time we were India players to here that have been spent on this guy. On Sreesanth, we tried our very best to help him, and in some ways, a lot of what hurt was obviously it came from internal. It was not an external thing. You feel 'May be I could have done something more'. Should we have noticed something? Should we have picked up on something? Could we have done this better?' These are sll thoughts that run in your mind and you start thinking 'it's a lot of stuff.' But then you s;dp look around and see other guys in your team who look up to you for leadership. And they are looking for some guidance and they are looking for a way ahead because they are as confused as you. That's what becomes your motivation. You say 'No, I want to see this thing through'. There are other really good people in this franchise and in this team, and they deserve not to be tarnished by this. They deserve a better chance.

Gaurav: Was it a sort of betrayal of being let down? What was your overriding emotion?
Dravid: A disappointment I would say. Sadness and disappointment, not so much for myself but for the people involved. I think there is sadness that people have made the wrong choices, and in the end some of them are friends and some of them have been friends to a lot of our players. That's why it was so tough for a lot of our guys in our time. Because until the day before, they were having friendships and conversations with the same people. And now they had to see them in a completely different light. So you feel sad for them as well for the choices they made and the consequences those choices are leading to. And who knows a lot of this is subjudiced, so we will see what happens.

Gaurav: Final question. You mentioned commentary as the dark side [laughing]. Moving on to the dark side, there is always that on offer. There is work with Royals perhaps on offer. There is also the small business of bringing up two boys which I am sure your wife would want you to do. So what are your priorities now?
Dravid: The priorities at the moment as you said now are spending more time at home. Just weighing up various options. I haven't thought about it too much, but I will start conversations with the Royals. I have enjoyed that. I will do a little bit of work in the media which I have enjoyed parts of. The travel does become a challenge for me. But otherwise I have really enjoyed, so I will see if I can do bits and pieces of that. I would love to work with some of the other young Indian cricketers around.

Gaurav: Apparently, there is a job on offer, director of some kind in Indian cricket. There are stories doing rounds on that. Anything on that?
Dravid: I haven't thought about that. I haven't had any conversation with people around that. So it would be very unfair for me to talk about that. I have really enjoyed my time here at the Royals and something that we have created and were part of. Everyone acknowledged that there were some emotional scenes in our dressing room and even the party later on in the evening. And I really felt good to be a part of something that was something special and what we were able to do in the last couple of years.



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