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I will pay to watch Lara but want Tendulkar to bat for my life: Dravid

Sachin Tendulkar is ready to walk into the sunset of his glittering career, and in a tribute to an iconic sportsman, CNN-IBN looks back at 24 years of arguably India's greatest cricket career.

Beginning this series of tribute called 'Thank You Sachin', IBN18 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai talks to another iconic Indian batsman - Rahul Dravid.

Here's the full interview:

Rajdeep: Hello and welcome to this CNN-IBN special 'Thank You Sachin' as we look back at the career of arguably India's greatest ever batsman. And we are talking today to someone who is equally special. Another living legend, the wall of Indian Cricket, Rahul Dravid. Appreciate your joining us Rahul.

Dravid: Thanks Rajdeep, pleasure to be here.

Rajdeep: In a sense, no one knows Sachin as much as you do because the two of you spent so much time on the crease together. In fact, statistics show you have scored more century partnerships together in Test Cricket than any other pair, 20. So you should know Sachin better than anyone else. Anything that stands out for you when you think about Sachin and batting particularly with Sachin through all those century partnerships?

Dravid: I had, in some ways, a great seat in the house. I mean to be able to spend and bat in those partnerships with Sachin for as long as I did and to have that opportunity to have those century-run partnerships, some of them match-defining ones, innings that probably changed the course of Test matches or one-day games for that matter was special. Because, I mean you always knew he was a great player. It was sometimes incredible to just watch him, bat with him and watch him at the other end. The way he was able to manipulate bowlers, the way he was able to almost make bowlers bowl to him, manipulate fields the way he wanted to. Just the skill, an ability that stood out. You knew you were in the presence of someone, when he was on song and when he was playing well, you knew he was someone truly special and had a gift which had been owned with a lot of hard work, and he could do things on a cricket field that others would find very difficult.

Rajdeep: He had already achieved so much, at such a young age. And then you in the same generation come share a dressing room. Were cricketers of your age group almost awestruck by Sachin Tendulkar?

Dravid: From a personal experience, I think awestruck would be a wrong word. I would say I was inspired in some ways because, like you rightly said, Sachin was, even though he was my age or younger to me by a few months, he is actually seven years my senior as an Indian cricketer. And in my second or third Test match, he was my captain. And we grew up being inspired by this kid of our own age. You are normally inspired by people of a different generation.
You are inspired by the Gavaskars, you are inspired by the Vishwanaths and that was always going to be there. But here we were as 17-18 year olds trying to get into under-19 teams in our state or at least me trying to get into the Ranji Trophy side in Karnataka and looking across and watching this Sachin Tendulkar play for India and play in Australia and score that hundred. He was 19 in Australia; I was struggling to get into my Ranji Trophy team when he was taking on Whitney and McDermott and the likes of that in Perth. It was phenomenal. It was a huge inspiration.

Rajdeep: You say inspiration because what stands out in a sense, he was part of that golden age of Indian batting. I have likened it almost to the Bradman era where in the 30s and 40s you have Sir Don and a number of great Australian batsmen come up in that era. And the same thing happens in the late 90s and the last 10 years: yourself, Sehwag, Ganguly, Laxman and Sachin. Was he the inspiration or was he the pivot around whom this Indian batting, in a sense, evolved and made all of you raise your game?

Dravid: Most definitely. I think he was the one that all of us, if you ask each one of us separately, would say were in some ways inspired by, looked up to, set our benchmarks against. I think not only us, everyone around the world soon started to set their benchmarks against what Sachin Tendulkar achieved. But to have a presence like him around the dressing room did a lot for us, because it allowed us, in some ways, also to play and build our games, away from the limelight so to speak. Because Sachin, I think, took a lot of the limelight, especially in the late 90s when we were still growing. I think myself, Ganguly and Laxman and Sehwag came in a little later, and I would definitely put him in that list. Especially the three of us growing up in the late 90s, we could play and build our games in relative anonymity. And Sachin was taking all the pressure and playing this cricket. And fortunately we were able to sort of raise our games and match our games and become a really strong batting line-up in that decade from 2000-2001 onwards. But it definitely helped to have a senior player or a player of your own age, performing like that. Because then you had a marker to set your goals against.

Rajdeep: I am trying to locate him within the pantheon of great Indian batsmen, because for a long time we defined Indian batsmanship through a Gavaskar. Just in terms of technical brilliance. Yes you had other great players coming, the Vishwanaths and several others, but the defensive technique and not losing a Test match was the definition. Do you believe Sachin, in a sense, changed that? He made attacking cricket, the ability to take the attack to the bowlers a defining characteristic and that's the big change that was brought in Indian cricket, perhaps in the 90s. A new self-confidence in Indian cricket is what Sachin Tendulkar represented.

Dravid: I think a new belief. And things keep improving Rajdeep. I think it is very unfair to compare generations and eras and look at averages and strike rates. Gavaskar grew up playing with completely different facilities, completely different set of circumstances. You can never compare him. He was an incredibly great cricketer in his generation, inspired so many people, and Sachin has done the same. There is going to be a generation of cricketers coming in and you might, it is going to be hard to believe and I am saying it, see someone making you look back at the video tape of the way Sachin batted and see some young kid bat four-five-six years down the line. You look at Virat and some of the shots that he plays today and you think, 'Wow, this is incredible!'
This is even taking what Sachin did to another level. In some ways, not in terms of consistency, not in terms of performance but in terms of sheer stroke-making ability. And Sachin did that with the Gavaskar thing. He built on those foundations Gavaskar had built and he took that ability of attacking stroke-making cricket to a completely new level. So that will keep happening. That is the advantage of having heroes that you can look up to. Building on what they have done.

Rajdeep: When did you first come across Sachin? Was it in junior cricket, senior cricket? And did you, when you first saw him, say, "My God, this guy is special?'

Dravid: I first came across Sachin when I was playing an under-15 south zone tournament in Cuttack. I was picked for south zone and we were playing west zone. And I was not picked in the 11; I was scoring. In those days, if you did not play in the eleven, they gave the scoresheet to one of the substitutes to score, and I remember scoring for him when he came out to bat for west zone. He had this Slazenger bat. He was a kid of our age and he must have scored 60-65 odd and south zone actually won that game. But I remember going back after that tournament in Cuttack and telling my friends in schools that I have seen something really special. I was scoring runs in school cricket in Bangalore and I was like one of the better players in Karnataka. I was 14 and for that under-15 team, I was still young and I still had a year of under-15 cricket. I thought I was quite a hot-shot, I was quite good. And when I came back [from Cuttack], I said, 'Wow, I have a long way to go'.

Rajdeep: What stood out? Was it the power? What was it about him, even as a young man, that stood out?

Dravid: Just the way he constructed the innings, the maturity with which he played, some of the shots he played. Still remember him cover-driving or being able to play the pull shot. One of our guys was very quick at that level. He just pulled him for a six. I saw some of those shots and said 'Wow, this guy is different.' The way this guy played it was an inspiration for m e then. I came back and said I have to work a lot harder. At that stage your aim is to play under-17 India or Under-19 India, you are not even thinking of playing for India. I said even to play Under-19 India, this is the standard I need to set.

Rajdeep: But you know you have a lot of child prodigies. In school cricket you get a lot of cricketers who play very well. But very few go on to become anything remotely close to Sachin Tendulkar. And that's what has always stood out. Even when you saw him as a young man, yes you knew he had that talent. But the ability to take that talent to another level, that perhaps really stands out.

Dravid: Well, it was like a perfect storm so to speak. You have talent, you have temperament, you have that desire, that hunger for runs which is unmatched, you have that technique, you have that ability, that physical fitness, you have that ability to manage your life outside of this fame and all that it brings. It was a perfect storm. If you do it for 24 years, you need that. He had that combination of everything. People have bits and pieces of it. A lot of child prodigies are very talented young kids. You have the talent but sometimes fall short on some of the other areas. Either they are lacking in temperament or they just don't know how to handle the success and failures that comes with playing international cricket. They don't know how to handle the fame. Something can go wrong. There are so many elements to this thing of being able to construct a career for so long and as successfully as he did. And he almost had everything right. He was almost born to be able to do all of these things perfectly.

Rajdeep: As I said, there were these great cricketers, between the five of you great batsmen; you have scored more than 50000 runs, which is quite remarkable in itself. But as we entered that late 90s period, there were tough times too. The match-fixing scandal. Did that bring a lot of you closer together? Or was it simply because you all came from the same age group and perhaps similar background, slowly this team was welded together. Sachin in the early part of his career was very much the lone batsman but over time you all welded together as a team more than just the individual.

Dravid: I think the desire to do well abroad and to actually become a team. I think when we first started, we were quite young and we lost a few series badly. I remember the '99 series in Australia. We not only lost 3-0 but we were particularly humiliated. And Sachin as usual at that stage was a lone warrior. But I think it was the desire to actually be a part of a really good team. I don't think the match-fixing thing brought us together, maybe did in a subconscious way. The fact that we suddenly found ourselves, all these young kids in a leadership position. Sourav became captain and Sachin had just become captain and I was vice-captain at relatively young ages you would say. Maybe that just happened. But I think there was a sense amongst five-six-seven-eight of us that we wanted to perform well abroad. We wanted to be respected as a team, we wanted that respect. I guess combined with the fact that our games were growing and getting better, so we had a little bit of that confidence that 'look, we can play at this level'. As individuals, we all have succeeded at various stages and if we all come together, who knows, we might be able to string together. We had these conversations, let's try and build something we can leave a legacy for. And I think Sachin was really happy to be a part of that. I have not asked him this and I am sharing it that he would have really appreciated having seen some of us grow and actually be able to help him out. He had been a lone warrior for a long period of time after some of his seniors retired in the mid-90s. I think he would have appreciate the fact that we were able to raise the standard of our own games to be able to help him achieve all these things.

Rajdeep: Because I have often wondered, his own best batting was perhaps in that late 90s period. The innings that he played in Chennai against Australia on a turning wicket, the innings he played in Sharjah and his ability to move from one-day cricket to Test cricket, something which even the great Gavaskar struggled for much of his career. Do you believe that late 90s was, purely as a batsman, his greatest period?

Dravid: He did play some great innings, I think statistically [late 90s] probably will be [his greatest period], and then he had that really golden run in 2007.

Rajdeep: That's right, sort of almost like a second revival.

Dravid: Ya, sort of a second wind of Sachin. I think those were his really great periods. But I think he played a lot of great innings in 2000, but the fact that others around him started playing some really good innings as well, maybe you don't remember them as much as you do in the late 90s because he was doing a lot of it alone, so you stand and say he is the only guy doing it. In 2000, Ganguly was playing some great innings on and off, Laxman played some great innings, I had some good innings, so he became a part of a whole in some ways towards that period whereas in the early part of his career he was standing out much more than he ever did.

Rajdeep: Rahul before I take a break, let me ask you where I started off. Batting at three and four, all these century partnerships. You said you had the best position in the stadium. But was there a lot of chat when you had these partnerships or were you two very different individuals doing your own thing on a cricket field?

Dravid: I don't think we talked too much. We would have conversations, especially when I was at three and Sachin had just come in. So for a little bit of time, when we first got together, there would be a little bit more chat than ever. One of the great things about Sachin was this incredible ability to actually want to learn. Sometimes, when I was young, I found it little bit intimidating because you had this guy who had all these achievements and scored so many runs and was a great player to come and ask, "What do you think? What is happening? And what is this bowler bowling?" I was like, 'Should I be telling him? What do I do?' I am playing my fourth Test match or fifth Test match. What should I be telling him? He was such a great player. But there was a lot of conversation initially. But as the innings went on, we never really felt [like talking] unless something came up that we needed to talk about.

Rajdeep: Is there any one partnership that you recall? Anything that stands out for you of all those 20 century partnerships? Any one that you will always recall with fondness?

Dravid: I think the century partnership in Chennai in the first innings. We won the test match in Kolkata in 2001 in that series and Laxman got 281

Rajdeep: And you got a 180.

Dravid: Ya. We went to Chennai with the series on the line. Australia put up a pretty decent score, 390. We knew the fourth day, it was going to turn. It was a turning track, so it is not going to be easy chasing a lot of runs in the fourth innings. And we put up a partnership there. Sachin had not got a hundred in that series so far. The way he was batting in those days, there was a sense of inevitability that we cannot go through a series without a hundred from Sachin. And it just does not happen. We had come to the last Test match and he was going to get a hundred. I think that partnership, the way we built it up against a really good attack, is something I remember very fondly, because it set up a pretty decent score for us and we went on to win the series. The Laxman partnership is obviously a really celebrated one, the one that I have had with him. It is obviously a special one for me and him in the context of series. But I also remember this partnership very fondly because it happened straight after that, and I had to sort of almost, even personally, fight from having had a great performance in that Test match to sort of maintain my standard and know that the series was not won until we put up another big score.

Rajdeep: You know Rahul, Sachin was once asked in an interview 'Which is the shot of Rahul Dravid that you remember the best?' and he said, 'His forward defence.' He said, 'Ganguly's cover drive, Laxman's shot off the hips, Sehwag's square cut'. What is the shot of Sachin that you remember the best? What is the one shot that defines Sachin Tendulkar the batsman?

Dravid: The one shot I knew, if he got, if he was really playing well was that flick off the stumps. He had that incredible ability. The ball was straight in the line of stumps and he had the ability to hit the ball behind square leg at pace. It is an incredibly difficult shot to play if you are not well balanced. For anyone who has played the game would know that it is a shot you don't try. Because you are going to miss it nearly every time.

Rajdeep: But a lot of Indian batsmen play that shot. The Azharuddins and all also used to play that shot of the legs.

Dravid: Ya, but I always felt that a lot of Indian batsmen would play it when the ball was almost on the middle and leg stumpish. But Sachin had the ability, when he was playing well, to almost hit it off middle and off stump, and hit it at the pace he did past square leg. I mean he obviously had a great straight drive and that is his other signature shot but it was this shot that always told me that his balance was perfect. Because if you are not balanced really well, it is incredibly hard to get that shot away at pace on the ground like he used to. And that gave the great sense of the balance he had.

Rajdeep: You mentioned in the earlier segment about how winning abroad was critical, and a number of you got a lot of runs outside India. You got an incredible number of runs outside India in that period between 2003-06. Was that because of self-belief that came in or was that because technically, like Sachin, you all were able to play off the front and back foot in a manner that perhaps was not the case years ago and there was no fear of fast bowling because traditionally Indians were seen, till Gavaskar came in, to be slightly intimidated by quality fast bowling? Did you ever think that Sachin was ever intimidated by any bowler? Did any bowler get under Sachin's skin?

Dravid: Firstly, I would never like to form a judgement of anyone who did not have a helmet. I think it is completely different. You can't judge people who played without a helmet with guys who had one. You have to take your hats off to some of these guys who played without a helmet because I cannot imagine playing without one. And if they were ever intimidated playing some fast bowling without a helmet, I mean as sure as hell, I would be.

Rajdeep: My father said, when he went to West Indies in 1962, he did not even have a thigh pad. They put a towel.

Dravid: Look, I mean, they are playing fast bowling like Griffith and Hall. That's not easy. So when people tell me that the guys of the earlier generation were a little intimidated against fast bowling, I think within myself, I would be if I did not have a helmet on my head. So I don't want to judge guys of that generation. I think they did a great job with the facilities and the equipment they had. But with Sachin, I think this thing that stood out, that not only was he not intimidated by fast bowling but he took fast bowling on. He had this incredible back foot game. He could pull, he could cut. If he so chose, he could dominate quality fast bowling.

Rajdeep: Was he better against pace than spin, which is very unique and rare for Indian batting? Sometimes you got the sense that he was actually more comfortable against pace than he was against spin.

Dravid: It is very tough to say. I mean there was not much of a marked difference. We value playing well against fast bowling so much, being Indians. I think there is almost an expectation that Indian batsmen will play spin well. Here comes along a kid who can dominate fast bowling, you value that so much that you forget that he could be a really good player of spin.

Rajdeep: And the other quality, like you said, the adjustment from Test cricket to one-day cricket. And opening the batting in mid 90s transformed him as a one-day player. Do you think that was the turning point for him as a one-day player, that he was ideally suited to play the full 50 overs?

Dravid: He had the game to do it. I mean he was technically proficient enough to be able to play fast bowling. He had the shots to capitalise on field restrictions. So I think he enjoyed that side of it, that the field would be up and he had that chance to get off to a pretty good start. I think what would happen when he came in the middle order, a lot of times the field would already be set back and it was not easy to start off at that stage, I think, the kind of pace he would have enjoyed to start off with. When you play in the middle order, you come in and you have to milk the singles and you cannot really get off to a flying start. But suddenly this [opening] gave him the opportunity to be able to kick-start his innings at a much quicker pace because of the field restrictions. And he was good enough to do it.

Rajdeep: Locate him for us in the history of Indian cricket batting. Do you go along with those who will say unarguably India's greatest ever batsman? Is there any argument or do you believe that it is not fair to compare generations?

Dravid: I think it is unfair to compare generations, like I said. I mean Sunil Gavaskar is a great hero of mine and to do what Gavaskar did without a helmet against those kind of bowlers for me is an incredible achievement. I think Sachin is incredible in his own right. He is the Gavaskar of this generation.

Rajdeep: You are being typically modest. Because we have got to locate you within this trimurti somewhere. Just the number of runs you have scored. The number of runs you have scored in oversees victories. Did you ever feel under the shadow of Tendulkar? Did this entire generation feel under the shadow of Tendulkar much as I said maybe that great generation of Australians did under the shadow of Bradman?

Dravid: I would like to believe that in some ways, the very fact that you are mentioning it and you are talking about some of us in that particular way, means that we were able to - there is no doubt that Sachin Tendulkar is the premier batsman of our generation, the greatest batsman of our generation - carve a place for ourselves in the history of Indian cricket.

Rajdeep: Locate him for us in the world greats. This generation itself, you have had Kallis, you have had Ponting, you have had Lara. These three names stand out globally in the last 20 years. Because it has been an era of batting. Locate him. Do you believe he is a notch above them or you know it is tough to compare?

Dravid: I think all four of them would be the greatest batsmen. You have got it spot on. You have probably picked the four greatest batsmen of my generation in different ways. Personally for me, I think, Lara was probably the most exciting batsman to watch. You know Ponting was the most winning batsman. I think he won more matches, played in probably the most successful teams of our generation, most successful cricketer, I would say, in our generation and incredibly great batsman. Kallis was probably the greatest allrounder of this generation. Without a doubt, phenomenal record with both bat and ball, incredibly great player. And Sachin was probably in some ways the most consistent, the guy whom you would set all your benchmarks against. I mean 100 hundreds, 200 Test matches that he will play, most one-day runs, most Test hundreds, and the list is endless.

Rajdeep: If you had to choose one batsman to bat for your life.

Dravid: To bat for my life, I would probably choose Sachin; and if I had a ticket and if I had enough money to watch one, I would choose Lara.

Rajdeep: 300 is one big gap. There is no triple century in Sachin's career, not even in first-class cricket, which is astonishing because Sehwag has two. And the two of you, arguably the most run-hungry batsmen that Indian Cricket has seen in the last 20 years, missed out there. Is that a gap in a sense? Tendulkar never went on to score that really humongous score.

Dravid: I think it had to do a lot with the rate of scoring a little bit. Tendulkar's strike rate is probably slightly lower than say a Sehwag's or when Lara was at his pomp and going really well. So if you want to score 300 and that sort of thing, you have to play at a much quicker strike rate. Because you have to be able to get that 300 and you are going to get out at some stage, so before you get out you have to score those runs, which is what Sehwag does brilliantly, or did brilliantly in those two games that he did. Sachin, I don't think was so much obsessed with the 300, whereas accumulating runs and scoring runs was a really important factor for him.

Rajdeep: I think if you have scored a 100 hundreds, you have scored enough.

Dravid: Ya, you have scored a lot.

Rajdeep: You know Rahul, if there is one thing, apart from all the great batting feats of both of you, that sort of brings you together, it is the balance off the field as well. Not just on the field but off the field as well. Both of you have stayed out of any controversy through a very long career. Do you believe that is a great achievement in a sense for Tendulkar that through all the pressure, he was able to keep it away and just focus on the game.

Dravid: Well it depends on how you view it. A lot of people told me that staying off controversies is easy if you don't take a stand on a lot of things.

Rajdeep: Are you saying that the two of you didn't take a stand when maybe you should have?

Dravid: No, I don't think that is fair. We have taken a stand where we have needed to take a stand and where we have felt, we have made a difference. There are a lot of areas, without needing to shout and scream. I think we have changed a few things in Indian cricket, not only both of us but with the help of others, I think, if you see where the contract system is today and if you look at the kind of money people have in sport. The board shares 26 per cent of its revenue with the players, and a lot of that has happened through active participation of a lot of us. We have not needed to shout or take somebody on to do it, but I think in a lot of ways we have got the job done. I think it is incredible, the way Sachin has managed all that has happened around him. He has still been able to stay in a space that has made cricket his priority. I mean there's so much going on around him. So much happening. It would have been so easy, somewhere along the line in these 24 years, to slip up and say 'You know, I can do other things. Maybe I should move on and this is too hard.' But never. I think his love of the game stood out and he has been able to maintain that balance through 200 Test matches, 24 years and so much of one-day cricket, and in India. I mean it is never easy in India. Wherever he has gone, and it will probably not end even now, people would want a piece off him, want a piece of time, want something off you. And that is never easy. It can get to you at some stage.

Rajdeep: Did you ever see it getting to Sachin in all these years? Did you ever see him getting weighed in by the pressure of expectations?

Dravid: Never really. That is the incredible thing. I have never seen him publicly get angry. I have never seen him get upset. We all have our moments. You can slip up sometimes. You can get angry at something or get angry at someone. But in a public situation, I have never seen him get upset.

Rajdeep: In the dressing room?

Dravid: In the dressing room, sure, he might get upset with the odd decision which might not have gone his way or a player might not have done something. That can happen but even those will be few and far in between. But publicly, in an environment when he has had to deal with people or fans, I have never seen him get upset. And I think that is incredible.

Rajdeep: I am wondering whether it is the middle class background. The Rahul Dravids and the Sachin Tendulkars, the background that you all came from. Were you all conscious about the fact that you all were cricketers first, servants of the game first, even though you were the masters in the way you played it? The game mattered more than anything, the passion for the game was far more important than the celebrity-hood that came along with it.

Dravid: I think wanting to be the best you could be in a sport. And you know this comes a lot in Sachin. You almost feel like you have been given this gift and you have been given this talent and you have got to get the best out of it. You have this opportunity, the window of time in which you have got to get the best out of it, which is what Sachin did. You could see irrespective of what might be happening around him, his contracts, the money he might be making or people wanting to celebrate him or recognise his achievements or functions, but cricket was always primary. He was never going to shift from his primary focus. It was always going to be about trying to be the best cricketer I can be.

Rajdeep: The enthusiasm, even now when he has to take the third run, even for his striker, he is always willing to do that. Or run at the boundary line. That child-like enthusiasm even at the age of 40 never seems to have gone.

Dravid: Never gone away.

Rajdeep: It is almost like a child who is still enthused by every new day of playing cricket.

Dravid: Which is why he has been able to play for so long. Only when you have that kind of enthusiasm and hunger, when you put cricket first above all else, are you going to be able to achieve what he has done.

Rajdeep: Should he have retired after the 2011 World Cup win?

Dravid: No, I don't think so. It is very hard to look into a crystal ball and look at the future and predict what is going to happen for you. If Sachin Tendulkar could have looked into the future and seen what the next two years would have unfolded for him and for Indian Cricket in some ways, maybe he might have made a different decision. Who knows? But at that stage in 2011, I was just speaking of it, he was going through a golden run, it was like a second wind, which we spoke about. And to ask someone to quit when he is having that kind of a performance behind him is unrealistic.

Rajdeep: Any off-the-field memory of Sachin, through all the tours that he went through? Anything that stands out for you which shows that, 'Yes this man is a cricketing god but like every god, he is a bit human as well.' Was there a human side to Sachin which you would see from time to time? I know he loves to eat and that is another passion of his. He is a great foodie.

Dravid: He had this knack and ability of finding out good restaurants nearby, especially abroad. I think the memory of me standing out was that how relaxed and free he would be when we toured abroad. Whether it was Australia or whether it was England, it was very unlikely or rare that you would see Sachin down at the lobby. The typical thing when we are touring or we are with the team was we finished practice in the evening, finish the game and you say, 'Let us meet down at 7:30 for dinner or let us meet at 8 for dinner.' Four-five guys might come and we all would go out. It was very rare to find Sachin out in India. It would normally be room service or in someone's room that he knew or in a team-mate's room. But abroad, you would see a different side of him.
You would see Sachin down there sometimes, you would see him going out, you would see him going out and enjoy a glass of wine with friends. And those were nice memories. It was nice to see, you know, that is what he really wanted to do and he could still do that.

Rajdeep: Was he, at one level, always one of the boys who set such high expectations? Which is why perhaps, as a captain he struggled, because he maybe expected the team and every member to do as well as he did. Or was he happy to be just one of the boys?

Dravid: He was one of the boys. He carried himself as one of the boys in a lot of ways. He could have been a superstar. He could have carried himself as a superstar with every right, because he was one. But you always got the feeling that he was most comfortable when he was one of the boys. And when he was with the boys, that is when he was most comfortable. I think Sachin has probably been the most comfortable in that environment, the cricketing environment. I think he has grown as a person but I still deep down believe, I would like to believe, and with a lot of us, we are most comfortable in that secure environment that cricket creates.

Rajdeep: Almost a bubble.

Dravid: It's a bubble. And you know it is a brilliant environment and that is something when you retire and you are out of the thing, it is one of the things you miss. You miss that bubble. You miss that security of the environment.

Rajdeep: Is that going to be tough - for you, for him, the life outside the bubble? Now even no IPL possibly. Is life outside cricket going to be tough for someone like Sachin, who since the age of 10-11 has been playing cricket?

Dravid: Look, we have been fortunate in a lot of ways that it will not be as tough for us as it could be for other people. Luckily the game has given us so much financially that there are certain things which will be looked after. But yes, you never get that same bonding as you do in a team. You don't get that same camaraderie, whatever you may do.

Rajdeep: That is what you are going to miss.

Dravid: You miss that.

Rajdeep: When both you and Sachin are eighty, that is about forty years from now, when you sit back, is that what you will miss most? The camaraderie, the friendship, that bonding, and recall all those great wins abroad.

Dravid: Ya, you will miss that. You will miss that focus, that goal, striving for something and you know being excellent at something and strive to be even better at it. Because when you come out of that bubble, you are not really excellent at doing anything else. When I have come out of playing cricket and looked at other things I have tried to do in life, I am not really good at them. I am not as good at them as I was as a cricketer.

Rajdeep: You are being modest again.

Dravid: No, I am being truthful. That is the reality. I am not trying to be modest or falsely modest. Sachin has played at such a high level as a cricketer. I would like to believe that he can go on to do something outside of cricket at that high level. But it is not going to be easy. I mean there is nothing else that he can do and will give him the same standard that cricket gave him. And that is something you have to deal with. It is not easy.

Rajdeep: I have left this for the last. There was that one incidence. You were captain and you declared with Sachin on 194. There were lots of stories which spun around. Do you want to set the record straight? What was the reality of it?

Dravid: What I will say is that the dust has settled and we have sorted it out, and I have had a conversation with him regarding that. What was said was obviously a very personal thing between the both of us and we need to keep it that way. But I will say that definitely there has been a huge amount of respect even after that. And it has continued to be there. So I don't think that incident has soured it. At least I would like to believe not and I would be right in saying that.

Rajdeep: Which is why I am coming to my final question. When you sit on that rocking chair at the age of 80, and you look back at this period, I presume that you will look back at it with great sense of pride and mutual respect. I guess that is really what has been the defining emotion of the last 15 years. That enormous respect, that both of you and the Indian team has got, has largely been because of this self-belief that has been instilled in the Indian cricket team.

Dravid: Ya, I think the belief, the performances, the way we have carried ourselves. I think there will be a lot respect for each other for that. There is no doubt about that. I would like to believe that whatever may happen from now on, I would like to believe that when we don't sit back and reminisce too much, because I think life moves on and you have to move on and I am not someone who actually sits back and looks at things too much.

Rajdeep: You might tell your grandchildren that Sachin Tendulkar, he and I have a maximum number of century partnerships together.

Dravid: I think my grandchildren would know who Sachin was and they will feel a bit proud that I played a part with him. So that will always be my claim to fame.

Rajdeep: You have played much more than a part, Rahul. The two of you have been the mountain and 'The Wall' as I call it. He is the 'Mountain', you are 'The Wall'. Together, you have built the edifice of Indian Cricket. It was a pleasure talking to you. Thank you very much.

Dravid: Thank you Rajdeep. Thank you very much.

Team Rankings

1 New Zealand 2764 126
2 India 2987 119
3 Australia 1844 108
4 England 3753 107
5 Pakistan 2481 92
FULL Ranking
1 New Zealand 2054 121
2 England 3793 119
3 Australia 3244 116
4 India 3624 113
5 South Africa 2267 103
FULL Ranking
1 England 7786 278
2 India 7093 273
3 New Zealand 6048 263
4 Pakistan 8883 261
5 South Africa 6640 246
FULL Ranking

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