Wednesday, Nov 30, 2022
Press Conference

'No Regret That I’m Leaving Cricket'

In his first post-retirement press conference the cricketing legend speaks on the decision to retire, the emotional speech and moments on the ground yesterday, and the future.

 'No Regret That I’m Leaving Cricket'
'No Regret That I’m Leaving Cricket'

On Retirement

I played cricket for 24 years for India, and that was a great thing for me. I faced lots of challenges, but the desire to play for India was so strong that we came up with solutions to those challenges. It was a dream journey, with my family and friends supporting. It hasn't struck me that I won't play cricket again. It has been a dream journey. I have no regret that I am leaving cricket. 

This was the right time to stop playing cricket. It was an enjoyable journey. I had a question and when I looked for an answer, I felt it was the perfect time to leave the game.

To play for my country was the most important thing for me. In those 24 years, different challenges came but the desire to play for the country — I had to find solutions for them. The family, friends and coaches were with me and it was a dream journey for me. It hasn’t struck me that I’m not going to play anymore cricket. Well I’ll find some place to play! 

I have no regret that I’m leaving cricket and I thought this was the right time to stop playing — but it was an enjoyable journey. 

I was still enjoying cricket. I have always said the day I felt I should stop playing, I would inform you. I got that feeling, because after 24 years, you have to appreciate I had many injuries, not easy to overcome. You reach a stage when your body gives you a message, enough of this physical load. The body requires rest. The body is not able to take more load consistently. It was becoming an effort to continue training. Earlier, it used to be automatic. When I saw a question mark — the answer was that this is the perfect time to leave the game.

When I requested BCCI to keep the last match in Mumbai, since my mother had never seen me play enough one ball live, I wanted it to be a surprise for her that I'm making this arrangement, but thanks to you, she came to know about it in advance. This match was for her and very special for me.

On life after retirement

Cricket has been my life, it is oxygen to me. In 40 years, at least 30 years I have played proper cricket. 75 per cent of my life has been cricket, so there will be some association with the game, maybe not in the immediate future. Still, it is only 24 hours since my retirement, give me at least 24 days to relax. Then I will see what to do

Even though physically I'm not playing for India, in my heart I'll always be playing for India. It doesn't matter whether I am part of the team or not. Not just in cricket, in other fields as well, India comes first.

A coaching academy?

Even before I retired, I have spent time with youngsters from Under-19 teams, Ranji sides. I like to interact with them. I just don’t make these things public. I have thoroughly enjoyed those interactions and I will continue to do so — not publicly but with a low profile. I would like to continue to share my thoughts with youngsters. It also teaches you more about the game, I will continue to do so, may not be publicly. I would like to help the youngsters, the next generation.

On whether West Indies were a weak opposition

West Indies have world-class players. There have been ups an downs for everyone, certain times things don't work out, I think this series was one of those times. I think they are a terrific side, they play the game in the right spirit.

On Bharat Ratna

Yesterday I said that, this award (Bharat Ratna) is for my mother, because of all the sacrifices she made for me. 

As a child, you don't understand life. When you grow up, you realise all these things.

It is not just for my mother, but there are millions and millions of mothers in India who sacrifice many things for their children. I would like to share my award with them.

I'm humbled and honoured to be given the Bharat Ratna. The award belongs to the entire nation, I'd say.

I’ll say that this award I accept in behalf of every sportsperson. I’m glad the door has opened for sportspersons and I hope more sportspersons and their contributions get appreciated.

At this stage, I would like to congratulate Prof CNR Rao for getting the Bharat Ratna. It is an honour to get the award with him, his contribution to the field of science is immense. It's only that cricket is played in front of thousands of people while scientists like him worked quietly.

On getting emotional yesterday

I knew never ever in my life I would get to do that [touch the ground in reverence] again and pay it respect. That is where my life started. Those 22 yards gave me everything. It's like a temple for me. I wanted to say a big thank you to cricket. I just thanked cricket for everything that I got in my life. Every time I bat I touch the pitch. I didn’t say it, but I thank cricket for everything. Simple as that. 

Walking back to the pitch was very emotional. It was an emotional moment, I remember when I was thinking about retirement I don't think I was very emotional because I knew it was the right decision even though my family was. 

But I got emotional during the sendoff that the players gave me. I got emotional when I was speaking to the wicket — to the pitch. When I see those moments on TV I get emotional. The thought that I wouldn’t represent India on that pitch again made me emotional.

When I went back to the wicket and realised it was the last time I was standing in a packed stadium and would never have a bat in my hand playing for India. I could think of all those moments during that walk. I couldn’t look up while walking back because I was in tears and didn’t want anyone to see me that way.

On injuries

Injuries are never thought of as good luck. When I was injured, it was quite difficult. The injuries I got were different ones, not common ones. It was not easy to overcome those injuries and come back and play the game. If the recovery time was three months, it wasn't that you could go to the gym and make sure you are ready in 2 and a half months.

You need to respect nature, you have to allow time. For example my tennis elbow injury, the doctor told me it would take 4-5 months to come back to competitive cricket. I tried to come back earlier, but I couldn't. You have to respect time. I couldn't even lift Arjun's plastic bat at that time.

On his favourite song

I listen to many songs, tough to single out one sing. Music is my passion. I think music has been a constant companion for me. I respect various artists, composers and singers, but it is difficult to pick out one song.

On how he felt this morning

When I woke up this morning at 6.50am, well I don't need to quickly have a shower and get ready for the match. I enjoyed a quiet breakfast with my wife, lot of guys sent me their best wishes, I spent a lot of time thanking them. Morning was relaxed, and then here I am in front of you.

On Ashes

Both nations are looking forward to, England wanting to prove a point that they can go Down Under and still give Aus a difficult time. It's going to be exciting, seeing Mitchell Johnson bowl against India here. If he is part of the squad...

On his favourite moments against England

First was my maiden Test century against England in 1990, and then the Chennai Test in 2008 when we chased down 387

On coach Ramakant Achrekar

Sir till now had never told me well played. The reason was that sir didn't want me to get complacent. Sir told me that this game is bigger than any cricketer and always respect it. I always respected it. 

Whenever we scored a lot of runs, we used to hope that now sir will tell us well played. But it never happened.

"That is why yesterday in my speech I said jokingly that you can say it now. After this I am not going to play any serious competitive match, so you can take the chance now and tell me well played. Because I wouldn't get complacent now.

I got his call yesterday after receiving the Bharat Ratna. 

Sir told me well done. Sir was very happy and hearing this, I was very happy.

When such things happen and you can share it with special people and that happiness increases.

On his brother Ajit

Sir and my brother Ajit were a solid team. One used to tell me on-field and one used to tell me off the field at home, my brother. Discussions are on for the last 30 years. Like I said in my speech, day before night also we discussed on how I should have played that shot [the one that he got out playing]. 

This is the beauty of our relationship. I can't express it in words on what kind of relationship we share.

The batting legend said his brother became emotional yesterday but was also relieved.

This was a dream that we lived together. I was representing the nation and along with that even Ajitda was also representing. 

It is difficult to express in words what he has done for me. Yesterday when I met him, I felt he was a little emotional but was not showing it. But at the same time he appeared to be relieved and relaxed

Because the way I retired and the way people responded, you can't plan it. That's decided by God and I pray to God that he showed me a day after which I cannot ask for anymore. Ajit had the same feeling. We didn't talk too much but from whatever we spoke, he was relieved that everything had happened well

On getting emotional

The first moment when I went on the wicket and stood between the 22 yards, I realised this was the last time I was in front of a packed stadium as part of the Indian team. That made me quite emotional, that I wouldn't have a bat in my hand, playing for India.

While I walked back to the dressing room, I didn't look up when shaking hands with many of the West Indies team members, because I was in tears.

On the role of his family

The beauty about my family was that they never lost my balance, whether I scored a hundred or 15-20, my parents always had a word of encouragement. Nobody got carried about my good performances or bad, like all Indian families we just bought a packet of sweets and offered it to the Almighty. My mother presented sweets to God yesterday as well. Their reaction when I returned home from any tournament was never related to my performance.

On his mother:

My mother was extremely happy (with my 74). It was difficult for her to travel, which is why I had asked the BCCI to hold the final Test in Mumbai. She came and watched me for a while, I had taken the precaution of asking the MCA to keep a room in Garware guesthouse for me, but she didn't need it.

On his son Arjun

I would ask you as a father to leave him alone. You can't see just because since his father has performed in a certain way, he also has to perform the same way. My father was a professor, so why didn't you ask him why your son hasn't taken up the pen. Arjun is madly in love with cricket, that is what matters, performances - whether they happen or not, I don't want to put any pressure on him, and I hope you don't either.

On his best moment in the last 24 years: 

When we won the World Cup two years ago. I had to wait 22 years for it, that has to be a special moment. Yesterday, the way people responded, I don't know how to react to that, I want to say a big 'Thank you' to everyone, so that was also special.

On the most disappointing moment:

The 2003 world Cup. We reached the final, we were playing so well, but we couldn't cross the final hurdle.

On the Generation Next

I enjoyed everyone's success. It is a team sport, in which it doesn't matter who performs, there might be 2-3 exceptional performances and those are supported by the rest. Talking about the new generation, all the guys, I've thoroughly enjoyed being part of the team. Bhuvneshwar [ Kumar] was not even born when I started playing, I have jokingly told some of them that when I come into the dressing room, they should say ' Good morning Sir'. If you are prepared to understand what youngsters are telling you, you learn more about the sport. I think this will continue. I’ve shared my experiences with them and it’s fun to do all that and not because I’m the senior-most member — it’s about breathing cricket. It doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re in.

Would he lead the campaign to include Cricket in the Olympics?

It is hardly 24 hours since I retired and already you are asking me.

On Taking Advice

You reach a stage when you understand whose advice you should take, who criticism is constructive and whose is not. People who were guiding me were close to me, and they usually didn't have a pen in their hands they had a cricket bat. I spoke to people and took the advice of people Cricket has always brought out that childlike exuberance in me, as it should in all cricket lovers.

On India having had a foreign coach for over 10 years

It is not about foreign coaches, it is about who is coaching and how best they can deliver results consistently. At this level, everybody knows how to play a cover drive. A coach is required for what happens [points to between the ears] here. So who do you go to then? As long as the relation between coach and player is healthy and if a player can confide in a coach and know that it won’t be leaked out. To have that confidence is so so important. It does not matter whether he is foreigner or Indian.


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