Mumbai: Retired cricketer Rahul Dravid on Tuesday said he will miss being part of the Indian dressing room but exuded confidence that skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his boys will take the legacy forward.
Dravid, who retired from International cricket earlier this month, said watching India win the World Cup last year was a "special moment" for him and hoped that Dhoni and his boys will make Indian cricket a strong force in future.
"Mahi, you have to be proud of what you have done with this Indian team ... it was a special moment for me to see the group of boys holding the World Cup last year after 2007 (when India were knocked out in the first round)," Dravid said at a felicitation programme.
"It was a memorable moment. It was inspiring, as a 10-year-old, to see Kapil Dev lift the World Cup, and to do it again in 2011, was special. I know you have inspired a lot of 10-year-olds. There are challenges ahead but you have the right temperament to take the legacy of Indian team forward.
"Some of my colleagues have spoken very eloquently and I thank them, it means a lot for me. I want to believe that we have left a strong legacy for Mahi to take forward and I have no doubt that they wll take it to greater heights.
"I may not be playing, but I will be watching with great interest, you are a very talented group, I hope Indian cricket will be a strong force both on the field and off it in future," he added. Dravid said having spent so much time with the team, he will now miss being part of the Indian dressing room. "I will miss being part of the dressing room, the banter, the camaraderie but not so much the rap music," Dravid said in a lighter vein.
"It has been a fascinating journey to see where Indian cricket reached since my debut in 1996," he added.
The cricketing fraternity tonight came together to raise a toast for Dravid and bestowed the batting stalwart with accolades such as "huge pillar" of Indian cricket, "greatest number 3 bat" and one of the "best cricketers and ambassadors".
Speaking at the star-studded felicitation function, Dravid said he had made a pact with himself that he would not cry in any of the functions, and it was "tested to the limit" in the last two-three weeks. "This last three weeks since my retirement have given me the chance to sit and look back and take all what has been a dream for me. Cricket has given me life time of experiences. I have seen unbelievable victories and crushing defeats and it humbled me," he said.
"When I look back I feel lucky, there are so many people who made the dream possible. For me to stand here in front of so many people I admire, is an honour.
"I thank my first coach K K Tarapor, the coaches I had in Karnataka and all the international coaches, each of them have added to my game and helped me to be a better cricketer."
The 39-year-old former skipper thanked the seniors players and colleagues, making special mention of Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Anil Kumble.
"I look at some of the senior players, I feel lucky to interact with them when as a young boy I only dreamt of just taking there autographs. I was conscious of the legacy that they left behind, something which I have tried to take forward."
"I thank Anil, he said he will keep me busier after the IPL, I don`t know what he is upto. I thank Sourav. We had a great partnership. The relation between a captain and vice-captain is like husband and wife and we came out in flying colours.
"Thanks to Laxman, without you Kolkata (2001 Test) would not have been possible. It was a privilege to watch one of the greatest innings by an Indian from the other end. Thanks for your company at the second slip where many topics were discussed," he said.
Dravid said he was blessed to play for India for 16 years.
"I was like any other kid with the love of the game a dream to play for India. I am blessed that I could live the dream for 16 years. Obvioulsy with IPL next month, I have to hit the gym and keep myself fit but after two months probably i will be unemployed," he said.
"Playing for India gave me the chance to travel the world and play in grounds which I had only heard in radio commentary," he said.
Dravid thanked his parents and family and also thanked the ground staffs, the organisers and all the members who were involved in cricket for making his 16-year-old journey possible.
"I would like to thank everybody who have played for India, cricketers who might not be considered great on the basis of statistics, but for me all of them are hero. They came back time and again and did it for India," he said.
"I want to thank my parents and brother for providing me constant support and laying the foundation for me to play my cricket. They have made many sacrifices to allow me live my dream. My father is a lover of the game and I have lived my father`s dream and a son you can`t ask for anything more," he said.
"I thank my wife, for giving me so much strength, my kids whose smiles made those defeats easier to deal with," he said.