'Sachin was someone you would look up to as a young cricketer growing up'
Playing for one last time in a cricket match, in opposing teams in the Champions League Twenty20 summit clash in New Delhi on Sunday, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid heaped encomiums on each other with the latter saying that his long time former India teammate had inspired him to strive for excellence in the game.
Tendulkar's final T20 act and Dravid's last hurrah in competitive cricket were the talking points at the Feroze Shah Kotla as the two legends got together though in the colours of Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals. The two legendary batsmen had announced that this would be their final Twenty20 season.
"Even though Tendulkar is of my age or two months younger to me, he is seven years senior to me as an international cricketer. When I came into the Indian team, in my third Test, Tendulkar was India captain. He was someone you would look up to as a young cricketer growing up. You saw this young kid do amazing things across the world. It was sort of inspiration for all of us playing first-class cricket," Dravid said before the start of the CLT20 finale.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar of Mumbai Indians chats with Rajasthan Royals captain Rahul Dravid
'I knew we could bank on Rahul in times of difficulty'
"It was like, look if this guy can do it, we can also try to do it. The opportunity to try and share a dressing room with him -- that was huge motivation. For me to be on that England trip for the first time and share a dressing with him was a huge trip," said Dravid.
The 40-year-old Dravid had retired from international cricket at the beginning of 2012 while Tendulkar, who retired from One-Day International cricket last December, is in the twilight of his Test career. Together they have scored close to 92,000 runs in all formats of the game.
Tendulkar, who is also 40, returned the compliment, by describing Dravid as the "master technician".
"Absolutely, he is a master technician. Any day in my team, he will be number three, because there were so many innings in which he batted brilliantly. When the rest of the guys found it difficult, he was comfortable. He loved challenges and I knew we could bank on Rahul in times of difficulty."
Image: India batsman Sachin Tendulkar (left) and Rahul Dravid during day two of the tour match between Somerset and India at the county ground in Taunton on July 16, 2011
Photographs: Stu Forster/Getty Images
'It is always great to play against Sachin'
Tendulkar, who has already retired from One-day cricket but still playing the longest format, holds the record for most Test and ODI runs -- 15,837 and 18,426 runs respectively -- while Dravid has scored 13,288 Test runs and 10,889 in ODIs.
Tendulkar has also scored 100 international centuries (51 in Tests and 49 in ODIs).
The two cricket legends played together for the country for 16 years but have rarely played against each other.
Dravid, who is leading the Rajasthan Royals side, said, "I can't remember playing against Sachin in Ranji Trophy for Karnataka versus Mumbai, only played against him in West Zone versus South Zone. All our contests have been in coloured clothing, surprisingly, in spite of the fact that we played for so many years together. So one final time, it is always great to play against Sachin."
Image: Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar during a nets session at Edgbaston in Birmingham, England on August 8, 2011
Photographs: Gareth Copley/Getty Images
'A rare moment where we two get to play against each other in coloured clothing'
Tendulkar also said that he would cherish this moment.
"I remember Rahul being part of Wills Trophy team when I was his captain but we played in whites. That was the first time I saw Rahul. I think it was way back in 1993-94 and since then we have been in whites and colours but playing in same team," he said.
"This is a rare moment where we two actually get to play against each other in coloured clothing -- obviously in IPL we do. But on any other platform we have not been able to play against each other in whites and that would have been something special," said the senior batsman who is standing on the cusp of playing his 200th Test.
Tendulkar had not been in good form until the semi-finals against Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday, when he hit a 31-ball 35.
In the process, he completed 50,000 runs in all formats of cricket, becoming the first Indian to do so and 16th in the world.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar of Mumbai Indians chats with Rajasthan Royals captain Rahul Dravid on Sunday
'For youngsters to get this CLT20 experience is great'
Tendulkar did not have a great run as captain of the Mumbai Indians but played some memorable innings for the IPL franchise. In the T20 format, prior to Sunday’s outing, he had accumulated 2782 runs from 95 matches at an average of 33.11.
Dravid, on the other hand, had a successful stint both as captain as well as a batsman in the Twenty20 format. He has scored 2528 runs from 108 matches at an average of 27.79.
He felt that IPL and CLT20 have helped India in doing better in the limited over formats.
"It (CLT20) is a great tournament. The crowd, the atmosphere... Some of the boys who are on our side, they never get to experience such things anywhere they go. For them just to get the experience of playing against the likes of Tendulkar and others is great.
"And, it's great for Indian cricket because a lot of these kids would go on to play for India and when they come in this sort of environment they are comfortable, they know what to do. That is why India has been doing exceptionally well in limited over cricket," Dravid said.
Image: Rajasthan Royals captain Rahul Dravid leads his players out for the last time during the final of the Champions League T20 against Mumbai Indians on Sunday
'It's about sharing knowledge with the players'
Tendulkar agreed and said the experience of playing with some of the best in the international circuit has helped Indian youngsters.
"It's a great tournament. You talk about players from West Indies, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and England, all the players love this tournament and look forward to it. Such is the importance of IPL and now CLT20. We have thoroughly enjoyed being in the dressing room where we have got to know so many players we thought were just okay as a person but once you got to know them you find this is different and perceptions change about the players.
"It's about sharing knowledge with the players. It's not about senior players giving lectures to juniors, it is also about absorbing things and that has happened in the last six years. The bottomline is what Rahul said that Indian cricket is benefiting. You see so many young players sharing dressing rooms with players from across the world. It's about understanding the game and that is what has happened to Indian cricket."
Image: Sachin Tendulkar with Mumbai Indians teammates
'It's been a privilege to me to captain this side'
For Dravid, it was also about shouldering additional responsibility as he had to weather the storm during IPL-6 spot-fixing and betting scandal.
For a man who has always relied on his instincts to look ahead rather than ponder over what had happened before, Dravid faced questions on the team's integrity and ethics stoically and weathered one controversy after another when the Royals were rocked by the arrest and subsequent life ban on S Sreesanth and Ankeet Chavan. A decision is still awaited on Ajit Chandila.
After taking over the mantle of captaincy from Shane Warne during the fifth season of the IPL last year, Dravid made for a perfect leader.
"It's been a huge roller coaster. We had some great momentum going towards the end of IPL. Then some unfortunate incidents happened that brought us down a little bit as a team. Just the way the boys have responded even towards the end of the IPL and the way they have got together in this tournament I couldn't have asked for anything more," he said.
"It's been a privilege to me to captain this side and work with the support staff. It's been a fabulous journey and great ride."
Image: Rajasthan Royals captain Rahul Dravid walks through a Guard of Honour before the final of the Champions League T20 against Mumbai Indians on Sunday