Mumbai: What's one thing that you would like to take back from the IPL?
Obviously it's difficult to go past the 2008 victory. I have no individual memories from the IPL. I cherish the numerous friendships I made - both on, and off the field. When players like Yusuf Pathan and Sohail Tanvir go on to achieve greatness at the international stage, I would be the happiest man. For me, the great part about IPL was helping young cricketers realise their potential.
When I look back at 2008, we played some phenomenal cricket. We were the first team to open the bowling with spin. We had so many innovations that others started to copy from us.
You must have enjoyed having the team of 2008 in the dressing room during your farewell night...
Why not? I wish they were all here; Ravindra Jadeja, Yusuf Pathan, Sohail Tanvir, Paul Valthaty. I have special bonds with each of those guys and will never forget the moments we shared. But fans are getting used to teams chopping and changing their squads. This is modern-day cricket.
It's also good for those guys to play under different skippers and learn more about their own games. I am pinning my hopes on Ajinkya Rahane to fire next season. I have seen special talent in that kid.
The IPL is all about these sort of youngsters putting their hands up and delivering under pressure.
What was your vision for Brand Royals when you started out?
Very simple - promote as many young Indian players as possible.
We have promoted more youngsters in the last four years than any other team. Nobody else gave these guys opportunities, but we stuck by them. We never chased superstars at auctions. We wanted to invest in youth.
Honestly, no. I credit Lalit Modi for luring me out of retirement with the way he put the whole Indian Premier League together. I sat in Australia and heard about the whole thing and it was impossible to look past it. It was so fresh, amazing... the razzmatazz about players, the influx of Bollywood in cricket. It was too cool and Lalit deserves a lot of credit for setting up the foundation of this fantastic tournament. I remember we were sitting and wondering how this whole thing works, with the auctions of players and teams etc. I think 15-20 years later, people will look back at IPL as a revolution in the sport.
I am proud of what Royals have achieved as a franchise. We have won more games than any other side in the last four years, behind only Chennai. That is a great achievement. I dedicate it to the youngsters.
What's your vision for IPL? You have had long chats with Lalit Modi on how to improve the product...
Yes, I have plenty of ideas for the IPL but not all can be executed overnight. I remember suggesting to Lalit that we must have two super rounds in the middle of the tournament - which helps some teams pick five international players instead of four. There were many more innovative ideas that we used to come up with. I still feel that there won't be a final product with regards to IPL. I can foresee it evolving season by season... I just hope the sharpest minds are working towards it. I look through IPL with a lot of fondness. I wish the ICC would provide the window...it's high time they did that. IPL will also help break down barriers about sledging and those things. Everyone will become friends, and there won't be so much bad blood. There are so many positives one can draw.
Do you regret the events that transpired leading to your farewell?
I can tell you one thing for sure. He (Sanjay Dixit) and I were speaking the same things, called each other the same names. It was immature on our part to take it public, it should have been resolved privately. We were told not to make any comments by the IPL Code of Conduct Committee but he has made some comments in the last few days. I have been a good boy. The fact that I got fined while he got away scot free and still able to talk is a little unfair. But I don't care anymore.
Your son's birthday coincided with your farewell. Happy coincidence?
(Laughs) Of course, yes. I have never been happier in my entire life. I spoke to my son just before getting here for the game. I love my personal life, my business life is flourishing really well. There's so much to look forward to in the next few years. I am setting up a free cricket academy for spinners mostly in Dubai or India. My charity has raised over 5 million dollars. I have been spending a lot of time with my children and Elizabeth (Hurley). I love my life and cannot complain for a minute. Now, I look forward to playing plenty of poker and lots of fun.
You share an old friendship with Sachin Tendulkar...
I have managed to spend some time with him because of IPL. Otherwise I rarely get to see him. That is one of the pleasures of playing in the IPL - it gives an opportunity to rekindle old memories and build stronger bonds.
The reason I admire him so much is his worth ethic. I have never seen him moan about a decision or get into some controversy. He is the perfect icon. I was asked if I would have liked his wicket in my last game. Honestly that doesn't matter to me.
I am not going to remembered for a 20-year career over one game, or one dismissal. With regards to IPL, I was never chasing personal achievements. It's nice to go out on a high for the team. It's not about me.
Do you regret not making the playoffs in your last season?
I don't care really. I am interested in the way we played tonight.
We showed that when we fire we are the best team in the competition. Our batting at the top of the order, our tactics, spin attack.
If our batsmen had fired more, we would have finished first or second. Disappointed the way we played the last few games. But the way we finished - we proved that we are a top-class team.
I think the Royals will be very good next year. With the likes of Shane Watson, Rahul Dravid, Johan Botha and Ross Taylor, the management have plenty of senior players to choose a new skipper.
Did your bowling have anything to do with retirement? Martin Crowe wants to play at 48...
Absolutely not! In fact, I have been thoroughly enjoying my bowling. To come out and bowl after 12 months or so was simply amazing. Retirement has got nothing to do with the way I am bowling. The ball is still coming out so nicely.
I just realised that it's time to move on. I enjoyed my four years with Rajasthan Royals, and now it's time to play some poke, enjoy life, look after my charity and business interests. Explore new avenues
and give my one hundred per cent to it.
Planning on returning to IPL as a coach?
As I said earlier, I definitely won't return as a full-time coach for seven weeks. If I do come it'll be only as a consultant.
There's no point being here for seven weeks if I don't play cricket. I want to help the Royals or some other franchise with logistics, strategy, team management, etc. Royals is my first priority.
If someone hires me for a week or so, I'd' love to return to IPL next season. I never say never to anything. Who knows? I could even return to cricket at some stage. My life is a roller coaster ride.