Former India batsman Y Venugopal Rao Wednesday said playing alongside Sachin Tendulkar and against Pakistan were the highlights of his short international career. The 37-year-old Rao on Tuesday announced retirement from all forms of the game after playing 16 ODIs between 2005 and 2006, from which he scored 218 runs with the help of a half-century.
"It is a privilege to represent the country. Only some 500-600 people have played for the country and I am one of them, which is a wonderful thing. Happy to have played alongside legends including Sachin Tendulkar," Rao told PTI.
"Tendulkar is my idol. I used to be inspired by him. To share the dressing room with him was a privilege," he added.
Rao is only the second cricketer from Andhra Pradesh to have represented the country, the other being the current chairman of selectors MSK Prasad. The 37-year-old Rao said playing against Pakistan in April 2006 was a big moment.
"Yeah, playing against Pakistan is always a special thing. But representing the country is very special, especially for a cricketer coming from a small town in Andhra," he said.
He said he could have played for longer but does not regret it.
"You can say I could have played for longer but I don't have any regrets. God has been kind to make me an international cricketer. Maybe I did not have the x-factor that time to play more matches. You need support to play for a long time, maybe I was not lucky enough," he said.
The right-handed batsman came to the fore with a superb double century for South Zone against England 'A' in a Duleep Trophy match in 2004.
"After that double century, only people started noticing me. It gave me the confidence to score more runs. Selectors noticed me, legends including Sunil Gavaskar noticed me and it caught the attention of then-coach Greg Chappell, who praised me and then I was in the Indian team," he added.
Rao said to have come through from a modest background and to represent the national team was a huge achievement for him and he would thank his family, coaches, state association officials for supporting him.
"Coming from a small town -- Vizag in Andhra -- representing the country is huge. When I started nobody even dreamt about it. Cricket was not so big when I started, now it is a profession. Thanks to my family, the Andhra cricket association, coaches and others I enjoyed the process. All five brothers have represented Andhra in various age-groups, my brother Gnaneswara Rao was India under-19 captain. I am grateful to my family as my father with Rs 3,000 monthly salary supported me," Rao added.
He played 121 first-class matches, scoring 7,081 runs, which included 17 hundreds and 30 fifties. He also played 65 IPL matches for Deccan Chargers, Delhi Daredevils and Sunrisers Hyderabad between 2008 and 2014.
Having earned his India cap in 2005, the Andhra cricketer's career floundered after a slow start and he played his last ODI in May 2006, though he remained on the fringes for a few years more.
Rao, who is doing Telugu commentary and looking to do some coaching, said, "IPL provided financial stability for players and gave an opportunity to express batting ability. I was known to be technically good. People never saw me hitting sixes."