There are individuals who are known in their own communities and backyards. There are a few among the rabble who are adored outside their stomping grounds. Their aura transcends boundaries and they make commoners bask in their grandeur.
The general public swivels around them and tries attaining what they have achieved. This is the habitude that has been followed since Adam and Eve ate the fruit of knowledge. The same tentative law applies to sports as well. There are stalwarts in sports who over achieve laurels, leaving behind the coming generations in a fix to decode “WHAT ELSE?”
The last cricketing year saw a transition with a bunch of the greatest gentlemen to have ever graced the 22 yards calling it time on their international careers.
I am a 21-year-old accounting student. As an avid young cricket follower, I contemplated on this facet of the game. Why do these great players ultimately leave something that they have envisaged all of their lives?
Oh yes! AGE! But I feel it can’t be the only criterion. As long as a player is doing well, aging shouldn’t be mulled over. Jacques Kallis is 37. Which captain or coach wouldn’t want him to be their number 4? Sachin anchored the Indian World Cup glory at the age of 38.
Someone like Shane Warne (43 years old) is still pestered to make a comeback when Australians feel deprived of a quality spinner. As I thought further, I came upon certain pieces of logic about the players who retired recently. Here are a few reasons I found after coherent analysis.
Health and Injuries: International cricket involves grave risks relating to injuries and health. It takes a toll on cricketers. They have to maintain high fitness levels to sustain themselves. In the process, they get injured and that leads to declining health levels. Brett Lee, one of the most feared bowlers of his time, took retirement due to physical strain. Mark Boucher’s career was cut short by a grave eye injury.
Personal dialectics: There can be personal reasons for a cricketer to retire. Tatenda Taibu, one of the few players from Zimbabwe whom we Indians easily recognize, gave up cricket for church (God’s service). Lanky Australian pace man Shaun Tait went off cricket due to stress-related issues.
Poor form: The biggest adversity that looms on a cricketer is bad form. No matter how big and technically sound the cricketer is, bad form haunts almost everyone. Even the Michael Clarke of 2012 had a lean patch back in 2005 which led to his axing from the Aussie Squad. Players like Shaun Marsh and Owais Shah who are enormously successful in various lucrative T20 leagues around the world lost their places in national sides due to dry spell at international levels. Such has been the case with some of the parting men of honour. Ponting, Dravid and Strauss have all been casualties of not being able to maintain performance levels. VVS too departed as the pressure mounted on him as runs from his blade dried up.
Fixing allegations: Cricket is gentlemen’s game. It civilizes people and produces gentlemen. So players playing it are ought to be outright gentlemen. But sometimes greed gets better of them. They turn themselves into hard hearted businessmen and they sell cricket. On being caught, they are handed bans which ultimately end their careers that they had earned with zeal. Someone like Hansie Cronje is a perfect example of such kind. There are a few more but let’s not discuss people who are not worth being linked to cricket.
Building Phase for Team: Sachin relinquished his coloured jersey a few days back. BCCI spokesperson came out to the media to announce the same. Well, the reason was that Sachin did not want to interfere with Team’s ambitions for 2015 World Cup to be held down under. So this is one of those modern day cricket retirement reasons where teams plan on long term basis rather on traditional modus of expeditious planning.
Board Issues: Now this is something new. Nowadays cricket is played with utmost professionalism. There are boards who completely dictate on players. From talking to media to playing in world leagues, cricketers need permission for everything from their respective boards. Such limitations are bound to arise some heat among players. Shahid Afridi and Kevin Pietersen took retirements out of such reasons. But a short retirement urges sweet return. So both of the retiring men are back to where they belong.
Family reasons: Why would someone like Mike Hussey retire all of a sudden? He was in a phase of career that every cricketer yearns for. Runs were flowing. No fear of being dropped. Everything as good as you like. But he announced retirement just before Sydney Test against Sri Lanka. When asked why, the answer was to spend time with family. Well, who wouldn’t want to do that at least after delivering what was expected out of you as a team player. He has been quietly one of the top players in world cricket in recent times. Simon Taufel, world’s best Umpire retired for the same reason after a decade of travelling around the world.
As someone who thinks cricket is the best thing God has created, I wonder whether there will be any gutsy lad in the future to fill in the shoes of the likes of Dravid, Ponting, Laxman and Hussey. I doubt that because greatness can’t be imitated; it can only be created by constant hard work and cultivated toil. There can be no one ever again to play a pull shot from outside off as Ponting played, no one as majestic as the wall to play flick off the pads and no one as wristy as VVS. Team players like Mr. Cricket would be rarely found. There are a few youngsters like Cheteshwar Pujara and Joe Root who offer a slight hope of carrying forward the game as their superiors did. But somewhere deep down, the heart longs to see more from the leaving gentlemen.
Some might question why we persist with someone who is not adding value to the team. They are dead right but I feel they should be sent off in a better way as they were the ones that gave us those amazing moments that we held dear for years. Someone has rightly said “legends are to be treasured, rather than targeted.”
Cricketers come and go. Cricket lives on. Life is such. (1942)