Posts Tagged ‘Retirement’


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

The game of cricket will be left poorer when the curtains are drawn on the Year 2012. It isn’t as much about the retirement of four of cricket’s greatest servants, as it is about the virtues they possessed.

Great sportsmen have seldom been vehement about how they want to retire. “I want to retire on a high,” some would say, with more than a hint of melodrama. Some retire placidly, with poise. Some are shown the door, mercilessly, in cultures where empathy ceases to exist. And some are slowly nudged towards the questions of their futures, with hope that the message is conveyed.

Towards the twilight of their careers, champions often find themselves living in a profoundly different world populated by fans-turned-critics, journalists with poison-laden ink pens and ‘advisors’ of a truculent variety. Insinuations fester while every act on the field is observed under a microscope, scrutinized and mock-obituaries written. After all, recent statistics will remain the principal standard by which players are judged.

In countries like India, where resources (in other words, talented players) aren’t limited, the question that lingers around asks if it is worth investing (again) in a successful past over a hopeful future. It has happened in sport – some even come out of retirement because they ‘miss’ the sport too much (I’m not talking about Pakistani cricketers here).

They miss the competitiveness, the adhesion. Paul Scholes, for one, went out on a high and was welcomed back with open arms when he decided to return to Old Trafford. I doubt if anyone from the Premier League can pass the ball with the pin-point accuracy that he possesses at his age. Michael Schumacher’s tale, on the other hand, paints a different picture. To say that his return was underwhelming isn’t harsh, although it wasn’t, in theory, a disaster.

On the other hand, when champions begin to get a sense of feel that they are the brick wall between a young talent and a regular place in the starting XI, the sensible ones make wise decisions. Cricketers continue to ply their trade in T20 leagues, and footballers move to the MLS or, in some cases, Australia. There is a sense that the advent of T20 cricket has caused a certain lassitude, that all is not over if one’s curtains in the international setup is closed. But this can’t be taken on face value.

Yes, solace can be gained from the fact that we’d still witness a Laxman or Dravid in IPL colors. Or a Tendulkar, more crucially, in whites. But when you start saving up for the things that money can’t buy, the memories that remain linger around long enough to make you miss it.

Beyond Men. Demi-Gods for most. © The Guardian, UK

And you end up waiting for the right antidote – in Dravid’s case, the emergence of Pujara (as premature as it may sound) acts as a safety net, while Kohli’s ODI exploits provide a layer of comfort given Tendulkar’s absence henceforth. In some cases, the void may never be filled – the pace department, for example. Or to an extent, even spin.

West Indies, and more recently, Australian cricket have found it a challenge to fill voids vacated by legends. Transition is never easy – some plan for it in advance, some realize it the day the inevitable strikes.  You could extend this to beyond sport.

Narayanamurthy’s exit from Infosys created a cataclysm what today is known as – well, still Infosys, but with an uncertain management structure and vision. Hewlett Packard isn’t the same ever since Mark Hurd was shown the door. Oracle was the beneficiary. And Larry Ellison never misses out an opportunity to laugh at those who’d sent him an early Christmas card.

After all, a player is most missed when, in his or her career, he or she had done something that had, or likely would have, a long-term effect on the sport he or she played. Jonty Rhodes revolutionized the art of fielding. David Beckham show-cased what could be done with a dead ball on a football field. Usain Bolt demonstrated that there’s more to two legs than we’d have ever imagined possible. And so on.

And when 2012 comes to a close, cricket fans will remember four men who’d continue to remain as the epitome of four different virtues: Dravid for his patience, Laxman for his sublimity, Ponting for his grit and Tendulkar for carrying the burden of a billion hopes.

As Justin Langer said: “He just spat the blood. And continued to field.”

A common virtue, one that is easily forgotten, relates to their deterrent attitudes towards the media prior to their retirements. Although most of us got the feeling that media pressure undid them, in truth, it didn’t. It is a virtue that took them through their highs and lows during their illustrated careers – to defeat the pens with their bats when it counted most. And to retire with a sense of pride with the focus on having represented their country meaning a lot more than any of the statistics that glorifies their careers.

Cricket may never get an opportunity, in the near future, to witness these virtues given how the game has changed dramatically over the last decade. Inventiveness is the new buzz-word, with batsmen attempting physics-defying shots against the poor bowlers of the modern era. And who knows what the future holds? Not many back in the early part of the 1900s, during the Industrial Revolution, would’ve perceived the Mobile Revolution of the 21st century.

But amidst all changes that happen, we will continue to remember what the four have done for cricket. Garfield Sobers is still spoken of today as the greatest all-rounder to have graced the game. Those who’d had the privilege of watching him play are never short of words when asked about his feats.

And as four legends walk away from the sport, so will we when asked about these greats in the future.


Goutham Chakravarthi

Steve Waugh found greatness when fighting with his back to the wall. He relished a fight and often got the best out of himself when he reduced a battle to that: individual fight with the opposition bowler. He thrived on it and often came out on top. He saved his career with that hundred against England. It gave him another year in the top flight cricket (he averaged 80 plus) and went out with a two month send off against the Indians the following Australian summer.

Now even Chappell and Benaud are calling for his head.

Now Ponting finds himself in a similar corner. Like Waugh, his greatness is not in question. His greatness is in front running and doing it like few others before him. Perhaps only Lara surpassed him among his contemporaries in doing it better.

A man of dazzling feet movement befitting the best of dancers, his gift was also in great shot selection. His ability to reduce the game to a fight and his immense desire to win made him a stand out. Few can claim to have dominated the best attacks of their time like Ponting has. Over the years, invariably, he has fallen, learnt, succeeded and failed like the rest of us. Very few can achieve the maximum of their abilities. Ponting did, and touched greatness. Of that, there is little doubt.

Not many would fault Ponting’s qualities as a batsman, but as a person he divides public opinion: considered short tempered, arrogant, loud mouthed by some, and as responsible, sharp man who understood his shortcomings and overcame them. Captaining Australia isn’t given to just any larrikin. It is a profile that is constantly scrutinized: by the public, media and even the prime minister. Shane Warne would count it among his top regrets not to captain Australia. Ponting did. His public acceptance to drinking problems as a young man and his switch to light beer showed him as man willing to learn and understand his position as an ambassador of his country. Soon, he was to become Australia’s finest batsman since Bradman and also its most successful captain.

Not that he has always been right. For that matter, no one is. He would lose temper on occasions and his ugly side would show up, not least in the Sydney test of 2008 against India. In a fiasco that defied belief, he would end up ruffling a full media contingent that questioned his team’s behavior and integrity. Not that the Indians were innocent in that Test either. That the incident propelled a huge fallout of the Australian team with the rest of the world did shake him up and his teammates to take a deep look at themselves.

Ponting’s attempts over the years of wanting to leave the game in a better shape than when he started playing is genuine. While gamesmanship may not be one of those, he feels strongly about over rates and substitutes. It has landed him in a quandary on a few occasions, especially in India where he has chosen the moral high ground over the push for a Test victory on more than one occasion . It didn’t go down well with many of his countrymen and former cricketers. That his lows as captain and as Test batsman should have come in India might be a personal regret. His successes far outweigh the inevitable failures.

Like with all great players, ability doesn’t last forever. What’s accumulated in the mind of a master batsman like him cannot be discounted for the waning of the physique. But the acceptance of falling from greatness has to come from within. Often, that is the hardest to accept. After all, Viv Richards didn’t wear a helmet just because his reflexes slowed down as he was reaching his end. He dusted it off as a dip in form and not of eroding ability. Some live in denial. Viv’s last three years had no Test hundreds. Kapil Dev’s last few years were a folly and so were Jayasuriya’s last many.

Now, Ponting is in danger of falling in that category. He has been found wanting playing the short ball over the last few seasons, yet he continues to play it. A signature shot, one that will always be associated with him, is suddenly a weakness. Falling over to straight deliveries and ending up in a walk to length deliveries are old problems now back to haunt him. Even stout Ponting supporters like Chappell and Benaud are calling for his head.

Ponting is still a mighty fine batsman. Perhaps he is hoping that there is a second wind for him like there was for Tendulkar and Dravid. Perhaps, being a good batsman is not enough for him. Once dipped and draped in greatness, it must be difficult to accept routine and the ordinary. Perhaps Wanderers will be his secret attempt at redemption; at greatness. A big innings would be most welcome for this struggling batsman and his tattered team. The end seems nearer than ever before, but may be, he can do a Waugh.