Of sportsmen and retirements

There’s something about retirements of cricketers. People harp, harangue and pretty much harass cricketers at the twilight of their careers, dissecting every failure, looking for chinks in their armors. Eventually and inevitably they retire. Some manage to silence the crowd and carry on a few years more, retiring with glory. For some, the din never ceases and eventually consumes them. And then the world watches in disbelief and with lots of emotion as their favourite cricketer announces his tearful retirement, followed by reams after reams of why that player was great and how the game would miss him. It’s almost as if they had all this ready and wanted him to leave just so that they could publish it all. The focus then shifts to the next oldest cricketer. Rinse and repeat.

The last few days have seen the retirement of Ricky Ponting and everyone’s been falling over each other writing tributes. Somehow unlike other players like Dravid or Laxman, it was all about “what a fantastic cricketer and competitor he was”, “what a lovely pull shot he had”. The element of romance that you associate with sportsmen, the fondness with which you recall their playing days was clearly missing. Maybe there was nothing there with Ponting. He was just a cricketer who turned up, made a lot of runs and then went along. There were no definitive great innings that you’d single out. He scored at will almost everywhere and was part of the world dominating team of the late 90s and most of the 2000s. You score runs, win matches and do that day in and day out, maybe people don’t remember much. Whereas a Dravid 148 or 233 or a Laxman 281 goes well into the history books. Maybe it’s about the context. Maybe it’s the spirit. But more than anything, the thing missing was personality. Hard cricketer, great fighter. Come on! No one goes into the cricket field ready to roll over and expose their bellies!
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Time to retire Mr. Dravid?

It has been close to one year since he was left out of the ODI squad. And there have been no indicators to his being included again. To think that he is not among the top 30 players for the shorter format in the country is a shame. Whether he should’ve been part of it or not is a different issue which am not going to go into here.

Well, considering the innumerable hints dropped that he is not going to be considered for the ODI squad and his having gone into the wrong side of 35, I wonder what is holding back Rahul Dravid from calling it quits from the ODI format. Maybe he thinks there is no need to do that formally as he is anyway not being considered for it. The only difference might be a footnote from “Former India captains Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid were left out again from the team” to “Former India captain Sourav Ganguly was left out from the team again” unless of course Sourav Ganguly also decides to call it quits.

But one thing about Sourav is that despite all that passed between him and Dravid, he was quick enough to include Dravid’s name when cribbing about being left out from the team because of age and not performance. Dravid himself though took it in his stride and went as non-controversial about it as possible with his usual boring/diplomatic sound bytes to the media.

All said and done, after serving Indian cricket selflessly for more than a decade as captain, wicketkeeper, batsman, and part-time bowler, in 333 matches to score 10000+ runs at close to 40.00 per match, he deserved a bit more respect from the selectors. Am not saying he should’ve been given more chances, simply that he deserved to be told when it was the end of line for him so that he could’ve called it quits from ODI cricket gracefully, soon after the India-Australia ODI series or after the Pakistan ODIs. I wonder when the BCCI will ever learn.

Its a matter of shame that after Gavaskar and Kapil Dev, and maybe Srinath, no Indian player has been able to call it a day in a proper manner. Anil Kumble’s exit from ODI cricket seemed more of a formality as he was simply getting humiliated in the lineup.