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By Manish Madhusoodan
What goes up needs to come down, unless there isn’t any gravity; be it a cricket team or a cricket player or even cricketing legends. Every cricketing legend after achieving that status and commanding the respect he deserves has the responsibility of upholding it. Responsibility lies purely on him how he upholds his dignity, not on the board and certainly not on his fan.
Every Cricket board, be it the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Cricket South Africa (CSA), England Cricket Board (ECB) or even Cricket Australia (CA), to some extent, have handled the issue of player retirement gracefully, of course it’s their responsibility to handle the transition of players and the onus lies on them to plan a smooth transition. But when it comes to legends like Sachin Tendulkar and Jacques Kallis, boards are sometimes on the backfoot, not sure about Kallis’s case, but definitely in Tendulkar’s case.
As a cricket lover, I was irritated by the manner in which his retirement was talked about. Sometimes bringing up the matter itself was considered a bad omen. There were discussions on TV channels as when and who should take a call on his retirement. Should the board have a talk with him, should the master voice out his plans to the board? But it was evident that neither wanted to take the step and the topic just floated in air. Finally the people of this country decided that Tendulkar would use South Africa Tour for his retirement and it would be a fitting finale to this illustrious career.
But then the news broke out that Tendulkar had decided to retire, and he wished to retire on his home ground completing his 200th test. Out of thin air, there started a petty quarrel between the CSA and the BCCI; and as a result the SA tour was curtailed. West Indies were invited for two tests; this was almost like asking Tendulkar on 92, where do you want me to ball the next two deliveries? I guess Tendulkar would have said, ‘One on the legs so that I can play my flick and one full on the stumps so that I can play my trademark on-drive.’ West Indies were happy, Indian team was happy and more importantly Tendulkar was happy.
They made an event out of Tendulkar’s retirement; Eden Gardens and Wankhede stadium had to be a blockbuster in terms of crowd and ticket sales. The media made it look ugly and pathetic sometimes. The term Tendulkar-has-finally-retired was encoded at many levels, ‘Finally’ and ‘Retired’ bared two orthogonal reactions from two sects of people.
Just before the Durban test against India, Kallis decided to hang his boots in tests and showed interest to play the ICC 2015 world cup. Just like his drives the timing was right, home series, his side had almost pulled off a victory and most importantly he felt he wasn’t playing at his best. Six of his last 11 dismissals were leg before wickets, which is a clear sign of either the bat coming too late, and like very few players he knew it was the time.
His press conference post-retirement sounded genuine when he said he didn’t play for records, he was eight short of 300 wickets and 89 short of becoming the second highest run getter. One could argue whether CSA had a word with him, but I feel he could have easily completed the season and retired post-Australian tour. Being a a part of the No 1 team, going out against Australia would have been more fitting and satisfactory. But then something aren’t calculated, some decisions are just taken. In the end, his career ended exactly like the way he played his cricket, went past 200 catches and 3rd highest run getter of all time.
The most shocking and sad part was the crowd support. I don’t have insight into the South African culture and media, but it’s a no brainer that when your country’s legend is playing his last Test innings, seeing empty stands hurts anyone. And let alone on the 5thday when your team had a chance to win and give their stalwart a grand farewell. Maybe the fact that they can see him in the shorter format till 2015 could be an answer to the empty stands.
When compared to Tendulkar’s retirement, he enjoyed a houseful to say the least, and fans didn’t leave until the final speech of Tendulkar was complete. Mumbai’s crowd gave a grandiloquent exit, but Kingsmead didn’t, I wonder why. Perhaps it’s about how each country treats it sporting legends. India treats its cricketers like Gods and rest as petty mortals, may be South Africa doesn’t idolizes its super stars, certainly not the cricketers.
Tendulkar’s retirement was more like a Bollywood movie, far too much drama and crying. In contrast, Kallis went out on a few smiles and few waving flags, and did touch few hearts. 2013 ended with the retirement of two legends, India is on a hunt to find someone to fill his massive shoes, and South Africa will start soon. They might find man-to-man replacements, but to replace their aura and persona it might take another lifetime. As they say, it’s the end of an era.
(Manish Madhusoodan is a US-based software engineer who is a devotee of Test cricket. He blogs at desigiri.net)
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