By Abhijit Banare
When Rahul Dravid announced his retirement on March 9, 2012, the disappointment was visible on the faces of fans and cricketers around the world. Yet, somewhere down the line, we all knew this wasn’t really the last time. Barely a month later, he was seen in sublime form leading the Rajasthan Royals in IPL 5.
The word “retirement” doesn’t have the same old tragic impact anymore. Earlier it meant ‘this was the last you would see of the retiring cricketer playing in a competitive match’. This isn’t about debating whether it’s right or wrong to continue post retirement but to understand the changing meaning of the term retirement in real sense and the various issues that follow.
It’s a fair argument to say, T20 keeps cricketers in touch with the game they have served for so long. From the perspective of a player T20 is the best option currently available to climb down the stairs from an active sporting life. A few decades ago sport wasn’t an attractive profession which would insure your life post-retirement. Though some of them bagged honorary government jobs, some secured positions in commentary box, but the future of many players remained uncertain. Fortunately, these days cricket has a lot to offer even after retirement within its purview to keep the player connected to it.
On the other side of this topic lies two grey areas i.e. Intention and fitness to continue post-retirement.
Kevin Pietersen declared his retirement from ODI and T2OI citing hectic schedule. However, he also made a clear statement about playing in IPL. “It's going to be there and players want to play in it (IPL). Players want to go and earn their money and unless you let them, decisions will have to be made.” Fair enough, it’s the right of any player to earn money considering their career span, but it would be unfair to blame youngsters when they follow the footsteps of professional cricketers more often. It’s setting like a trend. And there will always be a dangling carrot which could reduce the insecurity as long as the option of making a career out of playing T20 leagues remain, which Chris Gayle did for almost an year. His return to national team looked more like a desperate attempt from West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) to get some spine to their fragile batting.
When an experienced cricketer is active in international cricket, his fitness levels by default are maintained to certain standards which the game demands for. However, things change drastically for those retired. And it’s visible on the field, which doesn’t really set an example for fellow players.
Despite all the options that throw up in present era after calling a day, it becomes equally important on part of the players to discuss their goals ahead. Dravid made it completely clear that he will play IPL 5 but won’t play any domestic matches which could block a place for an upcoming player. He also expressed his willingness to accept the role of mentor and coach. Thus a clear picture stands in front of the respective board and franchise knowing what the player aims for and take decisions keeping them in mind.
The fact that Sourav Ganguly hardly gave clear indications about his intentions not only put a question mark on his future but keeps the management of teams he represents on the hook as well. Not making clear about your goals lead to speculations and sets a bad example even though the player might not have wished to do so.
Cricket boards around the world need to accept this before it becomes a headache. While playing the sport post retirement, it won’t be a new phenomenon for players to reconsider their decision and announce their return to International cricket again. We have seen a few of them already. Thus, cricket boards will have to play an active role in the decision of a player’s career and put forth certain criteria on this aspect.
‘Retirement’ has turned out to be a slightly complex term which isn’t a decision which you call for and walk away into the shadows like it used to happen earlier. The idea for retirement in a cricketer’s mind too seems to have changed with time. So next time when a breaking news appears XYZ player announces retirement but willing to play IPL and/or Big Bash, we hope it’s a well-discussed plan.
(Like most Indians, Abhijit Banare has been obsessed with cricket since childhood. He is an avid follower, smitten by statistics and analysis. A journalism student in Mumbai, he considers himself lucky to have grown up watching batting legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. He also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)