Craig Kieswetter, the England wicketkeeper-batsman, was forced to retire last month due to an eye injury. Cricket has seen a few players calling it a day in their 20s — for various reasons. Nishad Pai Vaidya lists a few Test cricketers who bid goodbye to the sport at an age where most take their careers to a new level.
1. Craig Kieswetter
A swashbuckling wicketkeeper-batsman, Craig Kieswetter caught the attention when he played a pivotal role in England’s triumph at the ICC World T20 2010 in the Caribbean. Though the South Africa-born player failed to cement his spot in the long-run, his fearless batting at the top made him one for the future. Sadly, his career was brutally cut short when in July 2014 he was hit on his eye while batting in a county fixture. He underwent surgery and tried to make a comeback during the domestic T20 tournament in South Africa, but had to call it a day in June 2015 at the age of 27. “After been given the opportunity to take some time off and step away from the game, I’ve come to the decision that wasn’t the easiest to make, yet I feel is the right one,” he said as he announced his retirement.
2. Omari Banks
Omari Banks shot to fame during the record run-chase of 418 by West Indies against Australia in the Antigua Test in 2003 when he scored 47 not out coming in at No 8 to turn the tide in favour of the home team. Born in Anguilla to a famous reggae artist, Banks took up cricket and had played county cricket before representing the West Indies. He last played international cricket in 2005. In 2012, at the age of 29, Banks decided to follow his heart and took the plunge in pursuit of another passion — music. “It wasn’t difficult to walk away. It is something that I thought about, it is something that I prepared for and when the time was right I did it. Sport is not something that you can do forever. Beyond the short time frame that anyone can play sports a high level, based on some of my experiences and interactions in the game it was a situation where it was just the right time. To succeed on a very high level in cricket or anything else your passion for it has to exceed just about everything else,” Banks told this writer in an interview. So far, Banks has done well with a few of his singles, one of them making it into the top 10 of one of the music charts for 17 weeks.
3. Tatenda Taibu
In an uncertain period for Zimbabwe cricket, young Tatenda Taibu seemed to be their big hope for stability. Having made it into the team in the early 2000s, he was thrust into captaincy at the age of 20, making him the youngest man to lead a country in a Test match. Taibu’s played for Zimbabwe until 2012, representing them in 28 Tests, 150 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and 17 T20 Internationals. At the age of 29, he announced that he was moving away from the sport to devote himself to the church. In 2013, he told Indian Express, “I was not happy. My heart was looking for peace and I was trying to find it in this unreal world. That’s the time I started reading the Bible and all my doubts began clearing.
4. Beau Casson
In the aftermath of Shane Warne’s retirement, Australia tried numerous spinners. Beau Casson, a chinaman bowler from New South Wales, found a spot in the Test side for the tour to the West Indies, making his debut in Barbados. That Test remains his only appearance at the highest level. Even as Casson went about playing cricket, it was revealed that he had a serious heart issue called Tetralogy of the Fallot. In 2010, he had a surgery and returned to play a few months later. However, it became clear that his health would be in jeopardy if he continued playing. During a domestic game in 2011, he left the field as he felt unwell and was taken to hospital. A few weeks later, he decided to retire at the age of 28. He is now an assistant coach with the Sydney Thunder. 5. Robbie Hart
Robbie Hart represented New Zealand in 11 Tests and two One-Day Internationals (ODIs) in 2002 and 2003 after Adam Parore’s retired. Hart’s time at the highest level was short as he called it a day in 2004 to focus on a different career stream at the age of 29. A lawyer by profession, he worked for a few years with different establishments before starting off his own firm in partnership with others. He maintained a link with cricket though as he was a part of the New Zealand Player’s Association and also was on the board of New Zealand Cricket. “I thought it was time to get on with life. I’ve always loved cricket and had my goals and to do well for Northern Districts and play for the Black Caps, and I just thought it was time to get on and start the next chapter,” Hart told Stuff.co.nz in 2014 looking back at his retirement.
6. Aaqib Javed
Going by the official records, Aaqib Javed made his First-Class debut at the age of 12. At the age of 16, he was in the Pakistan team, sharing the dressing room with Imran Khan. However, things got tough for him in the late 1990s and the match-fixing scandal hit Pakistan cricket. Though Aaqib maintained his clean image, the scandal is set to have taken a toll on his career. He played his last international game at the age of 26 in 1998. Though he played First-Class cricket till his early 30s, he then turned to coaching.
7. Basit Ali
Basit Ali was one of those mercurial young talents introduced to international cricket at a young age. At the highest level, Basit showed glimpses of brilliance, particularly during the famous One-Day International (ODI) hundred against West Indies at Sharjah. However, his career saw a bit of drama. Along with Rashid Latif, he had announced his retirement during the tour to South Africa in 1994, alleging match-fixing. By 1996, he played his last international game, followed by his final appearance in First-Class cricket in early 1998. He was only 27 then. Basit is now seen as a cricket expert on Pakistani television.
8. Greg Loveridge
Greg Loveridge was a talented leg-spinner who was picked for New Zealand in 1997 at the young age of 20. However, on Test debut against Zimbabwe, he fractured his finger while batting and did not bowl as a result. Loveridge played a bit of First-Class cricket but was unhappy with the processes at the cricket academies he was sent to. He drifted away from cricket, studied in England and indulged in charities etc. Today, he is amongst the richest people in New Zealand. Recalling his Test debut, he told ESPNcricinfo, “It was just one of those twists of fate. But I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for that. It’s funny how things work out. One thing leads to another, and here I am.”
9. Salil Ankola
In 1989, Salil Ankola made his Test debut at Karachi alongside a precociously talented 16-year-old Sachin Tendulkar. Ankola remained on the sidelines of the Indian side until 1997, having played one Test and 20 ODIs. However, in 1997, he was diagnosed with a tumour in his shin bone. He underwent the knife but could not play again. He was only 28 when he had played his last official game. His focus then turned to acting as he went on to appear in several television shows.
10. David Lawrence
David Lawrence played five Tests and one ODI for England, the last of which came in 1992. During the fateful Test against New Zealand at Wellington that year, Lawrence broke his kneecap and collapsed in his run-up. It was one of the most agonising sights on the field of play and the spectators could feel Lawrence’s pain. That injury all but ended his career at the age of 28, although he pushed for return in county cricket in 1997. Lawrence had to give up his cricketing ambitions. Years later, he turned to body building and has carved a successful career in that field. Speaking to Mirror, Lawrence admitted that he suffered from depression after his cricket career ended before he bounced back in life. “Eventually I realised that I just had to get on with my life. I became a bit of an entrepreneur and I’ve got no complaints at all, I’ve been very lucky really. I’ve won the West of England title for over-40s twice and the over-50s once, and I’ve competed in the British finals where I managed to finish eighth,” he said.
11. Nari Contractor
When India toured the West Indies in 1962, skipper Nari Contractor walked out to bat during a tour game against Barbabos, which turned out to be his last appearance for his country. The paceman Charlie Griffith felled him with a bouncer that hit the Indian skipper on the head. Contractor fractured his skull and needed an emergency surgery, though a specialist had not arrived to treat him. Surviving a tough phase, he lived to fight another day. Though Contractor made a full recovery and returned to First-Class cricket, he was never picked to play for India. He was only 28 when he last played for India.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Mumbai-based cricket journalist and one of the youngest to cover the three major cricketing events — ICC World Cup, World T20 and under-19 World Cup. He tweets as @nishad_45)
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