India January 4, 2012

Is retirement contagious?

What if all four of India’s batting mainstays decided to call it a day – on the same day?
34

Sunday, 1st January Hobart’s purpley heroes continue to sweep all before them. Today they overcame the Sydney Gayle and they were steered home by Owais Shah, one of my favourite batsmen. I liked him when he was the future of English batting, and I still like him now that he’s a footnote to an earlier chapter in the history of English batting.

He is fascinating because he has two distinct batting personalities, between which he alternates in phases, as though his technique is affected by high tides or the position of the stars. Perhaps in a desperate attempt to relaunch his England career, he once purchased a magic potion from a mad scientist, an elixir guaranteed to render any man invincible at the crease, but only for three overs at a time.

One moment he’s a harmless nudger and pusher, always in peril of tripping over his bootlaces whilst going for an easy single, and then, kapow! He is transformed into a biffing machine, despatching the ball with an angry snarl and a Pietersen strut, before reverting without warning to mild-mannered Owais, unable to say boo to the proverbial goose or even to the goose’s timid little gosling, Gary.

The setting for Owais’ triumph is now called the Blundstone Arena, which is overselling it slightly; the Blundstone Enclosure or the Blundstone Grassy Area would have been more accurate. But it’s a pleasant setting for a game of cricket and it was fun watching Chris Gayle attempt to bounce sixes off the tractor parked near the boundary, for which presumably he’d win a BBL Big Tractor Bashing Bonus.

Monday, 2nd January India’s batting order is like Stonehenge or Mount Rushmore. No matter how crumbly it gets, people still flock to see it in their thousands whilst these towering figures continue to weather poor form, creeping age and internet abuse, just as statues have to endure howling winds, lashing rain and the unwanted attentions of pigeons.

It can’t last for ever, but the question is, how to manage the decline? The Indian selectors need to bear in mind the Fire Drill Theory of Transition, which states that an orderly and controlled procession is better than a desperate rush for the exits.

For one thing, just think of the consequences for the Indian microphone-bothering industry if the famous four all head for the commentary booth at the same time. Talking loudly about nothing whilst watching a game of cricket is all that Ravi and Siva know these days. How will they earn a crust when they are made redundant?

No, each of these players deserves their full month’s worth of headlines, parliamentary tributes, pullout specials, and interviews with Harsha. And then there’s the other oldies. Ricky and Michael will also soon be entitled to their time in the setting sun. Maybe the ICC should set up a veterans decommissioning unit to prevent these all-time greats from stealing one another’s limelight.

Rahul, in particular, doesn’t deserve to have his retirement overshadowed. I can see the message board comments now: “Yes, he gave a lovely farewell speech, you can always rely on Rahul, but even though Sachin only said a few words (‘So long and thanks for all the runs’) he said it with such a mastery of tone and pitch that you’d have to say his goodbye press conference was the better of the two…”

The nightmare scenario for the selectors is if retirement becomes contagious. Let’s say Virender is woken at six one morning, turns over to look at the alarm clock and thinks, “Nah, I’ve had enough of this.” Later, he wanders into the dressing room in his jeans and t-shirt, and VVS sees how cool and relaxed he looks and calls it a day on the spot. Then Rahul, who was on his way out to try and save the follow-on, gets halfway to the wicket before retiring and returning to the pavilion, from where Sachin has already sent his farewell text, and the four of them drive off in a hors- drawn chariot.

And then what will Dunc do?

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Praxis on January 6, 2012, 8:36 GMT

    @sudarshan, given the current performance of these iconic players in recent test matches, I assumed any of the Indian fans will be too depressed to be offended by what Andrew Hughes wrote.

  • mahesh on January 5, 2012, 10:25 GMT

    everyone in the indian establishment is so worried about succession planning that they've lost their grip on reality. when india had a tricky run chase against australia in nagpur last year, we promoted pujara and he responded with a momentum stealing fifty in quick time at first drop. kohli has done everything asked of him in odi's. raina and rohit sharma have shown glimpses in limited overs cricket as well. the tamil nadu trio of vijay, mukund and badrinath have all had limited opportunities but are ready for test cricket should they get an opportunity. rahane has first class record to rival tendulkar, surely his chance is just around the corner.

    the point i'm trying to make is that there are plenty of choices for india. we just have to give some these guys extended runs in the test team in the knowledge that they may initially fail, and will take time to find their feet in international cricket. after all, you dont get to face steyn, anderson etc in the ranji trophy.

  • Srinivasan on January 5, 2012, 6:06 GMT

    This is totally an unwanted article. If the veterans are not doing a good job what the hell the newcomers are doing then. It is like an office structure where the persons who are going to retire will only guide the youngsters who have joined the duty just. Like that we cannot expect always the threesome to handle the pressure. Then why we need 11 players? Just to fill the numbers. What the so called entertainers like Shewag, Gambhir, Dhoni, Virat Kohli and others are doing? We always talk some stupid things about our overseas tours where we are not able to cope up with the bounce and swing. The solution is in the hands of the stupid BCCI and not with the players. Ponting has not scored a century for 2 years and what the media people were doing for this. Even for ponting, the pitch has to be a dead one to score a century.

  • Sudarshan Gupta on January 5, 2012, 4:53 GMT

    The reason for disaster for India in Oz tour is being Dhoni too much defensive while Aussies batting... Dhoni is a better captain for ODI & T20 rather than the Tests... For Test, though we don't have much option(s) to lead the side except Sehwag & VVS for the time being till Dhoni matures more for the Tests...

  • mani on January 5, 2012, 2:02 GMT

    I started watching cricket become of him playing. I going to stop watching cricket because of him not playing

  • Aditya on January 5, 2012, 1:46 GMT

    "No, each of these players deserves their full month’s worth of headlines, parliamentary tributes, pullout specials, and interviews with Harsha." - That's still not as royal as being knighted. By the way, is Sir Ian Botham on twitter for real?

  • Jignesh on January 5, 2012, 0:38 GMT

    Dunc would collect his belonging and go back to Zimbabwe, and never return to India because he appointed as a coach the team including these 4 very mature and experienced cricketers. Dunc knows it is very hard and nearly impossible to coach the Indian team without experienced cricketers like these 4. Remember on the 1st day of 2nd test, Umesh Yadav threw the ball from Mid-off area and the ball came about 100 feet away from the stump at the Mid-On area. How Dunc would coach and improve Umesh about it?

  • Mans on January 5, 2012, 0:34 GMT

    Youngsters would have failed even badly in Australia. I watched Rahane in the two touring games, and he could barely land bat onto ball.

    Fact is, all batsman brought up on Indian pitches simply cannot handle the bounce of Australian, N.Z, England, Sth Africa, WI etc pitches. These collapses have been happening for years, sure few players have shown glimpses of conquering the bounce in the past, and thus with them here, they were India's best chance of a maiden series win in Australia.

    If India wants to do well overseas, they need to start preparing bouncy pitches in their local Ranji league.This can be easily accomplished with drop in pitches today. This will improve their game, they will be able to play horizontal shots for once.

    Otherwise these collapses will continue over the next century. No matter who is sent, whether it's a 40 year old Sehwag or a 20 year old youngstar.

  • Stuartp on January 4, 2012, 23:21 GMT

    Oh it could get a lot worse than 4-0 away to England. It could be 4-0 away to the West Indies or New Zealand or Bangladesh, or at home against any of those.

    Couldn't happen? Ask the West Indies fans of the 1980's about that...

  • kolaveridiwhy on January 4, 2012, 20:42 GMT

    well written cheeky piece! (i feel sorry for those of you who are boiling over a piece of satire.....)

  • Praxis on January 6, 2012, 8:36 GMT

    @sudarshan, given the current performance of these iconic players in recent test matches, I assumed any of the Indian fans will be too depressed to be offended by what Andrew Hughes wrote.

  • mahesh on January 5, 2012, 10:25 GMT

    everyone in the indian establishment is so worried about succession planning that they've lost their grip on reality. when india had a tricky run chase against australia in nagpur last year, we promoted pujara and he responded with a momentum stealing fifty in quick time at first drop. kohli has done everything asked of him in odi's. raina and rohit sharma have shown glimpses in limited overs cricket as well. the tamil nadu trio of vijay, mukund and badrinath have all had limited opportunities but are ready for test cricket should they get an opportunity. rahane has first class record to rival tendulkar, surely his chance is just around the corner.

    the point i'm trying to make is that there are plenty of choices for india. we just have to give some these guys extended runs in the test team in the knowledge that they may initially fail, and will take time to find their feet in international cricket. after all, you dont get to face steyn, anderson etc in the ranji trophy.

  • Srinivasan on January 5, 2012, 6:06 GMT

    This is totally an unwanted article. If the veterans are not doing a good job what the hell the newcomers are doing then. It is like an office structure where the persons who are going to retire will only guide the youngsters who have joined the duty just. Like that we cannot expect always the threesome to handle the pressure. Then why we need 11 players? Just to fill the numbers. What the so called entertainers like Shewag, Gambhir, Dhoni, Virat Kohli and others are doing? We always talk some stupid things about our overseas tours where we are not able to cope up with the bounce and swing. The solution is in the hands of the stupid BCCI and not with the players. Ponting has not scored a century for 2 years and what the media people were doing for this. Even for ponting, the pitch has to be a dead one to score a century.

  • Sudarshan Gupta on January 5, 2012, 4:53 GMT

    The reason for disaster for India in Oz tour is being Dhoni too much defensive while Aussies batting... Dhoni is a better captain for ODI & T20 rather than the Tests... For Test, though we don't have much option(s) to lead the side except Sehwag & VVS for the time being till Dhoni matures more for the Tests...

  • mani on January 5, 2012, 2:02 GMT

    I started watching cricket become of him playing. I going to stop watching cricket because of him not playing

  • Aditya on January 5, 2012, 1:46 GMT

    "No, each of these players deserves their full month’s worth of headlines, parliamentary tributes, pullout specials, and interviews with Harsha." - That's still not as royal as being knighted. By the way, is Sir Ian Botham on twitter for real?

  • Jignesh on January 5, 2012, 0:38 GMT

    Dunc would collect his belonging and go back to Zimbabwe, and never return to India because he appointed as a coach the team including these 4 very mature and experienced cricketers. Dunc knows it is very hard and nearly impossible to coach the Indian team without experienced cricketers like these 4. Remember on the 1st day of 2nd test, Umesh Yadav threw the ball from Mid-off area and the ball came about 100 feet away from the stump at the Mid-On area. How Dunc would coach and improve Umesh about it?

  • Mans on January 5, 2012, 0:34 GMT

    Youngsters would have failed even badly in Australia. I watched Rahane in the two touring games, and he could barely land bat onto ball.

    Fact is, all batsman brought up on Indian pitches simply cannot handle the bounce of Australian, N.Z, England, Sth Africa, WI etc pitches. These collapses have been happening for years, sure few players have shown glimpses of conquering the bounce in the past, and thus with them here, they were India's best chance of a maiden series win in Australia.

    If India wants to do well overseas, they need to start preparing bouncy pitches in their local Ranji league.This can be easily accomplished with drop in pitches today. This will improve their game, they will be able to play horizontal shots for once.

    Otherwise these collapses will continue over the next century. No matter who is sent, whether it's a 40 year old Sehwag or a 20 year old youngstar.

  • Stuartp on January 4, 2012, 23:21 GMT

    Oh it could get a lot worse than 4-0 away to England. It could be 4-0 away to the West Indies or New Zealand or Bangladesh, or at home against any of those.

    Couldn't happen? Ask the West Indies fans of the 1980's about that...

  • kolaveridiwhy on January 4, 2012, 20:42 GMT

    well written cheeky piece! (i feel sorry for those of you who are boiling over a piece of satire.....)

  • Anonymous on January 4, 2012, 20:36 GMT

    what would Danc do - apply to England for a position..he can save India now that the greats are gone..

  • Anonymous on January 4, 2012, 18:44 GMT

    so funny

  • Dharma on January 4, 2012, 17:52 GMT

    Awesome Post! ROFL... Like Harish said, "dunc will pad up and save the test ;)........"

    And there is always the wall of all walls -- Ravi Shastri in the commentators box to call on. He will pad up and ensure one end is held up to eternity. And we've only got 6 sessions or 2 days after tomorrow. And then there is the 'true & only' Little Master -- Sunny Gavaskar in there, who can truly save this test and an ignominy of India's defeat.

    I love the above scenario and pray that it pans out. BCCI announcing retirement of the big 4 and these old greats coming out instead and stealing the thunder...

  • Vishal on January 4, 2012, 17:33 GMT

    Common guys , everybody goes through a bad phase ..........

  • Aashray on January 4, 2012, 17:16 GMT

    its not about the age....sachin is still the best....look at his shots the straight drives and the upper cuts..he is just not able to get the big scores but he is getting 70 or 80 runs in almost every match..he was also the 2nd highest run scorer in the world cup with a strike rate of 92...at the age of 38 he is still the father of all batsman...and the person who has written this article...is he going to tell sachin and dravid how to play...??

  • Ncmatt on January 4, 2012, 17:10 GMT

    Dunc will do what Dunc does best, oversee a troublesome period to maybe produce the core of a good team. Maybe. Or maybe he will go relax in the sunshine. Some people commenting here about respect and all that nonsense should stop visiting Page 2. Js.

  • RJS13 on January 4, 2012, 16:37 GMT

    "Its not worth commenting on this kind kind of writing or this kind of humour. Please show some respect to the players who have done so well for their country, especially coming from someone who has not played at the highest level"

    If it is not worth commenting on then why have you?!

    Also I don't think he is showing any disrespect, only highlighting the very real issue facing Indian's Test team. The big four will not play forever and they will need to be replaced. Surely highlighting this as an issue is paying them respect.

  • sens on January 4, 2012, 16:19 GMT

    "he said it with such a mastery of tone and pitch that you’d have to say his goodbye press conference was the better of the two…”

    This blog piece is worth just for that.

    The blog, though, is 3 years way too early!

  • Sanjiv on January 4, 2012, 15:55 GMT

    What about retiring of Ponting and Hussy. And Kallis too. I think Indian greats won't retire till the aussie greats retire. Let all greats retire together. Just a thought......

  • Giri on January 4, 2012, 14:06 GMT

    All 3 if not 4 retiring together is very much a possibility. :)

  • sudarshan on January 4, 2012, 13:08 GMT

    Its not worth commenting on this kind kind of writing or this kind of humour. Please show some respect to the players who have done so well for their country, especially coming from someone who has not played at the highest level

  • dilbert on January 4, 2012, 12:58 GMT

    a spectator's nightmare, ain't it?

  • Indranil on January 4, 2012, 12:18 GMT

    2011-12 is the year of debutants as well as the year of comeback (remember Martin Crowe). After 2 years or so (when India would be playing all at home, hitting through the lines, a legspinner to add googly to the carom ball of Ashwin and of course, cricket would be played in draught hit areas with no water, Rohit and company can take care), Dunc or whosoever be there, may pursuade some of these big guns to make a comeback. Result abroad cannot be very diffirent though, with or without comebacks, cannot go worse than four nils, can they? But one has to worry about people watching test cricket by that time, may be this would ensure.

  • Chirag Vyas on January 4, 2012, 9:59 GMT

    "India’s batting order is like Stonehenge or Mount Rushmore. No matter how crumbly it gets, people still flock to see it in their thousands whilst these towering figures continue to weather poor form, creeping age and internet abuse, just as statues have to endure howling winds, lashing rain and the unwanted attentions of pigeons."

    Really? really?

  • GS on January 4, 2012, 9:53 GMT

    " Indian microphone-bothering industry " - classic stuff. I can hear the howls of protest from the subcontinent from here... Love the idea of an ICC veterans decommissioning unit. One of Andrew's very best pieces.

  • Theena on January 4, 2012, 9:39 GMT

    'And then what will Dunc do?'

    Panic.

    So long and thanks for all the runs - hilarious.

  • Chitranshul on January 4, 2012, 9:24 GMT

    Ok..the last paragraph actually scared me..am gonna have nightmares now!! :/

  • Amod on January 4, 2012, 9:00 GMT

    I don't think Viru will retire with Sachin, Rahul & Laxman. But one thing is sure he will never make us wait like this. When he thinks its time he will just call it a day without a second thought.

  • Anonymous on January 4, 2012, 8:46 GMT

    The nightmare scenario for the selectors is if retirement becomes contagious. Let’s say Virender is woken at six one morning, turns over to look at the alarm clock and thinks, “Nah, I’ve had enough of this.” Later, he wanders into the dressing room in his jeans and t-shirt, and VVS sees how cool and relaxed he looks and calls it a day on the spot. Then Rahul, who was on his way out to try and save the follow-on, gets halfway to the wicket before retiring and returning to the pavilion, from where Sachin has already sent his farewell text, and the four of them drive off in a hors- drawn chariot.

  • agni on January 4, 2012, 7:52 GMT

    Simple.. Dunc will also retire...he is upwards 67 for chrissake

  • maxim on January 4, 2012, 7:49 GMT

    This is awesome!! especially the retirement sceanrio of the famous four!!

  • Srinivas on January 4, 2012, 7:35 GMT

    While it is harsh to write-off the Indian batting greats based on one or two series', i think it is time they announce their retirement. Leave while you are at your peak (clearly, they are not) is what i would say. This leaves us with several questions around succession planning, though? Does India have the right talent to replace these guys? While the focus has been so much on batting, the bowlers are not far behind - yes, they have done relatively better (thank the Australian pitches for the same), Zaheer is the best India has got (he doesn't feature in my top 10 in the world) etc,. - but it's another huge gap - who are the replacements - RP Singh, Nehra, Sreesanth, Harbhajan Singh - Please !!!

  • Pundarika Bibireddy on January 4, 2012, 7:11 GMT

    all big threes may go, but how come u want Virender to go???

  • harish on January 4, 2012, 6:38 GMT

    dunc will pad up and save the test ;)........i think the test team needs an overhaul...start blooding the youngsters..dhoni seems to be a better captian with a younger side...may be he will make it work even in tests...the fact is the likes of dravid,lax and sach r livin beyond their expiry date...

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • harish on January 4, 2012, 6:38 GMT

    dunc will pad up and save the test ;)........i think the test team needs an overhaul...start blooding the youngsters..dhoni seems to be a better captian with a younger side...may be he will make it work even in tests...the fact is the likes of dravid,lax and sach r livin beyond their expiry date...

  • Pundarika Bibireddy on January 4, 2012, 7:11 GMT

    all big threes may go, but how come u want Virender to go???

  • Srinivas on January 4, 2012, 7:35 GMT

    While it is harsh to write-off the Indian batting greats based on one or two series', i think it is time they announce their retirement. Leave while you are at your peak (clearly, they are not) is what i would say. This leaves us with several questions around succession planning, though? Does India have the right talent to replace these guys? While the focus has been so much on batting, the bowlers are not far behind - yes, they have done relatively better (thank the Australian pitches for the same), Zaheer is the best India has got (he doesn't feature in my top 10 in the world) etc,. - but it's another huge gap - who are the replacements - RP Singh, Nehra, Sreesanth, Harbhajan Singh - Please !!!

  • maxim on January 4, 2012, 7:49 GMT

    This is awesome!! especially the retirement sceanrio of the famous four!!

  • agni on January 4, 2012, 7:52 GMT

    Simple.. Dunc will also retire...he is upwards 67 for chrissake

  • Anonymous on January 4, 2012, 8:46 GMT

    The nightmare scenario for the selectors is if retirement becomes contagious. Let’s say Virender is woken at six one morning, turns over to look at the alarm clock and thinks, “Nah, I’ve had enough of this.” Later, he wanders into the dressing room in his jeans and t-shirt, and VVS sees how cool and relaxed he looks and calls it a day on the spot. Then Rahul, who was on his way out to try and save the follow-on, gets halfway to the wicket before retiring and returning to the pavilion, from where Sachin has already sent his farewell text, and the four of them drive off in a hors- drawn chariot.

  • Amod on January 4, 2012, 9:00 GMT

    I don't think Viru will retire with Sachin, Rahul & Laxman. But one thing is sure he will never make us wait like this. When he thinks its time he will just call it a day without a second thought.

  • Chitranshul on January 4, 2012, 9:24 GMT

    Ok..the last paragraph actually scared me..am gonna have nightmares now!! :/

  • Theena on January 4, 2012, 9:39 GMT

    'And then what will Dunc do?'

    Panic.

    So long and thanks for all the runs - hilarious.

  • GS on January 4, 2012, 9:53 GMT

    " Indian microphone-bothering industry " - classic stuff. I can hear the howls of protest from the subcontinent from here... Love the idea of an ICC veterans decommissioning unit. One of Andrew's very best pieces.