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December 6, 2012

Player retirements

Why Sachin and Shahid should let the curtain fall

Kamran Abbasi
Shahid Afridi congratulates Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag after the hard-fought game, India v Pakistan, 2nd semi-final, World Cup 2011, Mohali, March 30, 2011
Ruthless self-appraisal is what the two South-Asian stars need  © Getty Images
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What do you do when the magic dies? When eyes, slower in reaching focus, and hands and body, sluggish in finding shapes and arcs, betray you? What do you do about your pride and honour, once spurs to glory, now flotsam battered by a surging wave of public criticism? A lucky few are able to define their success, whereas all of us are defined by our response to failure. Failure is the new success, says the wisdom of our age, making any victory sweeter and better. But when you've passed your peak each failure is a step closer to mediocrity.

We might salute Sachin Tendulkar's tenacity, his determination to defy age and grind out a performance in Calcutta. We might equally lament the passing of genius. When Ricky Ponting's cut has lost its thrust, when his mind commands dominate and his body replies abdicate, our thoughts prefer to linger on the swashbuckler once admired by enemies. For a great player, it is much harder to leave a sport than it is to enter it.

Always leave them wanting more, said Walt Disney or PT Barnum, and it is essential advice for any performer, even programmed into the genetic code of Australians. The three great Australian cricketers of the modern era, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Ponting, certainly obeyed the instruction of their DNA. When you look for reasons why Australian cricket has been consistently successful, your search begins and ends here. Ruthless self-appraisal is rare in humans but Australian cricketers consider it common. On their frequent media and cricketing visits to India, they might consider adding ruthless self-appraisal to the South Asian gene pool.

Leaving them wanting more has never been popular among South Asian cricketers. Leave them wanting no more is how the giants of our game tend to retire. Kapil Dev, Wasim Akram, Javed Miandad, and now Sachin have all hung around in the middle too long, their greatness dulled by the ordinariness of their final efforts. Any sensible advisor would point Sachin to the exit door marked 'dignity preserved' for it only appears briefly before the sign changes to 'dignity lost'. This difficult England series, or a final tussle with Pakistan, are opportunities before the sign on the door is repainted. Sachin should take it.

Shahid Afridi does not intrude on any debates on greatness but he does when the conversation turns to box-office appeal. Sixteen years and counting, Afridi's razzamatazz career rolls on dividing opinion as it blazes past. At first he was a sensation, and then a hero impatient for a starring role. His next phase was most compelling: an entertainer comfortable with his repertoire, confident of which tricks to execute and which to leave in his magic box. Leg break, googly, top spinner, faster ball, rocket ball, thank you very much. Some measured hitting--now and then, even when it mattered like the 2009 T20 World Cup, Afridi's moment. How the crowd gasped when it happened.

How the crowd mutters now. Thirty runs and four wickets in his last six T20 internationals, little different in one-day internationals, Afridi is another star in need of ruthless self-appraisal. Leave them wanting more, that's how Afridi has played every innings in his career. Like Sachin and Ponting, his will to succeed lives on and is to be applauded. But like Sachin and unlike Ponting, Afridi is in danger of making the biggest mistake any star can, playing for the gallery when the magic has died.

Heart and impulse have always ruled Afridi's world. They will propel him to another joust with India this winter, another opportunity, perhaps the best possible moment, to leave them wanting more. The stage is set, the box office full, Shahid, let the curtain fall.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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Keywords: Retirements, Socio-cultural

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by GMav on (February 17, 2013, 3:54 GMT)

Great article. Indian cricketers should look at the Australians. How they have maintained their place at the top. Australian Greats have always retired when they felt they weren't as good as they used to be. Our Great players should also make place for younger players and help them reach the heights of fame and glory they attained. More importantly the Country and the team should be foremost in their mind. We need a new crop of players. A team with all 11 players delivering in terms of bat and ball would do more to win the game than depending on one great player to deliver.

Posted by Sarwar Naqvi on (February 4, 2013, 16:49 GMT)

You talking about Afridi retiring now? WHAT! you are obviously kidding. He has at least 5 more years to give us his best because his best is not over yet.

Posted by Amit on (January 20, 2013, 11:13 GMT)

Mr. Abbasi how can u compare Sachin and Afridi. There is day light gap between Sachin and Afridi. Reporter once asked sachin that people says best time for Sachin to retire is just after 2011 WC. Sachin given a befitting reply to the question.He said WC is for the people of India i can not make it my personal event by announcing my retirement. If i took retire after winning the WC, It would have been my farewell event instead of WC winning moment, I dont want Indians to forget the celebration of winning the world cup Because it was never about Sachin it was always about India and world cup. Sachin has ruled the cricket world for 23 yr and he will definitely show his class one more time before walking into the sunset even with so called slow reflexes. Let him choose the place and time to say good bye, cricket own alot from Sachin.

Posted by Ray on (January 4, 2013, 16:05 GMT)

It's ridiculous Tendulkar hasn't retired already.....the RIGHT time would have been at LATEST once he had the World Cup. That was almost 2 years ago! He is basically a selfish person.

The right way would have been like Gavaskar, Imran Khan, or other classy individuals.

Posted by Muneer Alam on (December 29, 2012, 11:40 GMT)

Age matters but more than that its performance which is the ultimate decision maker. Afridi has been a continuous failure with bat and especially he has let down the expectations of both the team and fans for he has played no match winning innings for a long time time. This "he is good with the ball" thing has no value when it comes to results. You need to fire when the team needs you, whether it be with the ball or bat and Afridi has time and again showed that he is good for nothing. Its always better to retire with honor than to be kicked out and be disgraced.

Posted by Ali safwan on (December 24, 2012, 8:40 GMT)

Man > You abbasi.. I love the way you write and combine things in to one word. But I'm gonna disagree on this one> Afridi has always been a fighter and a warrior. He likes challenges and always come good after getting down.. PCB has never shown true respect to their best warriors > It's just a matter of time because no matter what happens there is always light in indians Tunnels and Afridi will surely get Over it>

Posted by Omar Khan on (December 20, 2012, 19:46 GMT)

It would bea big mistake to include Afridi after his continuing very poor performance over the last three years . A player with even worse record over the last three years is Shoab Malik . Why is he included for the India Tour ? Also , it would be a very big mistake to include Misbah and Youns Khan for the ODIs . In both ODIs and T20s they bat Asif they are playing to draw aTest Match . They simply cannot score a run a ball anymore .

Posted by aftab from VB on (December 19, 2012, 23:53 GMT)

The news coming from Pakistan is good. Looks like Misbah has found a perfect partner in Inzi to help PCB make sense and get Afridi in the loop. Big hitting may succeed rarely but leaves long term impressions. I read once an Australian in Pakistan was looking to buy the bat that Afridi uses. Way to go!

Posted by Suresh on (December 19, 2012, 11:35 GMT)

I agree Both should retire, before that I want to see Sachin and Afridi Open the batting for their countries and blast the bowling attack in one last series. leave with people standing and clapping when they are going in to the dressing room, taking Man of the Match awards. Sachin and Afridi... where is the magic gone... come on.. play your natural game...ATTACK....

Posted by Humayun Archad Butt on (December 18, 2012, 22:49 GMT)

I will not comment on Tendulkar and in my opinion Mr. Abbasi you also should not have done so whether or not he should retire . As for Afridi I totally agree that he should retire . He can bowl a bit butt here are several other bowlers much better than him waiting for an opportunity to join the Pakistan Team . However , Afridi has been a total failure as a batsman for the last several years and it is a pain to watch him at . More importantly , while you have rotten on the need forFridi to retire , how about Shoaib Malik ? He can neither bat nor bowl , why is he included inthe Team ?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the international editor of the British Medical Journal. @KamranAbbasi

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