June 5, 2011

Tendulkar, Ponting and the question of retirement

What are the signs that lead a player to decide on retirement? And are there any successors to these two greats?

Whenever the conversation turns to ageing batsmen and retirement, there's much conjecture about what goes first, the eyes or the legs. In reality, it's usually the mind.

There are exceptions. Barry Richards admitted his eyesight began to fade during World Series Cricket. Given it was a tournament where a top-class fast bowler appeared at nearly every bowling change, it was an unfortunate time to start seeing the ball a little blurry. And New Zealander Martin Crowe was a top-class batsman whose knee injury forced him to retire roughly 400 short of 20,000 first-class runs.

However, it's generally something in the mind that brings a batsman to the conclusion that it's time to declare.

Greg Chappell, at his peak a mentally well-organised batsman, announced his retirement prior to his last Test. He needed 69 runs to pass Sir Donald Bradman as Australia's highest run-getter, and when asked why he made the announcement before the game, he replied, "My concentration had been wavering for a while, so I figured that was the only way to force my mind to work at full capacity."

His ploy succeeded, because, along with former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin, he's the only batsman to score a century in his first and last Test innings.

Brian Lara retired a few years ago, presumably because he had had enough. What is the likely fate of two other dominant batsmen from that era, Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting?

Tendulkar has suffered from injuries and the odd form dip during his glittering career, but his recent renaissance is proof there's nothing wrong with his eyesight. And his running between wickets during an extraordinary limited-overs double-century suggests leg problems won't force him out of the game.

Retirement can be hastened by any number of factors: other priorities in life, a sudden dread of training or lengthy stints in the field, or even the departure of long-time team-mates.

Tendulkar is a player who genuinely loves playing cricket. Certainly the contest between bat and ball and the challenge of maintaining high standards still hold an attraction for his competitive instincts. Nevertheless, with India's rise to the No. 1 ranking and winning a World Cup trophy, he must be close to completing his cricketing bucket list. The moment of realisation for him might be the retirements of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman; if he looks around the dressing room and they are not there, suddenly Test cricket might not hold the same attraction.

Ponting has gone through a testing period. Lack of runs, an unexpected frailty against the short-pitched delivery, and then retirement from the captaincy must have made him think seriously about cricketing mortality. But his hundred against India in the quarter-final of the World Cup was Ponting at his fighting best, if not his most fluent.

His desire to play on could have him fight a battle on dual fronts. After relinquishing the responsibility of captaincy, to also bat lower in the order could be a mistake. Part of what has driven Ponting to be a top-class batsman is the challenge of resurrecting an innings and then setting a course, directing the process from the No. 3 position. The lack of that motivation, on top of not having the captaincy, might leave him with a slightly empty feeling.

One of the more drastic changes in the game is that the former-player dictum of retiring when people are saying, "Why did you?", rather than "Why didn't you?" is a lot harder to follow now with the riches available to the modern cricketer. There's also the attraction of a staggered retirement. Now a player can simply retire from one form of the game to prolong his career in another.

Ponting has hinted at touring the UK in 2013, but that has more to do with his captaincy record in that part of the world. Tendulkar, as with most things outside of batting, has wisely kept his cards close to his chest.

With the retirement of these two dominant batsmen imminent, it would be comforting to know there is a young player or two ready to take on their mantle. But while there are some good young batsmen around, the next dominant one hasn't yet surfaced.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • xeeshan on June 8, 2011, 11:06 GMT

    If Tendulkar continue, he would become first one with 200 test matches with more than 300 innings. In one day, 500 one days with more than 100 centuries at international level. I think he should decide by himself, either he want to play or not. If yes, then no one should argue for his retirement. Suppose if he is not performing very well then opponent have advantage, not his team. If he is performing very well so there is no question for his retirement. Now we can say that he is history best among all. Like his 11 centuries against Australia, also his batting average more than 60 against Australia. Batting average 60 in Asia. Atleast batting average 40 in all countries in test with against all opponent more than 40. 110 times 50 or plus, 20 times 150 or plus, both are world record belongs to him. Highest no. of centuries with runs score more than 7000 with the help of centuries, another two records belongs to him. Except 400 runs, he has all other records.

  • Dummy4 on June 8, 2011, 10:53 GMT

    Pointing should be guiding next gen batsman in aus and once u see a star emerging ,he should retire, till then he should continue

  • Kannan on June 8, 2011, 6:35 GMT

    No other nation's ex-sportsmen want Sachin to retire more than the Aussies. Sachin and his performances in all formats of the game ( including T20 in the IPL) have astounded many a jealous critic on the way he seems to adapt himself to various formats and challenges there-in with the passage of time. The Aussies were once firmly convinced that the "max centuries in Test cricket" record will come to Australia through Ponting. That's a dream now. Sachin is pulling away even in the career aggregate department. The Aussies would truly be heart broken if Dravid were to go past Ponting in the aggregates just as Kallis did on the centuries chase! The Aussies have no great performers let alone a bunch that would bring them back to greatness and are afraid of falling apart from the "great cricketing nation" pedestal just as the Windies did in the late 80s!

  • Sushant on June 7, 2011, 19:56 GMT

    I am really surprised how some people misunderstand the term dominant in this context. Being dominant doesnt mean you have to thrash every bowler. Its about being at the top of the game for a long time and both of them have achieved yet and the stats speaks for themselves. Respect to both these fine batsmen and may they retire on a good note..

  • Dummy4 on June 7, 2011, 19:56 GMT

    Another useless column from Ian Chappell. Sir, first of all, Tendulkar is going great presently, and he is not a burden on the team. No one wants him to get retire. Secondly, we all know what kind of form Ponting is going along. Considering his age, it is difficult for him to return n i am quite sure that CA must be looking for the right person who could replace him anytime.

  • Prashant on June 7, 2011, 13:33 GMT

    @Alexk400, don't worry dude India is still the best test team and world champions in ODI. Plus BCCI is the unofficial governing body of cricket coz you know, they got the money, they got the power. And they control the puppets. So maybe a bone or two can be thrown if there's any one from other cricketing nations that need a chance. And then you can rate them based on how many games they win.

  • Big on June 7, 2011, 13:29 GMT

    @Jim1207, everyone in the world has the right to talk about sports celebrity, Ian does not hold the rein on this. I think we should leave the retirement to individuals as there are many other factors than when Ian listed that can affect their decision such as family commitments, other business ventures. Lets leave them alone.

  • Hassan on June 7, 2011, 12:07 GMT

    There is no need for Tendulker to retire. He is physically fit, he is mentally stable, he is in form, he ducks politics, and he ducks controversies. He comes in quitely, makes his century without any stress, throws his wicket when he is tired, and walks out. Life is under cruise control for him. He has another good five years to go.

  • Sukumar on June 7, 2011, 11:50 GMT

    What Ian had mentioned is absolutely true. These both guys - Saching & Punters should announce thier retirement when they feel they cant contribute to the team!!! Those who are claiming Sachin is not playing for Personal Records or Money.. First answer why he had played the full IPL seasons all the 4 years and opted for rest for the next series played by India? If he is really playing for Team India rather than his personal things, he should have took rest in few IPL games in every season and should have made himself available for the next International game India plays, but it dint happen. In the last 3 years Sachin opted for rest many times citing too much of cricketing schedule!!! If he comes out of IPL, he will have 50 days rest and can play for the whole year for Team India. But money matters for him rite???

  • randolf on June 7, 2011, 11:41 GMT

    Good article Ian; however, I think that you're being unfair to one or two of the younger players around. For example, Johnathan Trott, who through no fault of his own was given a chance to start his career at relatively late stage, has performed at this 'early' stage much better that either Tendulkar or Pontin. Also in the real meaning of the term 'dominating batsman' I don't think either of them belongs to this group. This is the group that belongs to players such as Viv Richards, Brian Lara, Adam Gilchrist, Doug Walters, Gary Sobers. These are players who had the confidence that they were not taking chances whenever they meant to destroy 'any' bowler - they did it successfully with incredible consistency, in style, with arrogance and purpose. Tendulkar more than Pontin takes no chance. Whenever he gets out, it's to the credit of the bowler. Johnathan Trott plays similarly; he has every shot that thay all have. But he does not have over 2 billion fans backing him.

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