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Lawrence Booth: Retirement is good for you

April 29th, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in IPL

Anyone propping up a certain part of the bar of the Southern Sun Elangeni hotel in Durban last night might have heard a current international cricketer tell his lady friend: “Oh yeah, this is where the money is. Soon we might not be playing Tests at all.” This is the doomsday scenario, although – as the player himself almost certainly knew – it won’t happen any time soon. But the success so far in the Indian Premier League of three retired Test cricketers suggests his bravado may just have stumbled on to something.

Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden (both 37) and Shane Warne (39) are still pretty handy players in their own right, of course, but Twenty20 is supposed to be a young man’s game, not the place old cricketers go to see out their retirement. These guys were supposed to be here to add glamour, provide a meaningful Australian presence, and pass on their accumulated wisdom, not upstage cricketers in the prime of their lives. Yet look at what’s happened.

Gilchrist has scored 163 runs in four innings at a strike-rate of 171, higher than anyone who has totalled at least 50. Hayden is the tournament’s leading run-scorer with 215 (strike-rate: 162), and as such is the proud owner of the IPL’s very own yellow jersey, the, er, orange cap. And Warne is still turning his leggies with gusto, conceding only seven runs an over, while captaining Rajasthan Royals with his usual sense of adventure. The conclusion? Retirement is good for you.

If you think that’s baloney, listen to Gilchrist after his innings of 44 off 19 balls on Monday in Durban set up the rampaging Deccan Chargers for victory over Chennai Super Kings, their fourth win out of four. “Often you can get a little bit inhibited in the day-to-day grind of international cricket,” said the man with the ODI strike-rate of almost 97. “There are players I’ve looked at and we’ve played against who I do think look a bit jaded. Obviously there’s a T20 tournament coming up so they’ve got to be mindful of that. Maybe it’s just that retired players are allowing ourselves a bit of freedom, knowing that we don’t have that grind after this.”

Perhaps concerned about headlines along the lines of “Gilly: why we should all quit”, he quickly added: “I wouldn’t for a moment encourage younger players to retire.” But his thoughts are an insightful take on an age-old problem: how to get the best out of yourself in a game where a tense mind can mean a damagingly tense body.

Even Sourav Ganguly, another Test retiree, has made the point in his own inimitable way. Ganguly has not cut the most joyful figure so far in South Africa, possibly because Kolkata Knight Riders are being captained by a New Zealander rather than Ganguly himself. And yet he has still found it within him to top-score in two innings out of three.

Players often say of events which take place in their lives outside the game that they “put cricket into perspective”. Usually this lasts as long as it takes them to make another duck or take none for 100. But the experience so far of Gilchrist, Hayden and Warne suggests the best way to attain the sportsman’s nirvana of perspective might be to stop playing – almost, but not quite – altogether. In which case the cricketer at the bar might have been speaking more truthfully than even he knew.

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for The Guardian. His third book, Cricket, Lovely Cricket? An Addict’s Guide to the World’s Most Exasperating Game is out now published by Yellow Jersey

Posted in IPL | 1 Comment »

One Response to “Lawrence Booth: Retirement is good for you”

  1.   The Village Cricketer says:

    It’s a handy gravy train for useful players - here’s hoping it doesn’t becoming the overiding priority for the best.


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