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2015 and Legends’ Retirements – A Hand and Glove Affair

December 28, 2015

CRICKET-ENG-AUS

As the year 2015 is on the verge of finishing its terms and for the first time I am in front of my 25th post of the year, the best thing what I can do right now is to try my hands at doing what people do the most with a new year round the corner – to look back and recapitulate the memories of the last 12 months. I could not have asked for a better time to publish this article and make it twenty five for the year.

If we look back, records held for years getting shattered, the likes of AB de Villiers and Steve Smith establishing their authority, new ODI rules adding flavors to the game and Bangladesh emerging as its new powerhouse, test matches played under lively conditions all around the globe seeking more interest from the people, a Mumbai Indians triumph at the end of inarguably the most exciting IPL season till date, India clinching test series victory in Sri Lanka after 22 years, a great initiative in form of the All Star Cricket Series in attempt to globalize the game , a South African surrender in India causing halt to their dream run in tests and obviously an ICC World Cup to remember – 2015 has been an absolutely fascinating calendar year altogether for the cricket fans.

But having kept all these things in mind, if something has flooded the news headlines more than anything else, it has to be the numerous cricketers announcing their retirements – some of them from all formats, some of them from only one or two; some of those retirements being expected while the rest could hardly be imagined, but I have never seen so many legends bidding goodbye to the game during a single year. It all started in the world cup and since then one after another legendary cricketer stepped down from the grand stage – easily the most dominant part of this year’s cricketing highlights. Let’s show you some of those.

Michael Clarke (From all formats)

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The Australian captain was considered to be one of the luckiest persons to have announced his retirement from the ODIs just after he led his team to the fifth World Cup title. But there was little luck to follow. Months later he had to take himself off bearing a majority of the responsibilities behind the Ashes debacle of his team. However he will be remembered as one the of most aesthetically pleasing batsmen, a prolific run scorers over the years, a successful captain and a bowler with a golden arm who could turn the match on its head.

Mitchell Johnson (From all formats)

Australia v England - Fifth Test: Day 3

This man made me a real fan of his bowling while featuring in IPL 6 for the Mumbai Indians. If someone can provide you a combo pack of pace, swing and carry on the Indian pitches and is able to bowl in the right channel on a consistent basis then he is certainly doing a phenomenal job for you. That’s exactly what Johnson did; not only here in India, but also in the 2013-14 Ashes to mould England. To me he should be among the top 3 fast bowlers of the 21st century. When he is at his best bowling those swinging fireballs, there are very few better than him.

Misbah-ul-Haq (From ODIs)

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He is one of those unfortunate players to have more haters than fans in his own country while the other teams are dying to have a player of his quality. He also was unfortunate to have picked late by the national selectors. But from the day he stepped into the team and up to now, the players he played with while representing Pakistan could never match up to the consistency level of Misbah. The lack of support from the other end often left him alone in the battle. On a number of occasions he got out after a well fought innings and just before taking his team to a famous victory would often make people to misinterpret his “smart” innings with a “selfish” one. You got to feel sorry for this guy.

Shahid Afridi (From tests and ODIs)

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You talk about sixes, you talk about fastest centuries, you talk about ducks and you talk about Shahid Afridi. From the most trolled player to the most destructive batsman – it doesn’t even take a blink of an eye for Afridi to turn into the latter from the former. One will have to admit that the amount of fear he used to create in the minds of bowlers, even today not many players can. Not only that, somewhere in between his massive sixes and golden ducks we often forgot to admire his bowling abilities. At times his batting fell apart, but his bowling kept flourishing and helped him to prolong his career.

Mahela Jayawardene (From all formats)

India v Sri Lanka - ICC World Twenty20 Bangladesh 2014 Final

Playing for your country for 18 long years and being a pillar of the batting line up throughout your career is something that no Sri Lankan could even dream about until there came a gentleman named Mahela Jayawardene. More than 10,000 runs in both ODIs and tests, highest number of centuries in a single ground and being one of the top slip fielders of all time – what else it takes to be a legend! How many times we have seen “caught Jayawardene bowled Murali” in the scorecards! Certainly he has made significant contributions behind another legend’s legendary achievements too.

Kumar Sangakkara (From all formats)

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Commitment, consistency and class – the three words which best describe the greatest wicketkeeper batsman of all time. One doesn’t simply score 4 back to back centuries in World Cup games unless he is Kumar Sangakkara. Most of the people were surprised with his decision of retirement with at least 2 years of cricket still left in him. But going back in terms with his head held high will earn him even more respect, just like he has earned so much of it with his on field performances and humbleness off the field.

Zaheer Khan (From all formats)

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When it comes to setting up a left handed batsman according to plan or bowling inside the batting powerplay (though these days we don’t have any), the left arm pacer from Mumbai will always be my prime choice. Zaheer Khan was miraculously good at swinging the new ball, whether it be an in-swinger or an out-swinger and was equally good while reversing the old one. Whenever the captain needed wickets he threw the ball to him and he provided the breakthrough. He played a huge role as India went on to top the test rankings and win the world cup. He might not have a great deal of pace, but had some magical skills with a lion’s heart what made him easily the 2nd best among all the Indian pacers of all time, only next to the great Kapil Dev.

Virender Sehwag (From all formats)

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Formats changed, colors changed, opponents changed – but not Virender Sehwag. He only knew one way to bat, which is however not a rare thing in the modern day cricket, but the amount of runs he has scored solely relying on hand-eye coordination is a thing what makes him a special player. That’s also the reason why the feats he has achieved no one else have. In spite of not being a regular opener, the way he batted upfront in tests was unbelievable. He was of course the first fan of Sachin Tendulkar in India to have made into the Indian Cricket Team and possibly the most entertaining batsman to have ever played the game.

Daniel Vettori (From all formats)

Australia v New Zealand - First Test: Day 3

Vettori was the youngest player to play test match for New Zealand at the age of 18 only. Since then he has been the main weapon of their spin department until his retirement after the World Cup final in Melbourne. He is easily the best left arm spinner of my generation blessed with the ability to deceive batsmen with his flight and extra bit of bounce. He was a useful contributor with the bat lower down the order. Being a very modest and gentle person he would never be a part of controversy and hence even if you are not his fan, you can’t simply hate him.

Brendon McCullum (From all formats)

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I was highly astonished with the news of Brendon McCullum announcing his retirement from international cricket. I could not see that coming up at all having said that the World T20 has less than three months of time to commence. Nevertheless, we all should take such an opportunity to show respect to the player who has decided to call it a day. And what a player he has been for New Zealand! An ultra-attacking batsman who can take the game away from his opponent within seconds, a wicketkeeper, an electrifying fielder in the outfield, an aggressive captain and an exceptionally inspiring figure sum him up to be an all-round package for the modern game.

No individual is beyond the team and no team is beyond the game. Many have come and gone but the show must go on. I had the privilege of watching all these players right from their debut and all the way to the very end. There are so many childhood memories involved. So as all these players decide to pack up their kits for one final time, the first thing to strike my mind is that I have no longer been a kid or a teen. My childhood is now officially over.

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