Given how well Anil Kumble, Matthew Hayden, Sanath Jayasuriya, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne and so on did in the 2009 IPL, should we put aside the ritual of retirement altogether?
Obviously at some point, it’s necessary, since a 50-year-old Kumble may not be as good as a 30-something one (though I recall the 1996 World Cup featuring one 47-year-old from Holland, I think). But, still, Jayasuriya’s pressing 40 and I’d hate to see the Sri Lankan team without him, and even though the Australian team claims to have moved on, wouldn’t it be so much more menacing with Matthew Hayden at its head? (And wouldn’t the English team look so much better with Mark Ramprakash in it?)
So why not just let old players play and play and play? The best counter-argument has something to do with breeding younger talent; with only 11 spots in a team, you simply can’t afford to let the older generation age while younger saps wither and die. That may be true, but it also presumes younger players don’t have other opportunities. If you a) have Twenty20 tournaments galore, then players will crop up everywhere (as they have in the last two IPL seasons) and b) invest in a better, higher-quality domestic system, younger players will pick up all the skills they need (as in Australia).
I realize Hayden was in bad shape at the end of his career, but the pressure on him was only so intense because of his age. Imagine if he had simply dropped himself, returned to the domestic circuit (or the IPL) and scored as many runs. Wouldn’t he have an excellent case for selection? This also relates to the other counter-argument: old teams are less agile, less creative, and more inflexible. But why should retirement be the solution? If you want to shake things up, then go ahead and drop a player or two, but if that player constantly scores runs, why refuse him?
So, put aside retirement altogether, until you’re physically incapable of bowling or batting a ball. Since retired players can still play in the IPL and Champions League, ‘retirement’ doesn’t mean much as a tag. And since players can excel at more levels now — Twenty20, ODI, Test, domestic, international, IPL — don’t be too worried about your younger players either.