In his weekly column, Cricket World editor John Pennington tries to work out whether players, boards and fans can ever be happy with the amount of cricket that is being played in light of recent comments made by Kevin Pietersen.
To retire, or not to retire, or to retire from some forms of the game but not others, is the question. Cricket is unique in offering players three different formats to play in, so allowing opportunities to specialise in certain formats or stop playing certain formats in a bid to prolong a career.
Others are forced into retirement prematurely such as Mark Boucher, and although he won’t play international cricket, it was pleasing to hear that the latest medical bulletin is positive. It doesn’t look as if he will lose the injured eye and he hopes to play again in the future.
Brett Lee was another man who announced his retirement this week, a calf injury eventually forcing him to release that he had lost his battle with advancing years. He will still play Twenty20 cricket in the Big Bash League and Indian Premier League, which have become a happy hunting grounds for several former international cricketers.
The birth of high-profile, lucrative Twenty20 leagues came at the perfect time for the likes of Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Brad Hogg, for example.
Hogg’s is an intriguing case. Having retired and moved into the commentary box, he made an unexpected comeback in the BBL, and did so well that he earned a call-up to the national team and an IPL contract. Proof either that if you are good enough, then the year of your birth is something of an irrelevance, or that Australia need more time to find their next Shane Warne.
Andrew Symonds was one of the pioneers of cricketers who have played T20 cricket around the world, particularly as his time playing for Australia came to an end. You could say Chris Gayle retired from international cricket for a year following the World Cup.
He certainly had no intention of turning out in the maroon colours while he was busy blasting the ball to all parts for the Royal Chalengers Bangalore and Sydney Thunder although thankfully for world cricket, both parties have subsequently been reconciled.
Former RC Bangalore batsman Kevin Pietersen announced his retirement from limited overs internationals last month. Pietersen wanted to simply stop playing ODIs, but under the terms of his central contract, this was not an option and he had to also call time on his Twenty20 International career. So far, so good?
Except there’s a problem. Pietersen is arguably England’s best Twenty20 cricketer and was outstanding in helping them win the ICC World Twenty20 in 2010, but now he won’t be able to help them try to retain their crown. Now we understand that he would actually quite like to travel to Sri Lanka later this year but it doesn’t like as if the ECB are going to change their stance.
Pietersen says the schedule is a ‘nightmare’ and the ECB are admirably committed to maintaining the integrity of all three forms of the game so won’t allow players to pick and choose their formats. Pietersen will have to go back on his retirement from ODI cricket if he wants to play in the ICC WT20.
What must Pietersen make of the ECB’s stance, given that Michael Clarke, Sachin Tendulkar and Graeme Smith are allowed by their boards to play the forms of the game they choose? And what if, say five years down the line, there is no such thing as ODI cricket?
Could Pietersen come out of retirement, for say, six months, and then decide to pack it in again so he can play in Sri Lanka? Are we getting close to the day when an England cricketer retires from international cricket so he can play a full part in the IPL?
Cricketers can not have it all. It simply isn’t possible for the top players to play all three formats of the international game and feature in the IPL. At the moment, they are the ones making the sacrifices by retiring from international cricket.
Perhaps if more and more top players miss global tournaments that are supposed to represent the pinnacle of the sport, the ICC will look at the scheduling that Pietersen is so unhappy with. No international cricket being played during the IPL might be worth thinking about but even then it is up to the boards to look at resting and rotating their players to keep everybody fresh.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to satisfy all interested parties. Players want to play in the games they want, earn the money they feel they deserve, tournament organisers want to attract the best players, governing bodies similarly want the best players to play in their series and coaches want clear direction on who is available for what formats so they can best prepare. Who will blink first?
© Cricket World 2012
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