AB de Villiers spent rather a long time desperately trying to engineer a cake monopoly. He wanted to retain and eat The Cake of International Cricket; he wanted to retain and eat The Lucrative Cake of T20 Franchise Cricket; and he also wanted to retain and eat The Cake of Having a Little Bit of Time Off.
Sometimes a man’s desires are impractical and AB finally seems to have accepted that the world isn’t organised how he wants it to be. He’s therefore taken the decision to forego The Cake of International Cricket.
It seems odd timing with a World Cup not so far away. Maybe David Warner and Nathan Lyon broke his spirit.
Each to his own and all that, but the “new chapter” in Zafar Ansari’s life sounds dull as shit to us. He’s retired from cricket at the age of 25 to pursue another career, “potentially in law”.
We’ve been here before. We’ve been here several times. There was James Bruce, who retired at 28 in favour of a career ‘in the City’ and there was Alex Loudon shortly before him.
We wrote about these bizarre decisions for The Wisden Cricketer in 2007 and looking back on that piece, it seems Loudon left cricket in favour of “a corporate advisory firm”. We’ve still no concrete grasp on what that might mean, but we do know that the words alone make us feel hollow and slightly tearful about the fundamental meaninglessness of existence.
To try and gain some insight into WHY IN HELL a man might make such a decision, we spoke to Paul Downton (yes, that one) who carved out a successful career in finance after he retired from cricket (in his thirties) and was at the time working as a director at a firm called Cazenove.
We can’t find our notes from that interview, but we remember him telling us that it would be tough for these players to turn down the opportunity to embark on what would surely prove to be highly lucrative careers. He had to tell us this several times because each time he said it, we responded with some uncomprehending version of “but… they were cricketers?”
Perhaps we’re a bit of a simpleton, but our view has always been that you only get one crappy body and it’s slowly dying from the moment you’re born. Using that body to play sport – and play it well – during the relatively short window when that’s an option has always seemed to us to be one of the absolute finest uses of one’s time.
But as we said at the top, each to his own. Loudon saw things differently. He admitted to us that he’d miss cricket at times, but added: “Mostly I’ll have my head firmly in front of a computer screen and thinking of exciting things in my future career.”
If we weren’t actually first off the mark in lauding Tom Smith, we were there or thereabouts. He elicited that laudery by taking 3-29 on the first day of the 2006 season. Fortunately for us, Smith actually made his debut a year before, so we’re still not yet at the point where this website has spanned a player’s entire career. Give it time.
It is sad. Smith had an extremely good 2014 and people finally started to notice a man whose name had never really helped his cause. He played for England Lions. He did well. The following season: back knack – and he never really recovered.
If there’s a silver lining, it’s the wafer thin possibility that Glen Chapple might be forced into a 2017 cameo as a result of an unexpected injury crisis. Glen managed to evade injury to such an extent that he managed to take 985 first-class wickets – about half of which came on the same rock hard Old Trafford pitch which shuddered Hogg and Smith’s bodies to a standstill.
Do it, Glen. Just nip in for one match and take a cheeky 15-for. Round it up.
Rob Key has retired. It is a sad day. We’re going to don a black cardigan instead of a beige one by way of mourning. We will wear it for 221 minutes in tribute to the number of runs Rob once made in a single Test innings.
Adam Gilchrist’s highest Test score was 204.
You lose again, Adam Gilchrist.
But the truth is, today we all lose. Adam Gilchrist loses the most, but we all lose a little bit. The sky is greyer; the sun is colder; our wrinkles are deeper; and luxury goods are slightly more expensive. Everything is worse. Even this cup of tea is worse. It has slightly too much milk in it. That never would have happened yesterday.
Yesterday Rob Key was still plying his trade as the greatest cricketer in the history of the planet. Today he is playing golf. That isn’t even a joke. We saw it on Twitter. This might just be the most depressing paragraph ever written.
Speaking of Twitter, every now and again we happen across SimonC’s marvellous Rob Key creation which first appeared on this website back in 2009. People often republish it. Quite often they send it to Rob Key himself. If we were on Facebook, we daresay we’d see it there too.
As magnficient as the work is, it makes us sad that no-one ever gives it a proper build-up any more.
For the full effect, this is how it works…
That’s how you publish a funny picture.
Even worse, the people thoughtlessly bandying the image about on social media don’t even know that Rob’s astride a capybara because he’s part of the Hindu pantheon and the capybara is his vehicle.
WHAT KIND OF AN IDIOT DOESN’T KNOW THAT?
We’re putting this post in the ‘England’ category because Rob did play for England and would have done so again if he could have been bothered. Which he couldn’t.
You may well be tempted to wade into the Rob Key archives of this website in a forlorn bid to soften the pain of this dank event. If you do, this is the hub. Don’t neglect the posts on the old site. We used to write songs about him back then. If you can hold back the tears, we could all have a singalong (separately, without making any actual contact with one another).
If James Taylor’s public pronouncements betray an admirable desire to retain a sense of humour about things, his retirement from cricket at the age of just 26 due to arrhythmogenic right ventricular arrhythmia is anything but funny.
It’s easy to point to his having had a job as a professional cricketer as a means of highlighting how others may have it tougher, but at heart we’re all selfish bastards. We only truly know the life we lead and Taylor’s life has just turned down a very unexpected dead end.
You make plans, you work towards things and that’s what keeps you sane. It’s not the goals themselves that matter, but finding purpose in striving for them. With his destination obliterated, a man could quite easily find himself derailed. Throw in a serious heart condition and pessimism could become a default emotion.
A high-achieving cricketer’s sense of self is greatly bound up with the game. You are a cricketer. You are a batsman. You score runs. It’s not just what you do, it’s who you are. James Taylor is no longer that and when your occupation has been so all-consuming, how much room was there for anything else? It may be just a game, but a game can be everything and people feel the impact when everything is snatched from them in an instant.
Taylor will eventually be able to redirect his energy and pursue different things, coaxing his mind back to normal in the process – we’re sure of that. As for the heart condition, he is set to undergo an operation. His retirement from the game makes it clear that this will not be a cure in the fullest sense, but it will, presumably, improve his physical health.
James Taylor retires from cricket with the fourth-highest one-day batting average of all time. Decent player and, by all accounts, a decent bloke. The latter is something he can continue to be, no matter what he does next.
It’s a familiar story to most of you, but it’s worth retelling.
Looking back on losing his first two Tests as captain to South Africa by more than an innings, McCullum told the New Zealand Herald:
“If we’re being honest, at that point the perception of the New Zealand cricket team was that we were overpaid, underdelivering, lazy prima donnas. And I was one of those prima donnas.
“We decided that we couldn’t win every game, but what we could do is change the way we played and the attitude towards us and the attitude within the group.”
There’s a lot of talk about brands of cricket, but McCullum’s New Zealand really did draw something up and then try and live up to it. A lot of this week’s paeans to McCullum have focused on the intent, but the latter part of the equation is not to be underestimated either.
Without sufficient talent, his team’s relentlessly attacking approach would have ended up as a great string of irresponsible dismissals and a series of massive defeats. They didn’t exactly conquer the world, but they bested a fair proportion of it and pretty much held their own against the remainder.
This approach turned New Zealanders into New Zealand cricket fans – a handy conversion for a game that often seems to be atrophying within the smaller nations. It turned cricket fans the world over into New Zealand fans as well and as a bonus taught everyone the valuable lesson that you shouldn’t conflate attack with aggression.
“We’re going to play an attacking style of cricket; in the field we’re going to chase the ball to the boundary as hard as we can; you’re going to see a team that works incredibly hard off the field; and you’re going to see a team that’s respectful and even-keeled in their emotions.
“We want to be known as a team that respects the game, works hard and plays attacking and innovative cricket. The country can cop us losing, but they can’t cop us being those other things.”
This isn’t necessarily about New Zealand’s being the perfect way to play cricket or anything. It’s more that the international cricket ecosystem had been lacking the kinds of checks and balances that McCullum’s New Zealand provided. Put simply, must positive cricketing intent go hand-in-hand with acting like a cock-faced bell-end?
No, not really. Who knew?
‘Everyone with half a brain’ you might answer, but yet there did seem to be a general feeling that even if positive intent weren’t inextricably linked to cock-faced bell-enddom, no-one on the international circuit was actually willing to try and disprove the theory.
McCullum’s New Zealand were willing and they proved their point unarguably by becoming pretty much the most attacking Test team there’s ever been while simultaneously forging a (somewhat unfair) reputation as pious nice boys.
Cricket in New Zealand is better for Brendon McCullum’s stint as captain and so is international cricket as a whole. Plus he played some innings. Top job.
The world’s coaching manuals can breathe a sigh of relief because the greatest dissident of modern times has officially called it a day. No-one who remains will question them quite so persuasively. Cricket’s lost a lot.
When Shivnarine Chanderpaul made his Test debut, he did so in a team containing Desmond Haynes, Richie Richardson, Brian Lara, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh. When he played his final Test, he came in after Marlon Samuels, a man who continues to be selected despite averaging just 33.
We’ve worked in a company like that. At the start, it was a vibrant place full of expertise. By the end, a guy who was found to have sold company data was retained because he cried when he was caught and seemed like he was sorry about it. The IT manager discovered a dead bird in the server and thought the best way of disposing of it would be to try and flush it down the toilet. The company was dying and these were by no means the least-qualified people remaining. The guy who spent the morning reclining on his office chair with his foot in the bin almost certainly was.
Imagine finding yourself in that situation. Imagine the impact on your motivation and professionalism of being surrounded by a confederacy of dunces. Do something well and most wouldn’t even be qualified to recognise it. We get a sense that was the world in which Shivnarine Chanderpaul eventually found himself. But yet where most of us would rush to the exit, Shiv ploughed on – the last great West Indies cricketer.
Hopefully that won’t prove to be the case, hopefully there will be a resurgence, but it seems unlikely at present. At best, Shiv’s retirement snaps the last thin thread to what is now undeniably a previous era.
Excuse us if we resort to a series of links to mark his departure, but we’ve already invested a lot of time in writing about him. Even if he himself rarely got any kind of payback for the long hours he invested at the crease, we’re not keen to pay tribute by doing likewise.
He deserves better than the written equivalent of a frenzied T20 knock, so here are some of our long form innings about him.
Rickets, Chomsky, Shane Watson talking bollocks and the art of persisting for long enough that eventually the world changes shape to accommodate you. Shiv was our final King of Cricket for All Out Cricket.
A tribute in the wake of his 10,000th Test run, written for Cricinfo. It’s basically just 11 different ways of describing that magnificent technique of his. Also includes a Sopranos quote.
The highest honour in international cricket.
The only man to win the highest honour in cricket two years in a row.
How should we should pay tribute to this most magnificent of cricketers? Perhaps we should adopt one aspect of his technique and employ it in our daily life. Today, in honour of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, try and do something – anything – unexpected with your elbows. Let us know how you get on.
Yes. Yes he is. The answer you are looking for is ‘yes’.
Now that he’s a statesmanlike trendsetter and role model, the very embodiment of what cricket should be, it’s easy to forget that for many years Brendon McCullum was just a mediocre wicketkeeper-batsman who typically flailed then failed in the Test format. Despite short format successes, it was only around 2010 when he started looking like a semi-reliably devastating batsman in the serious stuff and there have been great fallow stretches even since then.
You wouldn’t say he’s exactly cracked it now, but last year’s performances were enough to see him named Conjoined Lord Megachief of Gold and if this year hasn’t seen such highs, it surely wouldn’t have been foolish to anticipate further impressive peaks to come. Those that preceded it were sufficiently lofty that even if he’s since declined, there was a very long way to fall.
But that’s not McCullum’s way. Nor is it most people’s way. You spend a long, long time working towards the top, but once you’ve reached your summit there’s typically little appetite for dallying around at fractionally lower altitudes. You may have acclimatised and it may be more comfortable than on the way up, but where’s the motivation? Far better to head back down to a shower and a nice warm bed and maybe watch a bit of telly.
Mitchell Johnson contributed some extremely interesting cricket and you can’t ask for much more than that from a player. Overall, his record is very good, but that long-term-very-goodness was created by opposing short-term extremes.
At his best, Johnson was as exciting to watch as pretty much any cricketer ever. If your team was playing against Australia, you may not have enjoyed the spectacle, but you can’t say it didn’t raise the heart-rate. It wasn’t so much the pace, as that sense that the entire match could be decided in short order.
Set against that, his worst was comically dire. This is of course just as entertaining and therefore, in our eyes, every bit as worthwhile. Friend or foe, Johnson will be missed.
If there’s a lesson to be gleaned from the impact of Good Johnson, it’s that even in its purest form, fast bowling isn’t all about pace – it’s about reaction times. Ed Cowan helps us understand this with an account of what it was like to face him.
“He rocks back after the familiar rhythmical approach, and then it seems you wait an eternity for the ball to be launched towards you. An ever-so-brief moment of panic can sweep across you as you realise he has let it go but you have not picked it up until the ball is halfway down.
“There is certainly some luck involved in getting through those early exchanges – if one delivery is on the money, your day can be over before it really begins. So much of the advance information gained by batsmen about the length of a delivery vanishes when the bowler possesses such an action.”
You can get half an idea of what he means by watching this video comparing the actions of Mitchells Starc and Johnson.
At this point, Johnson’s bowling arm is already down and the ball is well on its way to being released…
… but yet the two bowlers release the ball at (almost) the same time. As Cowan says, there’s almost a pause when the ball’s behind Johnson in his delivery stride; a coiled-spring moment that gives the batsman a split second to ponder what’s to come and also denies him the rhythm he needs to react properly.
Starc is the archetypal thoroughbred fast bowler. Johnson was the Whangotron 9000. For all that a smooth, languid bowling action might be more aesthetically pleasing, in many ways the Johnson method presents more of a threat.