Tag: Zafar Ansari

Zafar Ansari’s “other ambitions” and other tales of premature retirement from cricket

Cricket - Friends Life Twenty20 Finals Day - second semi final - Hampshire v Surrey

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.”

Zafar Ansari is almost certainly batting too high

Earlier today, we took issue with England’s willingness to make bold prophecies. However, we rather shot our match-previewing bolt yesterday, so we’re now going to have to commit much the same crime simply so that we have something to say.

We are guessing/predicting that Zafar Ansari will be (a) playing and (b) batting too high in the second Test. We think he’ll come in ahead of Chris Woakes (if he plays) and Adil Rashid (if he plays). We think this is wrong.

Ansari averages 31 in first-class cricket with a large proportion of those runs made in the second division. He has made three hundreds.

Woakes has made nine hundreds and averages 37. Adil Rashid has made 10 hundreds and averages 34. Both have played the majority of their cricket in the first division. You might argue that they’re a bit older than Ansari – but we put it to you that sometimes older players are also better batsmen.

The cause of this anomaly, as far as we can tell, is that Woakes and Rashid have been picked as bowlers, whereas Ansari has been picked as an all-rounder. Team management have therefore understandably concluded that Ansari is the better batsman – even though he isn’t.

Have you seen Zafar Ansari play? Any good?

We’ve always had a theory that Surrey England players are, in general, worse than those provided by other counties. The thinking is that you don’t have to do quite as much to get noticed if you play for Surrey.

Surrey is a big club and the ground seems to be a regular haunt of many cricket journos. If you play well, there’s usually someone there to see it. Equally, if you’re the one going down to report on a game, there’ll always be someone to write about.

It’s basically the flipside of that timeless philosophical question: ‘If a wicket falls at the County Ground in Derby and there’s no-one there to live blog it, does it really count?’

So that’s our preamble to Zafar Ansari’s England Test selection and our entirely reflexive, not-at-all-based-in-fact sense that he maybe isn’t ‘all that’.

That’s a tough and entirely unfair thing to say about a young player. As with most 23-year-olds, there’s more to come than’s been with Ansari. It’s just that in previous years we’ve read reams and reams about how great and fantastic and exciting the likes of Jade Dernbach and Stuart Meaker were and then when it actually came down to it, they weren’t particularly good. They often became newsworthy simply because someone had spent the day in front of a laptop at The Oval and didn’t feel they could file a blank page.

So column inches are not directly proportional to quality, which is why we reserve the right to be cautious now that Ansari is getting more and more of them.

Our views on the second division of the County Championship are fairly straightforward. This season, playing at that level, Ansari has averaged 36 with the bat and 31 with the ball. That’s okay, but it only makes him six runs better than fellow Surrey spinner Gareth Batty for the former and six runs worse for the latter.

But maybe this already pointless umming and ahhing is redundant anyway. We’ve just noticed that Ansari’s gone to hospital with some sort of thumb knack. “Fingers crossed for him,” said Alec Stewart – which seems an unnecessarily cruel turn of phrase to use in reference to someone who’s just bust a digit.

We hope he’s okay and we hope he turns into an excellent cricketer. Cynicism and hope cohabit within us like Patrick Stewart and Brian Blessed in the gay domestic sitcom a friend of ours once envisioned.

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