Left-handed opener Gautam Gambhir may go down in history as the first cricketer to announce his retirement in a ‘short film’ on social media.
Made with professional help for lighting and camera work, the slickly edited video had the protagonist make the right pauses. Coupled with high emoting to point out the ups and downs of his cricket career, it made for a unique way to bid farewell to cricket.
Quite no one else in the sporting world has hitherto resorted to a monologue on video to announce retirement from the passion of their lives. He may not quite be a budding actor, but Gauti did come through as an effective communicator, despite the odd glitch in delivery.
It is thought Gambhir would like to enter politics, maybe with a BJP ticket somewhere in Delhi or nearby. His retirement close to the general elections of 2019 and before committing to another IPL season is suggestive of his inclination.
Others were less dramatic
Most sportspeople would have been content to hold a press conference, field a few questions on the why of it, and take their bow with some ceremony. But cricket has always taken to dramatic ways of saying farewells, beginning with the entire England team lining up, their county caps held reverentially in their hands, to bid goodbye to Sir Donald Bradman before his final innings.
Cricket is also known to put out motorcades for a star as Australia did for Steve Waugh, its renowned captain and one whose retirement dominated a whole series against India.
The world’s leading Test wicket-taker Muttiah Muralitharan was given a ceremonial send-off at Galle with the Sri Lankans gathering all their greats at the ground by the sea to greet the off spinner.
Sachin Tendulkar got a whole Test match in his hometown Mumbai, not coincidentally his 200th to bid farewell. He fell on the turf, kissed it and held a nation in thrall on his final day in cricket. The whole of India seemed to stop for him that day.
Roger Federer, one of the greatest tennis players ever, does not believe in grand farewells. “I play because I love tennis, not because it needs to end perfectly,” he says emphasizing his need to focus on the process of playing rather than a fantastic climax to his career. Martina Navratilova retired finally when just a month shy of her 50th birthday, she went out on a high after a mixed doubles win at the US Open, an extraordinary 344th title. Somehow, they didn’t celebrate it too much since she had said at least once before that she had retired.
A lot of pro sport does believe in great farewell events, but at dinners and festival events rather than at the venue.
Even Wayne Rooney had a contrived farewell in a friendly soccer fixture.
Alastair Cook, the former England skipper called time on an illustrious 161-Test career finishing as England’s highest run-getter in the longest format of the game. In the final Test, against India, a packed crowd greeted him with standing ovation. The visiting Indian team members stood in a guard of honour for him.
Pete Sampras, the American tennis star bowed out on a high by winning his 13th major title at the 2002 US Open, beating his long-time rival Andre Agassi. But there was no formal ceremony of retirement.
Nico Rosberg, the German F1 pro sprang a surprise by announcing his retirement soon after winning his maiden Formula 1 world championship in 2006. This was the very definition of going out on a high.
When is the best time to retire?
Many have tended to drag on for longer than they should have. It is, however, the trickiest decision, more so considering the stakes involved. In Sachin Tendulka’s case, for instance, it meant having to forego earnings of about Rs 150 crore a season from just the guaranteed endorsement income of celebrity sportsmen. The financial stakes can be impossibly high.
The one cricketer who went out on an absolute high is current Pakistan PM Imran Khan who stepped down the moment his team won the World Cup in Melbourne in 1992. Even then, he was panned for talking more about the cancer hospital he wished to build in his mother’s name more than the “cornered tigers” who won the competition for him.
One World Cup earlier, in 1987, another legend Sunil Gavaskar may have wished to make an exit on a high too except that India lost in the semi-final.
Kapil himself had tarried to get past Richard Hadlee’s then Test bowling record before calling it a day. Of course, it is a general rule that Indian cricketers tend to retire later than their Australian and English counterparts.
Pete Sampras won a Grand Slam title in what was his final professional match though he didn’t say that when he stepped off the court in the 2002 US Open final after beating Andre Agassi. Only months later did he make up his mind that his body did not want to take the punishment anymore and announced that he had quit tennis. “The love of the battle had gone from my heart,” he explained in his book.
Taking a bow with tinge of disappointment
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Don Bradman | In his last Test, against England at The Oval in 1948, the Australian great was just four runs away from averaging a 100 in Tests but got out for a duck.
Mohammed Ali | The legendary boxer retired in 1979 but came out for a comeback fight against Larry Holmes only to lose the match by a knockout, the only knockout defeat of his career.
Diego Maradona | Maradona had an ugly end to his career as he tested positive in a dope test at the 1994 World Cup. No one in sport could have risen higher or fallen lower in public estimation....