2012 Cricket: A year of stalwarts' retirements
BANGALORE: 2012 has been a sensational year for cricket fans across the globe.
South Africa has emerged as the powerhouses of the game, West Indies have shown signs of revival, India have plummeted new depths while England have created history.
The mercurial Pakistanis have blown hot and cold while Australia have shown spark for the future.
The young tigers of Bangladesh have immense promise in the shorter versions of the game while New Zealand has a pair of pacers whom the world is looking up to.
But one set of events has overshadowed all the related factors, the retirements of some of the giants who dominated in the game in the late 90s and the early 2000s. They have left the game poorer not just in quality, but also in humility. Here is a sneak peek at few if the modern masters who waved good-bye from the game this year.
One of the biggest players to announce his retirement from the game, Rahul Dravid not just left a big void to fill in the Indian team but left world cricket poorer at the loss of one of the last standing technicians.
Spanning over 15 years, Dravid turned out to be one of the unsung heroes of a golden generation for Indian cricket, be it the Kolkata heist against Australia in 2001, the Headingley epic against England in 2002, the Adelaide roller-coaster a year later which was immediately followed by the Rawalpindi special against arch-rivals Pakistan in early 2004.
But the very essence of Dravid was to come in that famous match at Jamaica where he stood transfixed on an unplayable surface at the Sabina Park in 2006. That was what separated Dravid from the rest.
Laxman s career was one of finesse, his 281 against Australia at Kolkata was the spark needed to resurrect as fading career, the 148 glorious runs at Adelaide set up an exhilarating Indian win while his 69 on a Mumbai minefield against Australia was an innings of sheer brilliance and his 96 at Durban against the likes of Steyn, Morkel and company was treasured in the annals of Indian cricket history. Also memorable was his unbeaten 73 against Australia at Mohali which was a master class of batting with the tail.
One of the most gifted strikers of the cricket ball, Ponting had the class of Sachin Tendulkar, elegance of VVS Laxman and the obdurate concentration of Rahul Dravid, all rolled in one. It took a serious examination of his technique and the consequent cheap dismissals during the recent Test series against South Africa for one of the greatest batsman to call it a day.
While his fighting 197 against Pakistan at Perth in 1999-00, coming after 3 successive ducks showed his determination, the unbeaten 144 against England at Leeds was absolute domination. 156 of his best runs came as Ponting emerged as Australia s savior in the 2005 Ashes Test at Old Trafford while the twin hundreds against South Africa at Sydney in 2006 marked him out for greatness and let s not forget his 123 against India at Bangalore, where he finally conquered the one country where he had struggled throughout his career.
Straus had an incredible start to his Test career with 112 on his debut innings against New Zealand at the hallowed Lord s in 2004. Be it his sprightly career saving knock of 177 against the same opposition four years later or the twin hundreds against India at Chennai, 2008 that set up an astonishing final day chase of 387 by the hosts, he was there when England needed him. If there was one man England needed to set an example, then one can no longer look beyond his knocks of 161 and 110 at Lords and Brisbane respectively that set the platform for two successive Ashes triumphs.
The diminutive wicket-keeper, one of the best the world saw was forced to close his career following a horrific eye injury. The holder of the most number of Test dismissals had a sad ending to his cricketing career after a dislodged bail struck him in his left eye. Left with a condition called lacerated eyeball, Boucher bid adieu to a wonderful 15 year old career.
Boucher ended his career stranded with 999 Test dismissals. Add his lone wicket as a bowler, the scalp of Dwayne Bravo during the 2005 Test at St. John s, Boucher can legally claim to have joined the 1000 dismissals list.
Lee was also bothered by a series of injuries that ultimately curtailed his career to a large extent. It was no surprise that it was an injury that forced Lee to put a full stop on his career. If his 5/47 against India on debut at the MCG was a hint of the future, his figures of 5/30 against West Indies at the Gabba in 2005 sending the opponents hurtling to a humiliating defeat or his pivotal role in Australia s successful World Cup campaign in 2003.