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By Sunil Gavaskar
Andrew Flintoff’s retirement from all forms of the game means that, cricket loses one of its most entertaining players and that too, at an age where most others would still be playing. Andrew Flintoff could also have done that, but he was not one to play just for the financial rewards but to be able to give off his best to his beloved England and Lancashire and in doing so, being able to thrill the multitudes that came to watch him.
Unfortunately for the game and his many followers, his body just could not take the punishment it was getting from his whole hearted efforts and he thus had to call it a day. Being naturally big built and giving it everything every ball be it batting or bowling, the body just could not cope with the strain and the injuries he suffered in doing so, were not healing quickly or sufficiently for him to carry on. He was not going to play at anything below his best and so decided to go out. There was also the knowledge that, in his absence over the last season or so, the England team had moved on and had gelled into a nice unit. There were some ex- skippers and former players who thought, that his return to the team would add to the pressure since he would be the centre of attention and so could distract the team.
Andrew was a total team man and he would not want that to be laid at his door. What the cricket world would miss is the cheery smile and his big hitting. What the opposition would not miss is his bowling, where he could bowl at more than 90 miles per hour, over after over and the skipper would have to get the ball off him, so committed was he in trying to get a wicket. His bowling at Lord’s in the Ashes series of 2009 was incredible to say the least and even hard boiled Australian ex-players were fulsome in their praise of that effort. That could well have been the reason that his ankle gave way and then, the knee and with his kind of action and the weight put into all the deliveries it was never going to be easy to have those body parts clicking like a young man's again. What could well be a cricket promoter’s delight is, to have a big hitting competition between him and Kieron Pollard, to see who hits the ball farthest. For these two are by the biggest and longest hitters of a cricket ball in recent memory.
Kieron Pollard has not quite got the recognition that he deserves from cricket followers. His display of big hitting in the Champions League being played in South Africa is simply mind boggling. The pulled six of Shaun Tait should also lay to rest those who feel that he cannot play the short ball well. That ball was bowled at more than 90 miles an hour and Pollard pulled it in front of square leg for a six that went out of the ground and was measured as being around 120 meters long. Now that takes some doing and don’t forget, that it was on a bouncy Durban pitch that he played it against a bowler who is the fastest in the world today. It was a stunning shot. Adam Gilchrist also hit sixes quite effortlessly, but he did not have the brutal power that Pollard has. The amusing part after that shot was, while the ball was being retrieved from outside the ground, the DJ put some music on and Pollard and his Trinidad and Tobago teammate for the Mumbai Indians Dwayne Bravo, kept moving to the beat as they waited for the ball to be returned or a replacement ball to arrive. It was a sheer typically magical West Indian moment and the reason why the world wants the West Indies to be back as a competitive team in world cricket.
That might take some time if one goes by the Guyana team’s performance in the tournament so far. The West Indian islands were famous for having at least two good quickies in each team but what was seen from the Guyanese was disappointing indeed. They not only don’t have anybody who is quick, but their catching was abysmal too and the batting apart from Ramnaresh Sarwan looks quite ordinary. Still seeing the manner in which Pollard is shining as a cricketer for different teams in the T20 competitions all over the world, there could be a revival of sorts that would make the Caribbean team one to watch out for.
The Champions League is coming to its crucial stage now but somehow the zing that is there in the IPL is not quite there. The crowds have not been up to expectations and that could well be because the weather has been fluctuating from chilly to very hot. It could well be that, with pre-tournament favorites Mumbai Indians losing their first two games there is a feeling that the tournament will lose its attraction if they go out. Whatever it is, the feeling that there is something missing from the tournament is not quite being shaken off. Perhaps, having a play off for two places in the tournament between the fourth placed IPL team and teams from New Zealand, West Indies and Sri Lanka, may build a little more excitement in the tournament. These two qualifying teams would then join the other eight teams for the main tournament.
Hopefully the remaining games will provide enough spark and crackle and make it a great finish.