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By Sunil Gavaskar
As with any World Cup there are retirements and exits from the big stage and even as the Australian team the defending champions landed back in Australia having lost their battle to stay on top for another World Cup there were a couple of announcements.
First Ricky Ponting announced that he was stepping down from the captaincy of the Australian team and would be happy to play under the new skipper simply as a batsman and would help the new skipper in any way which he could. The Australians announced Michael Clarke as the new skipper which has not gone down well with most Australians who some how have reservations about Clarke being the captain of their cricket team. How Clarke revives Australian cricket will soon be seen but it is going to be an uphill task for him since Australia seems to have run dry of the top quality players that they had like Gilchrist, Warne, McGrath and Hayden to name just a few of the stalwarts who took Australia right to the top of the cricketing tree.
The other player who announced that he was quitting one day cricket was Shaun Tait which was hardly a surprise given his sorry performances in the World Cup. If there was ever an overrated player then that has to be Tait. Just because he could bowl at about 150kph he was touted as being someone who would put the shivers down the spine of batsmen, however in the history of the game there have been innumerable speedsters in the game who have burst on the scene and just as quickly faded either through injury or simply not being good enough at the International level.
Even before the advent of protective gear there were many such quicks who were one season wonders. Now of course with the kind of protective equipment there really is no fear of any quick bowler and even tail enders are quite adept at playing them. The Australian media often accused of being one eyed had touted Tait as one who would make the Indian batsmen quake when he was selected for the Perth test but found instead that Virender Sehwag’s belligerence and the technique and class of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman was just too good .
In the end Ricky Ponting barely used him and so badly was Tait’s confidence affected after that mauling that he announced he was taking a break from the game. Quite clearly he had believed the hype created around him by the media and felt that all he had to do was to mark his run up and the Indians would not be seen taking guard. He found out that test cricket is not about words but about action and while he was good at the former he just wasn’t good enough for the later. He then decided that he was going to preserve his body and play only in limited overs cricket where he had limited success but has now found that in order to preserve his body and perhaps his mind he has to cut down on fifty overs cricket and play even more limited cricket of the twenty overs variety. Who knows a little later he may want to preserve his body even more and just focus on the t10 variety of cricket.
Cricket today unfortunately gets far too much involved in this kind of propaganda and unless the player is mature enough to understand that it is simply to sell more newspapers or get more eyeballs he is going to find himself increasingly frustrated at his inability to live up to the billing. More players are going to fall by the wayside and their fall will be gleefully discussed in the print as well as the electronic media but only for a short time as newer such bakras will be found who will be raised to the skies even when they belong to the ground floor and then brought down to the basement level after a season or two. this is going to more so with the Indian Premier League where already many players touted as being the stars of the future after the first season have found no franchise interested in them when the auctions took place just before this edition began.
Ponting’s decision was a wise one because quite clearly there is a shelf life for captaincy and it is just not possible to get the same results after a few years. There will always be some younger players with aspirations to the job who will make life tough and there will also be those of a similar age who will feel that they were deprived of the position that was theirs and would not be as keen to go that extra mile as they would have been otherwise.
Ponting has given his career an added lease of life and the way he got that century against Indian in the quarter finals showed that he still has lots of runs left in him. Whatever the future he will always be one of the greatest to have played the game and will be remembered not just for his fabulous batting but for his outstanding fielding be it close in or in the outfield.