We Need to Talk About Kevin

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It didn’t quite seem unusual when England cricketer Kevin Pietersen left his IPL squad Delhi Daredevils early for national duty, but when news broke soon after that he had announced his retirement from limited overs cricket, i.e. both ODIs and T20s, most cricket fans were in genuine shock. Pietersen, for the record, is one of England’s most prolific all-rounders and is just 31.

Before we dissect his decision, let’s assert that his is not the first such partial retirement that has occurred in the post-T20 era of cricket. Many players whose careers have lasted over a decade quit the shorter forms of the game first, such as Ricky Ponting and Ganguly. Bowling gurus such as Muttiah Muralitharan and Brett Lee, on the other hand, called it quits from tests early, only to carry on in the shorter formats and even more in the annual editions of IPL. The most intriguing, and oddly-timed retirements have been that of Australians Nathan Bracken who quit after a knee injury, Stuart Clarke who’s quit just T20s, and er, Shahid Afridi retiring from all forms of cricket, only to return later. Nearly all the above have had strained relationships and pressures from their boards, Bracken even going on to sue Cricket Australia for having forced him to retire.

Pietersen too has made no qualms of the fact that had it not been for his board’s rigourous contract, he would have gone on to play the upcoming Twenty20 World Cup. What we’re worried about is, however, that strenuous calendars and demanding contracts that are being blamed for premature retirements. What else would prompt Pietersen, or any other player who’s just 31 for that matter, to even consider quitting? A cricketer’s technique and temperament is known to be at its peak during the 28 to 32 age period, and legends such as Tendulkar (whose retirement too has been a hot topic from the past year!) have only proven that it is indeed possible to flourish in all formats of the game for as long as your mind wants to.

That said, from a fan’s point of view, it is unfortunate that Pietersen (who by the way averaged 93.66 in what was to be his last ODI tournament!) will now only play the IPL. His switch-hit, after all, has been a shot cherished, incited and invoked debate among many, and his duels with bowlers (one famous one with Yuvraj Singh!) have been milestones of modern cricket. Yes, he will continue to play test cricket but we don’t think there will be a chance for us to watch his switch-hits. We’ll have to wait for an ignorant bowler’s loose delivery against the Delhi batsman next IPL for one!