Why cricketers seldom do a Schumacher?

Any sport is as unpredictable as life. Who knew what would follow after the horrifying accident of Formula One driver Felipe Massa in the Hungarian circuit?

updated: February 03, 2011 21:57 IST
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New Delhi: Any sport is as unpredictable as life. Who knew what would follow after the horrifying accident of Formula One driver Felipe Massa in the Hungarian circuit? The news of seven-time world champion and Ferrari's technical advisor Michael Schumacher making a return created enough buzz to downplay the Massa mishap. Though the comeback is said to be a temporary one, it's exciting nevertheless.

After his much-hyped post retirement comeback, the media got down to make a list of all such great comebacks. Trust me it made an interesting read. A list that has names like Mohammed Ali (Boxing), Lance Armstrong (Cycling), Martina Navratilova (Tennis), Michael Jordan (Basketball), Mark Spitz (Swimming), Pele (Soccer), Zinedine Zidane (Soccer) has to be one. All these sportspersons were and are undoubtedly best in their business.

Amidst all this, I found something unusual. Where are the cricketers? Why are there no such legendary comebacks in cricket? I wanted to know if there were any such success stories and I failed to succeed beyond Bob Simpson and Dennis Lillee.

How is it that a sportsperson knows it's time to call it a day? Olympian and Australia's beach volleyball player Annette Huygens-Tholen, who retired thrice, had an interesting experience to share.

"The first time I retired was because I had reached my goal of playing in the Olympics and thought there was nothing left to do in the sport. The second time I retired was because I thought I was getting old (37 years old) and I should take care of my back (screws had held it together since 1992). When I retired the third time, at age 41, it was for the right reasons - I had a new passion and new goals to finally convince me to put away the competition cozzie/togs/bathers/swimsuit for good," she said in her blog.

Seriously, every reason I tried to fathom, I failed. Not that the reasons were vague. Take this - if age is a factor then Michael Schumacher is 40-plus as is Lance Armstrong. Similarly if fitness is an issue, you will have tremendous respect for the likes of Navratilova and Jordan. And the successful presence of Sanath Jayasuriya only strengthens my belief that it's not only about age and fitness. There's something much bigger and much more important.

Do these reasons apply to cricketers as well?

One of the most successful wicketkeeper-batsmen, Adam Gilchrist, shared some hidden fears in his autobiography.

"For 18 months since England (2005 Ashes defeat), I'd been in a kind of mortal combat with my doubts, and it was showing. Those close to me saw how cranky I was, how dry and tired, how little I was enjoying it………. I started to feel that I'd been fluking it in Test cricket for a few years and now reality was catching up. I wasn't as good as my record suggested. The reputation I'd built over seven years in the Test team, I was undoing it all. I wanted to get out before I did it any more damage."

So is it the ultimate call, the desertion of passion, death of hunger, fear of freefall? May be. Though we saw many taking retirement from one format to extend their career in another format, we are yet to see a legendary cricketer rising after the midnight.