Even cricketers who have enjoyed glorious careers can be at the mercy of the selectors at some stage of their careers. Greats like Ricky Ponting, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly couldn’t stage-manage their exit strategy. Over the last few years, not many have been afforded graceful exits.
With talk surrounding Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement, one must remember the decision is not his alone. Yes, we are talking Tendulkar here. During the 1964-65 home series against New Zealand, Vijay Manjrekar was asked to retire despite scoring a century in what was his last innings. After the 1969 home series against Australia that India lost 1-3, skipper Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, despite a gutsy fifty on a tough Chepauk wicket, was asked to quit captaincy and retire by then chief selector Vijay Merchant. “When Merchant was the chairman of selectors, he couldn’t even explain why he wanted to change the team. If he had given proper reasons, people would have understood, but he had no reasons,” Pataudi said in an interview many years later. He was recalled in 1973.
Dilip Vengsarkar, former chief selector, too had to deal with senior players at the end of their careers. Virender Sehwag was dropped and recalled during his tenure. “With big players, they know when the time has come to retire. It is not up to the selectors, it’s more up to the players. Because they take pride in their performances, they will not hang around if they are not performing to that level. You just wait and let them take the call,” Vengsarkar told HT.
For Kiran More, another former chief selector, everything boils down to communication. “I had to deal with some big players in my time. What I realised is that it’s important to communicate a lot. If a player’s time is ending, he typically gives a time frame to the Board and the selectors - so his exit can be planned. Of course, this information remains very confidential.”
What about those cases when a player refuses to reveal his intentions? “In that case, the selectors take a call. And that’s how it should be. It doesn’t matter how big a player is. If we are developing a team for the future, we have to take many things into consideration. If a player doesn’t communicate and say ‘look I am going to quit in so many months or a year’, it makes life tough for all. Nobody likes to see great players hanging around,” More told HT on Friday.
Neither Laxman nor Ganguly had communicated a time frame to the selectors. Most such retirements have happened following long meetings, or a phone call. Steve Waugh, a lock-in candidate to captain Australia at the 2003 World Cup, was axed as ODI skipper a year earlier.
And that’s when even greats are reminded that the final chapter is not theirs alone to write.