For those wondering why Sourav Ganguly was running endless laps of the Eden Gardens, something he did not fancy ten years ago, the mystery was solved by the man himself. He is thinking of returning to Ranji Trophy.
Ganguly's swift return to competitive cricket after a brief spell of retirement and TV commentary is a pragmatic decision. As the Kolkata Knight Riders' likely captain, and with a year of his contract still to run out, Ganguly needs to stay sharp to meet the intense demands of the IPL. For all his impressive achievements, he understands that it is impossible to succeed if you are only connected to current cricket through the TV remote.
Others too realise that retirement in today's context is a tough call. Earlier, a player packed his bags, bid goodbye to his mates as soon as he knew there was no realistic chance of making the team. With little to gain, and lots to lose, players saw no point in journeying to obscure centres and wasting time when there were more important, more interesting things to do. But now, with substantial money thrown into the mix, the equation changes.
A first-class season for every Ranji player, even those in the lowly Plate division, is now worth Rs 10 lakh, which is a better reward than what corporate India offers to bright and qualified people. Given this financial security, players have a strong incentive to continue playing. Serious money in domestic cricket and the hope of playing one big life-changing innings (which brings instant fame and abundant riches) has pushed any thoughts of retirement to the background.
The game is getting younger, fitter and faster, but as in county cricket, the average age of cricketers keeps going north.
At the international level, considering the amount of cricket that is played, injury and burnout are genuine issues. Which is why teams rotate players and Ricky Ponting and Paul Collingwood, captains of their one-day sides, recently opted out of matches.
Still, harsh reality and common sense suggest that you don't stay away and even those who ask for rest want to return before someone else occupies their slot in the team. It is this reverse swing that compels players to fast track their return from injury, often with disastrous results.