A few months ago, I asked a senior India player what he thought of all the hoopla about his age and calls for retirement. He just laughed. “I’ve stopped thinking about it, as long as I think I’m playing well, that’s all that matters.” Sometimes though, he added, it got to him.
I can’t help thinking about that conversation right now, with all the talk about how Twenty20 cricket is a young man’s game. Thankfully, that chatter has been more muted during this year’s Indian Premier League, simply because of how the likes of Tendulkar, Dravid, Warne, Hayden, Kumble, Muralitharan and Gilchrist --- 35-plus all --- have out-starred their younger colleagues so far.
Forget bat and ball, even if you look at the fielding, the most potent combination on field in the cover-extra cover-point region on display so far, has probably been Rohit Sharma and Herschelle Gibbs. Yup, Sharma’s 22, but Gibbs, that South African favourite, is a very agile 35.
Still, despite this, the pundits haven’t given up harping on the age bit and making us wonder whether you’ve really got one foot in the cricketing grave if you cross the 30 and, definitely, the 35 mark. So we thought it made sense to look at what the numbers have to say and how the 30-pluses have performed so far.
For the sake of convenience, we picked up the ages of the playing XIs from the first round of games over the inaugural Cape Town double-headers (even if you factor in a Murali, who didn’t play the Super Kings’ first match, it only helps this argument) and found some interesting facts.
The babies of the event, by a full year collectively, are the King’s XI Punjab, with an average age of 25.09. Though it’s early days yet, XIP, at this point (with some help from Messrs Duckworth & Lewis) are placed at the bottom of the table.
Not that the oldest team in the fray as such, the Knight Riders (with an average age of 28.636) are doing much better. KKR had one awful game and one lucky one and are placed sixth. Still the Deccan Chargers, the next ‘oldest’, at 27.454, have swept the opposition aside in both games so far and are pretty happily placed at No.1 right now.
Interestingly, the Chargers share one thing in common with Punjab, they both have five players apiece (the maximum in any team) in the sub-25 category. But like the Mumbai Indians and the Royal Challengers, they also have two players in the 35-plus bracket. Which just goes to show they have a nice spread.
What makes this age business even more interesting though, is when you look at the seven man-of-the-match awards won so far (till Wednesday). Over half, four, to be precise, have been bagged by over-35 players. Of the other three, Vettori is 30 and Gayle 29. Only RP Singh, with his four-wicket haul in the Chargers’ first game, can be considered ‘young’ at 23.
Like I said, it’s early yet, but by this event’s end, it would be interesting to see how our golden oldies have held up. I’m willing to bet they’ll be setting the floor on fire.