Very few great sportsmen get the timing of their retirement right. Time raises its ugly hood so stealthily that the player does not realize it; many illustrious names in the annals of sporting history have fallen prey to that, and carried on well beyond their prime.
These legends were ultimately either dropped from the side or told to move away from the game.
Former Indian captain MS Dhoni has been in the news for quite some time now, regarding his future plans in limited overs cricket. Dhoni has been keeping the world guessing about his retirement, and many believe he has delayed his departure too long.
In this article, we look at three legendary cricketers from the past who also delayed their ODI retirements for too long.
#3 Virender Sehwag
Virender Sehwag will go down as one of the most destructive openers ever produced by India. The swashbuckling batsman played 251 ODIs and scored 8586 runs at an average of 35.06 and an astounding strike rate of 104.34. Sehwag is also one of the three Indian batsmen to have scored a double hundred in ODI cricket.
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However, in the final part of his ODI career, Sehwag struggled to get going. In his last 11 ODI innings he could not score a single century, while crossing the fifty run mark just once. In fact, Sehwag's scores in his last five ODI innings read 15, 3, 34, 4 and 31.
Sehwag played his last ODI on 3 January 2013, and was subsequently dropped from the ODI squad. He didn't play a single ODI match after that, eventually retiring from the game in the year 2015.
#2 Ricky Ponting
He is undoubtedly one of the greatest captains in the history of limited overs cricket. In his illustrious 17-year career, Ricky Ponting led Australia to every single accolade in ODI cricket. Ponting led the Aussies to two consecutive World Cup victories in the 2003 and 2007 editions, and also led the 'Kangaroos' to two Champions Trophy victories in 2006 and 2009.
Ponting is the leading run scorer for Australia in ODI cricket with a colossal tally of 13,704 runs, including 30 centuries and 82 half-centuries. However, in the last part of his ODI career Ponting struggled to score runs, and was axed from the squad in February 2012. His scores in his last five ODI innings read 2, 1, 6, 2, 7.
In fact, the then chairman of selectors John Inverarity said this about Ponting’s omission from the ODI side:
"Ricky Ponting has been dropped from the squad due to his lack of form in the five Commonwealth Bank Series matches to date in this series. The team will not seem the same without him, but moving on from the omission of players who have been outstanding over a long period of time is the nature of elite sport.”
One of Australia’s greatest cricketers of all time was unceremoniously dropped from the side, as his form deserted him in the last leg of his illustrious career. He ultimately retired from all international cricket in November 2012.
#1 Sachin Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar is hailed as the ‘God of Cricket’ by millions of fans all over the world. The ‘Master Blaster’ holds just about every single record in the ODI format of the game, including that for the most runs (18,426), most hundreds (49) and most fifties (96).
Tendulkar finally fulfilled his long cherished dream of winning the World Cup on his sixth and final attempt in the year 2011, in front of his adoring fans in Mumbai. The master batsman was expected to announce his retirement after this triumph, but Tendulkar carried on, picking and choosing his ODI assignments in the subsequent year.
Tendulkar's search for his devilish hundredth hundred finally ended in the Asia Cup encounter against Bangladesh in March 2012, but he was not the same batsman that he once was. Apart from his slow 114 against Bangladesh, Tendulkar crossed the fifty run mark just once in his last 10 innings.
The legendary batsman was reportedly informed about the decision of the selectors to drop him from the squad. Tendulkar announced his retirement from ODI cricket immediately, ahead of the squad selection for the ODI series against Pakistan.
In fact, this is what the then chairman of selectors Sandeep Patil had to say about Tendulkar:
"On 12 December 2012 we met Sachin and asked him about his future plans. He said he did not have retirement on his mind. But the selection committee had reached a consensus on Sachin... and had informed the board too about it. Perhaps Sachin understood what was coming because at the time of the next meeting, Sachin called and said he was retiring (from ODIs). If he had not announced his decision to quit then, we would have definitely dropped him."