Thanks to the sadness induced by the spot-fixing controversy, here's a weak attempt at linking the issue with the retirement of other sporting greats.
For a week or so, it was all about celebrating a past. Reminiscing of a time which boasted of the brilliance of Sir Alex Ferguson and his teams, David Beckham’s curling free-kicks and Adam Gilchrist’s fireworks from his bat.
The trio and a few more have announced their retirement from the activities which had come to define them. These three, however, stand out for an excellence that should remain unmatched.
For many like me who began devouring European football in the early 2000s, Sir Alex Ferguson was supposed to remain Manchester United manager until his death. Actually, turn the calendar back by a decade to the ‘90’s and it would still hold true.
I, quite disturbingly, had pictured his death on the hallowed turf of Old Trafford over and over again. A resignation or retirement simply seemed impossible. Not that I was eager to see him depart. He was a legend and, like many other who stand on the same pedestal, deserved a fascinating send-off. The obsession with his departure, I presume, can be explained by my birth in an era when the club and Sir Alex became synonymous.
I was also born in an age which saw the rise of David Beckham, a footballer whose average abilities were masked by his superstar status and charismatic personality. Actually, to be fair, Beckham did possess an uncanny skill in dead ball situations, in addition to his proficiency at aerial crosses.
His reputation, though, was moulded largely by his off-the-field persona; a realm in which he carved out a number of ambassadorial roles for himself. He transformed from his boy wonder status to national icon in surprisingly quick time, becoming England’s captain in 2000.
Though he failed to lead his country to a major tournament victory, Beckham’s presence hung heavily over the team every time it approached a competition.
The 38-year-old's influence on the game, though, was limited. That honour, albeit in cricket, rests with Adam Gilchrist.
The pre-Gilly era was gentle, in many ways. Wicketkeepers especially loved it. For they could collect balls in their grubby, sweat-soaked gloves all day long and nothing else would be expected of them.
Around the time Gilchrist arrived on the cricketing scene, very few would contribute to batting totals regularly. The likes of Moin Khan or Romesh Kaluwitharna could play the role of an able partner well, but rarely did they stretch their limits.
Gilchrist was a different commodity, not an upgrade but a different software. Not a wicketkeeper, mind you, but a wicketkeeper-batsman.
Though the Australian retired from the international stage in 2008, we were still fortunate enough to see the old dasher in action in the IPL. However, with Gilchrist bidding farewell to all forms of cricket on Saturday, it’s on YouTube and not live TV now where he can be witnessed in all his pomp.
The retirements of the aforementioned trio and their successful careers gained a different meaning for me when Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan were arrested for their alleged involvement in spot-fixing in the IPL.
Here was another trio, a group that transported us into the great depths of cynicism. While we attach the heady feeling of glory with Ferguson, Beckham and Gilchrist, the ethical failure of the disgraced Rajasthan Royals players consumes us.
For now, let’s eschew our temptations to pass moral judgments on the credibility of the IPL and the inefficiency of the BCCI. That’s a question for another day. Anyway, as the story is yet to reach its completion, it would be unfair to rush to any conclusions presently.
But it would be just to remark that cricket seems to be losing its battle against fixing. With every controversy, arrives darker muck which covers a larger ground than before. It’s getting hopeless, really. Cricket seems to be losing its batting against fixing. Wait! Didn’t I write that before? Despair, all around…
How to combat this? Better mentoring or monitoring or deterrence in form of strong punishment? Each of those options are worthy of serious consideration and may have a serious effect on cricket’s future. Presently, though, there’s just sadness. Dark, gloomy, murky, intractable sadness…