Ashes hero Harmison goes too, but the retirement we will argue about longest is that of Hot Spot
You wait what seems to be an eternity for one retirement and then, out of the blue, along come three.
First, of course, the immortal, the ever-lasting, the century of centuries hero, the great accumulator and the batsman no one wanted to fade away. I would suggest to you that there has never been a better run-scorer than Sachin Tendulkar, including Don Bradman, but everyone has already written that, and I am left with the job of seconding the motion.
There is no doubt that this modest, self-effacing, sportsman’s sportsman, was a perfect cricketer in everything except high scores and, oddly for a man so intelligent, as a captain.
Brian Lara also had a poor record in leading West Indies, although I know him to be a player who understood cricket at a high level, who could talk endlessly about it and who ought to have been a leader of distinction.
The second cricketer to leave us is Steve Harmison, a truly fast, tall and bouncy, nasty when he wanted to be, steam roller of a quick bowler; another quiet man. Yes, he was inconsistent, erratic, prone to bowl a bad ball at just the wrong moment, but his steepling delivery to get rid of Michael Kasprowicz at Edgbaston in 2005 won that Ashes series as much as anything done by his pal Andrew Flintoff.
(Flintoff, greatly missed for his fastest ball, his gleaming blond hair, his enormous size and his failure to bowl a single bad spell at the height of his Test career, was also not anyone’s idea of a captain. But, if for nothing else, England ought to be grateful to Flintoff for his social work with the home-sick Harmison which kept that dangerous bowler from rushing back to the backwoods of Durham when he was abroad.)
Freddie is everywhere now, an advertiser’s dream, a happy man who misses his cricket but not its followers who love his generous nature, his big laugh, his width and height and breadth, who cannot help but say “Hi, there” to total strangers and “Thanks a lot” to anyone who does him the smallest favour.
The third retirement is the one we will argue about longest. It’s Hot Spot which has been given a rest by ICC for the Ashes series, and maybe for years, depending how long it takes to remove the gremlins that have blighted its reputation.
I’ll miss it, but Kevin Pietersen will not. He has been awarded a large wad of pound notes because an advertiser hinted that he had taped his bat to prevent Hot Spot detecting his faint edges.
Our KP protested that he was not so silly. If this ploy had been effective it would also have had him lbw if he had edged the ball into his pads.
I am glad that one enforced retirement may soon be ended. You will remember Mohammad Amir, imprisoned and then banned for obeying his captain’s order to turn one delivery into a no-ball.
This unsophisticated teenager from a tiny village in the hills of Pakistan is out of prison, but he has sympathisers everywhere. What other choice did he have, they ask, but to do as his captain commanded?
I am sufficiently sentimental to think that I — another lad from a tiny hamlet in the hills — might have done the same, aged 18.
It would be generous of ICC to give the lad — and potentially a great swing bowler — a second chance, with a gentle word of warning and an encouragement to the Pakistan Cricket Board to find honest captains.