In the ongoing Pakistan Super League (PSL), there have been instances of veteran cricketers winning matches for their teams. South African spinner Imran Tahir, who turns 41 on March 27, and Pakistan legendary all-rounder Shahid Afridi, who completed 40 on February 1, both guided Multan Sultans to victory. Peshawar Zalmi’s opener Kamran Akmal, at 38, has even cracked a breezy century. He has also been keeping wickets with the agility of a youngster.
Another 38-year-old veteran Mohammad Hafeez of Lahore Qalandars too cracked an unbeaten 98. New Zealand’s Luke Ronchi, who is nearing 39, hit a whirlwind 74 for Islamabad United. All these performances point out to the fact that, today, cricket never stops even if you are in your late thirties or forties. If a cricketer manages to keep himself fit and continues to work hard on his skills that had won him laurels in the past, all the glamour and fame does not come to a sudden halt.
If not for the Twenty20 and UAE’s T10 league, the playing days of these cricketers would have ended soon after being dropped from their national teams. And retiring from international cricket is not easy, especially if he has been a team’s hero. To stop playing a game that made them what they are, and something that has been part of their life ever since they aimed to become a cricketer, is tough. These leagues have not only extended the careers of many cricketers, but also got them to work on their fitness even after the end of their international career.
During my recent interview with former Indian all-rounder Yuvraj Singh, he’d remarked that he still works on his fitness to ensure he is able to perform in leagues whenever he is invited to play. “From playing 300 days of international cricket to 90 days of (league) cricket, I am really enjoying my time after retirement keeping fit for these matches,” he said. While speaking to Afridi recently, he too had remarked that he likes to keep himself fit to ensure he is still a valuable player for these leagues.
After watching Akmal in full flow during the course of his century in this PSL, one wonders why the Pakistan selectors have ignored him since 2017. He is undoubtedly one of the finest strikers of the ball in Pakistan. Ronchi is one of the finest hitters of the ball, much better than many in the present New Zealand team. If not for these leagues, the world would not have been able to continue watching 38- year- old Shane Watson still creating fear among bowlers. These players are models not only for cricketers but for all sportsmen, and even the common man in their 40s who stop playing any sport.
The shortest formats of the game have also made sure that today cricket never dies with age for those willing to keep playing with zeal.