Pakistan’s left-arm pacer Mohammad Amir’s sudden decision to retire from Test cricket while still in his 20s needs to be examined closely. It is normally during the late 20s that a cricketer matures to become a good Test player. Hence, when a youngster walks away from Test cricket at that age, hoping to focus on white-ball cricket only, the pehnomenon needs to be taken seriously.
Amir, despite his inconsistent form, was one of the world’s best left-arm pacers and a crowdpuller. It’s not Amir alone who has recently retired from Test cricket in order to focus on the limited-overs format. Though most cricketers claim that Test cricket is what they adore and love to play the most, the reality seems to be totally different. If Test cricket is indeed the ultimate platform for them, they why is it that a number of leading players chose to retire from that format soon after stepping into their 30s?
I have often asked many cricketers why they prefer Test cricket, and most of them say it is the ultimate test of all their skills and endurance. If that is so, then is it that Amir — now only 27 — has turned away from Test cricket fearing he does not have the endurance to exhibit his skills for a longer period in the Test matches? He knows that failure in Test matches could result in him being ignored for limited-overs matches too.
Bowlers who retire from Test cricket are actually those not wanting to take up the challenge of bowling longer spells and instead confine themselves to bowling a maximum of ten overs in 50-over matches and a mere four overs in the Twenty20 format. It is unfortunate that skilful bowlers do not wish to exhibit their skills in Test cricket. To bowl for longer periods requires stamina and in case of Amir, it seems like he believes he is not as fit as he should have been at this age.
Cricketers are retiring from Test cricket at a time when this format is struggling to attract fans and also losing it’s popularity to the shorter formats and franchise leagues.
In the past, cricketers used to retire from the international arena completely and not selectively, unlike the trend these days. Today, a cricketer, in order to swell his earnings, plays in most T20 Leagues around the world. Without doubt then, if he plays five days of Test cricket as well all the other formats, it is bound to be tiring. He is also aware that the earnings from five days of Test cricket will be less than what he could earn from the leagues or limited-overs cricket.
Ultimately, cricket today is business and cricketers too have adopted that mindset and opted for formats that would only make them richer!