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Unfortunate swansong

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Bowler_set_up_wicket_batsman_cricketIn an ideal world, every sportsperson should be able to finish their career on a high note and go out in a blaze of glory. They should also know when to call it quits. Players should retire when fans are asking the reason for their retirement, rather than asking why they didn’t retire sooner. 

However, not everyone is fortunate enough to make the right decision on when to quit and some players get dumped unceremoniously by the powers that be. In a team sport, irrespective of how great a player might have been in the past or how many laurels he has won for his country, a player cannot decide on when he plays his last match. In an individual sport, a player has the luxury of carrying on for a few more years when past his best. 

There have been cricketers like Greg Chappell, Mohammad Azharuddin, Jacques Kallis and Nasser Hussain who finished on a winning note. Recently, Younis Khan and Misbah-ul Haq retired on a high as Pakistan clinched their first ever Test series on West Indian soil in their 8th attempt. 

However, both Younis and Misbah were past their best in their final series. Even though Pakistan emerged victorious, the duo did not score heavily in their last Test. Younis scored 18 and 35 and Misbah scored 59 and 2 in their two innings respectively. Younis averaged just 39.32 in his last 14 Tests and had 10 single digit scores. 

Here we look at five players who had met less-than-perfect ends in their last Test.  

Donald Bradman

Final Test: 5th Test vs Australia, Kennington Oval, London, 14th to 18th August 1948.

There is no question that Sir Donald Bradman is the greatest Test batsman of all time. He was so far ahead of all other batsmen that there is daylight between him and literally everyone else. In 52 Tests, he scored 6996 runs at an incredible batting average of 99.94, with 29 centuries and 13 fifties. 

However, in his final series in England, at the age of 40, he did not live up to his usual high standards. While his record in his last Series was still better than most mere mortals, he scored 508 runs in the 5 Tests at an average of 72.57; a far cry from his career average of 99.4. 

He needed to score just four runs in his last innings to ensure a batting average of 100. However, he was dismissed for a duck, facing just two deliveries by the English leg-spinner Eric Hollies. Australia won the Test by an innings and 149 runs and also triumphed in the series 4-0. However, the Don was denied a fairytale finish to his career.

Sourav Ganguly

Final Test: 4th Test vs Australia, Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Jamtha, Nagpur, 6th to 10th November 2008

There is no question that Ganguly was one of India’s finest modern Test batsmen. He scored more than 7000 Test runs and he had a sense of the big occasion. He is one of just five batsmen to score a century on debut at Lords and still holds the record for the highest score by a debutant at the hallowed venue (131). 

Dada, as he was fondly known, was dropped twice in his Test career but made sterling comebacks each time. In his penultimate Test series, against Sri Lanka he scored just 96 runs in 3 Tests and there were calls for his ouster. Ganguly announced his retirement prior to the Test series against Australia and had a good outing against them scoring 324 runs at an average of 54, scoring a century and a fifty. 

In his final Test, he scored 85 in the first innings and helped India post 441. However, in the 2nd innings, he tried to turn the first ball he faced from Jason Krejza and got a leading edge which was snapped up by the bowler. Even though India won the match by 172 runs, Ganguly would have been disappointed to score a duck in his last innings

Brian Lara

Final Test: 3rd Test vs Pakistan, National Stadium, Karachi, 27th November to 1st Dec 2006.

Brian Lara was undoubtedly one of the greatest batsmen of all time. He still holds the record for the highest individual Test score (400*) and the highest individual First Class score (501*). The great thing about Lara was that he did not let the fact that he was playing in a weak team dishearten him and he continued to be a prolific run-getter. He quit because he was getting on in age and not because of a terminal decline in form. 

In his last Test series, in Pakistan, he showed that advancing age had not dimmed his powers and scored two centuries and a fifty in three innings in the first 2 Tests. In the 3rd and final Test, Lara was dismissed for a duck in the first innings by Umar Gul. In the second innings, he showed his typical resilience and fortitude scoring 49 off 92 balls. However, West Indies lost the game by 199 runs and with it the series 2-0. 

Even though Lara had a great final series as batsman, he did not get the memorable farewell that a player of his class merited.

Kim Hughes

Final Test: 4th Test vs West Indies, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, 22nd to 27th December 1984

In the words of Ian Chappell, Kim Hughes was a fine batsman who should never have been made captain. He was weighed down by the pressures of the job and quit captaincy in tears. However, that should not in any way detract from his prowess as a batsman. 

He was unlucky, that his career coincided with that of the famed West Indies pace attack and he cut a sorry figure at the end. Many critics felt that Hughes was never the same player after taking on the mantle of captaincy. His last 9 Tests were all against the West Indies and he scored a paltry 296 runs at a measly average of 16.44. 

In his final Test, he suffered the ignominy of scoring a pair and lasted 3 balls in both innings combined. In the first innings, he was dismissed off just the 2nd delivery he faced, caught behind by Jeffrey Dujon off the bowling of Courtney Walsh while in the 2nd innings he was LBW off the very first ball to Joel Garner. Australia managed to draw the Test but Hughes deserved better than scoring ducks in his last two innings.

Tony Greig

Final Test: 5th Test vs Australia, Kennington Oval, London, 25th to 30th August 1977.

Tony Greig was famous for his exploits in the commentary box post retirement but it would do him a huge disservice if one were to dismiss his record as a player. He scored 3599 runs in 58 Tests at an average of 40.43 and took 141 wickets at a bowling average of 32.2. He used to bowl very effective medium pace but was versatile enough to win a Test with his off- breaks. 

He is sadly remembered for his role in recruiting players for the Packer Series and several other controversies on the field. However, just by the weight of his numbers, he compares favorably with the premier all-rounders of the 1980s, even though he may not have been as great a match-winner as them. 

Towards the end of his career, his stock plummeted and he averaged just 33.26 with the bat in his last 9 Tests. Greig was dismissed for a duck in his only innings in his last Test as the match was drawn. England won the Series 3-0.

 

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