Returns after retirement from international cricket
Amid this latest wave of Covid-19 pandemic, one piece of news that kept the cricket fans busy this week was regarding AB de Villiers’ choice to make a comeback to the South African test team. The charismatic batter last played for his country in 2018 in a test match against Australia. In recent years he only plays few months of serious cricket in various franchise-based leagues and gets a global fan following, especially in India, where fans from all parts of the country adore him. It finally did not happen as the player and the South African cricket board did not reach an agreement. Although de Villiers’ return from retirement did not happen, there are quite a few memorable instances of players returning from their retirement and playing for their country. Here are few such instances.
Simpson is one of the most reputed figures in Australian cricket for his role as a successful captain during the ’60s and their first World Cup-winning coach in 1987. As cricket was becoming a more professional game during the 1960s, Simpson inspired his players to have significant competitiveness and mental toughness to dominate their opponents. He also installed the same mental toughness during his coaching stint and converted Australia from a weak team to a World Cup-winning outfit.
Simpson also had a memorable return to cricket, 10 years after his retirement. The year was 1977, and Australian cricket was in big trouble as the millionaire businessman Kerry Packer came with his idea of World Series of Cricket. Most of the first-choice Australian players signed for his team and made them unavailable for the national team. 41-year-old Simpson made a comeback to the national team as the captain and immediately delivered despite being out of First-class cricket for 10 years. His depleted team beat the touring Indians 3-2 as he finished with more than 500 runs in the series. He also led them to an unsuccessful tour of West Indies, which they lost 1-3, and he was removed as captain and finally retired.
Imran Khan was one of the greatest all-rounders of the game and Pakistan’s World Cup-winning captain. However, He got his glory after his return from retirement. Imran made his Pakistan debut back in 1971 and slowly grew himself as the most dependable all-rounders in their team. He was part of Pakistan squads in all the World Cups from 1975 to 1992 and captained in the last three editions. However, the 1987 World Cup was jointly organised in India and Pakistan, and the 35-years-old Imran hoped for a fitting finale with a World Cup win. However, Pakistan lost their Semi-final to Australia unexpectedly, and despite missing the World Cup glory, Imran took his retirement from international cricket.
However, in 1988 the request came from the Pakistan President, General Jia-Ul-Haq, for Imran to return to international cricket, and he duly accepted the offer. He captained the team for the next four years, took them to the World Cup final in 1992 with some help of luck. He played critical innings in the final and also took the final wicket to finish his international career as a World Cup-winning captain.
One person who embodies his entire return from retirement saga is Shahid Afridi. The Pakistan all-rounder had so many incidents of announcing retirement and coming out of retirement; it was very difficult to keep track. It also impacted Pakistan’s overall performance and created many controversies. Afridi first retired from test cricket in 2006, looking to focus more on ODI cricket and the upcoming World Cup in 2007. He was a regular part of their limited over squad for the next few years and played a key role in their maiden World T20 triumph in 2009. In May 2010, Afridi returned to the test team as a Pakistan captain but again retired from test cricket in the July of the same year.
Post then, Afridi mostly played limited-overs cricket for the next 4-5 years with Misbah-Ul-Haq becoming the test captain for Pakistan and the ODI captain in the later years.
In 2011, Afridi took another retirement, but this time it was from all formats in international cricket due to his differences with the board. Still, the issue got resolved, and Afridi made another return in November of that year. He continued playing till 2017 and announced his final retirement in 2017. He returned once again in 2018 to play a match for ICC World XI against West Indies.
Pietersen is another controversial character who had seen quite a few ups and downs in his career, including retirement and coming back in international cricket. The South Africa born cricketer announced himself during England’s memorable Ashes Triumph in 2005 and for the next 5-6 years proved himself as one of most illustrious cricketers in England’s history. He was a star in all three formats, captained England, and expressed his ability to play unconventional but effective shots. He also had his share of controversies for his colourful lifestyle and Twitter outbursts.
In 2012, Pietersen showed his interest to retire from ODI cricket to focus more on test cricket and T20 internationals which again created an issue as the board wanted him to retire from both limited-overs formats. The same year, Pietersen faced the huge backlash of a controversial series against South Africa where his relationship with English captain Andrew Strauss was a big talking point, and he got reprimanded for supposedly sending derogatory messages to South African players regarding his captain.
He made a return to the squad later and also toured India. He was part of the team until 2014, post which the board finally decided not to consider any of the English teams in the future.
One of the lesser-knowns come back post-retirement was managed by the Zimbabwe all-rounder Grant Flower. The younger brother of legendary Zimbabwe batter and wicket-keeper Andy Grant was a handy member of the Golden generation of Zimbabwe cricket and was part of their many successes during the late 90s and early 2000s. However, as the political scenario started to change in Zimbabwe, that also impacted their cricket. Grant was part of the group of rebel cricketers who had quite a few issues with the Zimbabwean Cricket Union, and as a result, he retired from international cricket in 2004.
Post-retirement, he moved to England and played County cricket regularly for the next few seasons. Very surprisingly, he was recalled by Zimbabwean Cricket Union and given the role of a player and batting coach for a tour of South Africa. They wanted him to be part of the squad for the 2011 World Cup. However, Grant Flower played only two ODIs on his return, scoring just 35 runs and retired for good after the South Africa tour.