Statistics form an integral part of any sport. More so in cricket wherein individual performances often possess the power to overshadow their bearing on the result. For batsmen, the 50-run mark provides the median of something special. The joy of reaching three figures reverberates all around the arena even as spectators join in on the elation.
When a long-serving player hits the mid 30s, the inevitable question of retirement begins to follow him across the globe. While some have chosen to bid adieu only after ticking all possible boxes, there have also been quite a few great cricketers who retired despite being on the brink of significant career landmarks. Let us take a look at five such batting icons in reverse chronological order of their retirements.
During May 2018, AB de Villiers left everyone befuddled by announcing his retirement from all international cricket. With the all-important 2019 World Cup looming large on the horizon, the 34-year old’s decision to walk away left the Proteas’ plans in sudden disarray. Although they are yet to take the field since their star batsman’s retirement, South Africa face uncertain times in the 50-over format.
Since debuting against England at Bloemfontein in 2005, de Villiers played 228 ODIs in a memorable career across formats. He plundered 9577 runs at an impressive average of 53.50 and remarkable strike-rate of 101.09. If he had scored 433 more runs in the format, the dynamic right-hander would have become only the second South African batsman (after Jacques Kallis) to breach the 10,000-run mark.
Having retired from T20Is at the end of the 2014 World T20, Kumar Sangakkara subsequently revealed his intention to quit ODIs following the conclusion of the 2015 World Cup. The legendary left-hander, who kept getting better with age, reeled off a record four successive ODI centuries in the tournament. The quarterfinal defeat against South Africa, in which he top-scored for Sri Lanka with a gritty 45, was his last appearance in the format.
In a career spanning between 2000 and 2015, Sangakkara played 404 ODIs and amassed a whopping 14,234 runs at a healthy average of 41.98. Aside from compiling 25 centuries, the southpaw also collected 93 fifties. Only Sachin Tendulkar, with 96 fifties, has more in ODI history. The gloveman also finished his 50-over career with 99 stumpings. MS Dhoni would later become the first wicket-keeper batsman to complete 100 stumpings.
Upon entering the international arena during India’s tour of Pakistan in 1989, Sachin Tendulkargrew in stature with every year. By the time he made an emotional farewell in the 2013 Mumbai Test, the iconic batsman had established himself as the gold standard for longevity. With his last ODI appearance coming against Pakistan in the 2012 Asia Cup, he announced his retirement from the 50-over format during December 2012.
Tendulkar’s 463 appearances remain the most by any player in ODI history. The maestro’s astronomical tally of 18,426 runs is unlikely to be surpassed. The peerless right-hander, who had scored his 100th international century (across all formats) during the 2012 Asia Cup match against Bangladesh, came very close to becoming the first batsman to register 50 ODI tons. But he had to settle for 49 centuries and 96 fifties in the 50-over format.
Following in the footsteps of Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas and Saeed Anwar, Mohammad Yousuf did not take too long to etch himself as one of the most elegant batsmen in Pakistan history. Since his debut at Harare in 1998, the graceful right-hander played 288 ODIs and notched 9720 runs at an average of 41.71. Among all Pakistani batsmen, his tally of 15 centuries is second only to Saeed Anwar’s 20 tons.
At the beginning of 2010, Yousuf was on track to become only the second Pakistani batsman (after Inzamam-ul-Haq) to breach the 10,000-run mark in ODIs. However, the former captain brought his own career to a standstill by temporarily retiring from the national team. A winless tour of Australia had resulted in PCB enforcing an indefinite suspension on him.
Despite returning to the side in the latter part of 2010, Yousuf soon found himself being ostracized by the administrators and eventually faded away. A mere 280 runs separated him from joining a select band of illustrious batsmen.
One of the few immense icons beyond the realm of mere numbers, Adam Gilchrist revolutionized the role of wicket-keeper batsman across both premier formats. The dynamic left-hander finished with 96 Test caps and 287 ODI appearances.
In the 50-over format, he hammered 9619 runs at a belligerent strike-rate of 96.94. 9410 of those runs came whilst also donning the wicket-keeping gloves. When he retired in 2008, the popular southpaw’s tally of runs was the highest ever among all glovemen at that point in time.
Gilchrist’s last ODI appearance came during the second final of the 2008 Commonwealth Bank Series. Even though Australia lost the match and series to a resurgent Indian team, the distinguished wicket-keeper batsman received a warm round of applause from the Brisbane crowd. He may have retired a few hundred runs short of the 10,000-run mark. But his indelible legacy continues to endure.