2012 was the year of many retirements from Test cricket. As many as five illustrious cricketers called time on their Test careers, leaving millions of fans all over the world with fond memories of their many exploits at the highest level. Listed below are the five men who decided to quit the great game this year. Let us doff our hat to them for the wonderful memories!
Rahul Dravid (India, 1996-2012)
Tests – 164 Runs – 13288 Average – 52.31 Best – 270 100’s – 36 Catches – 210
In my opinion, the humble Dravid was the greatest of all modern-day batsmen. He was indeed the quintessential gentleman of the gentlemen’s game – it is very difficult to find such players nowadays. Not only was he India’s saviour on innumerable occasions, but he also was a wonderful human being – traits of which were often displayed on the cricket field. Christened ‘the Wall’ for his solid, reliable and flawlessly correct technique, Dravid retired from the game after a poor tour of Australia, where he was bowled six times in four Tests. The self-reflecting person that he is, Dravid decided that his time had come up and quit the game in March. But he was in the best of form as recently as August 2011, when he stood tall amid the ruins during India’s disastrous tour of England, finishing with three centuries even as his team got whitewashed.
He is the third highest run-getter in Test history, and his amazing confidence levels also helped him pouch 210 catches as a fielder – a world record. Ever the team man, Dravid has opened the batting, captained the team and kept wickets for India, and almost always delivered the goods, justifying his ‘Mr.Dependable’ tag. He has scored plenty of great knocks in Tests, but arguably his 233 and 72* in the 2003-04 Adelaide Test tops the list. Committed and determined on the field, modest and dignified off it – there was and will be only one Rahul Dravid.
Ricky Ponting (Australia, 1995-2012)
Tests – 168 Runs – 13378 Average – 51.85 Best – 257 100’s – 41 Catches – 196
The tough-as-nails Ponting quit the game after playing 168 Tests – an Australian joint-record with Steve Waugh – indeed he chose not to play his final Test at his home ground in Hobart as he did not want to surpass Waugh’s match tally. The second highest run-getter of all time, Ponting was the captain of the Australian team from 2004 to 2010, with at least his first five years in charge being one of Australian cricket’s most golden periods, having inherited from Waugh (the previous captain) a team full of match-winners. He might not have been the best of captains (even though he has captained his side to victory 48 times, more than anyone else in history), but he was certainly one of the greatest batsmen Test cricket has seen. His trademark pull shot will probably be the most enduring image of his illustrious career.
For all his great batting feats, the record that ‘Punter’ will be most proud of is the record of having played in most Test wins – 108 (he is the only player to take part in 100 Test wins). He was a man for the big occasion as proved by the two centuries he made in his hundredth Test, and also by the stunning 140* he scored in the 2003 World Cup final. Ponting’s last series in November against South Africa was really a struggle – he could manage just 32 runs in 5 innings, more than enough for him to hang up his boots and wear his much loved Baggy Green cap for the last time.
Mark Boucher (South Africa, 1997-2012)
Tests – 147 Catches – 532 Stumpings – 23 Runs – 5515 Average – 30.30
It was an unfortunate end to the career of the most prolific Test wicketkeeper of all time. Boucher was gearing up for the much-awaited Test series in England by playing a warm-up match, during which he was injured in the eye by a flying bail. The freak injury was serious enough for him to retire from the game, having served South Africa as their first-choice wicketkeeper for almost 15 years. One of the most under-rated players of modern times, Boucher effected a world record 555 Test dismissals (532 catches and 23 stumpings), 139 more than the next-best.
He was also a very handy batsman in all forms of the game – he was the finisher when South Africa had chased down 434 in the astonishing Johannesburg ODI against Australia in 2005-06. His Test best of 125 came against Zimbabwe in 1999-00, which was at that time the highest score by a nightwatchman, while his ODI best of 147, also against Zimbabwe in 2006-07, came in a mere 68 balls. Boucher was an immensely competitive and tough cricketer and surely deserved a better way to retire from the game.
VVS Laxman (India, 1996-2012)
Tests – 134 Runs – 8781 Average – 45.97 Best – 281 100’s – 17 Catches – 135
This dependable, wristy batsman will be most remembered for the best innings ever played by an Indian in Test cricket – the epic 281 in the even more epic Kolkata Test of 2000-01 against the champion Australian team. This one-of-a-kind innings helped India win the Test after following on (only the third such instance in Tests), and the win gave them the belief to win the series as well, not to mention the confidence that it gave to the Indian team in coming years, especially while playing overseas. Laxman’s numbers might not be awe-inspiring, but his impact on the team’s fortunes was unquestionable.
Many a times we have seen Laxman left on his own to battle it out, with just the tail remaining, most wonderfully shown when he battled injury to score 73* with the help of a runner to give India a 1-wicket win at Mohali in 2010-11. He reserved his best for the Australians, who at times found it highly difficult to dislodge him. When on song, Laxman was a treat to watch – with his supple wrists and magical stroke-play. But in the overseas tours of England and Australia last season, he was a shadow of his former self, and a few months later in August this year, he retired from the game, resisting the temptation to play his last Test at Hyderabad, his home ground.
Andrew Strauss (England, 2004-2012)
Tests – 100 Runs – 7037 Average – 40.91 Best – 177 100’s – 21 Catches – 121
Middlesex man Strauss played his last Test, also his 100th at his home ground Lord’s – the same venue where he had made a century on debut in 2004. Strauss was captain of England from 2008-09 till his last Test, proving to be a highly successful and respected leader. He led his team to two historic Ashes victories – at home in 2009, and away in 2010-11, the latter being England’s first win in Australia in 24 years. With his solid technique, he gave many sound starts to England but was found wanting at the start of this year both as batsman and captain. England, who had become champions last year under him, surrendered the mace to South Africa at home, compelling him to quit the game for good. His highest Test was a gritty eight-hour 177 against New Zealand at Napier in 2007-08, an innings that salvaged his career, and more importantly sealed a series win for his team.