Quit only when you are sure, and once you do, stick to your decision
Kevin Pietersen is a terrific batsman. Though vain and mercenary, he is an original character and a crowd-puller. And cricket needs crowd-pullers. Also, KP is only 32 and has a few miles left in him. But his flip-flops over retirement have now become farcical. They are a classic example of the ways of some modern athletes, who retire and then do not stick to their decision. A retirement of a sports star is a momentous occasion for the star and his fans. There is a poetic melancholy to it. This is diluted when athletes make sundry retirements and comebacks.
Let us look at the chain of events in the Pietersen case. This May, KP impulsively retired from limited-overs cricket (excluding the moneylicious IPL). In August, during England’s Test series against South Africa, he suggested that his Test career for England could end soon as well. He told the BBC’s Test Match Special, “I can’t give any assurances [that the last Test of this series will not be my last].”
Guess what. A few days later, KP said he wanted to play for England again, that too in all forms. He said this not in an upfront manner to the English cricket board, but in an interview with his management company on YouTube. But by then, the annoying yet entertaining Mr Pietersen was in a soup over Twitter posts he made that disparaged his own captain, Andrew Strauss. He was dropped from the Test team.
Finally acting his age, KP apologised. Now the England board are in the middle of what they call a ‘process of reintegration’ of KP. So, after all the palaver, you might just see him in India next month.
The other superstar in the news over retirement is Michael Schumacher. Even after a full career in which he won seven Formula One World Championships, he couldn’t resist a comeback. The very word has a whiff of desperation or weak will (or alimony). A man who won 91 races in his prime couldn’t win one in the last three years. Thankfully, he seems to be retiring for good now.
Granted, it is not illegal to change your mind about retirement. And there are stars, like Michael Jordan and Imran Khan, who made purposeful comebacks. But they are exceptions. For most others, it makes sense to retire only when they are sure, and once the decision is made, stick to it.