It’s an old man’s game

At the beginning of last year’s IPL Jacques Kallis wrote a column widely syndicated in Indian newspapers which raised many pairs of high-profile eyebrows.

In it, he suggested that T20 cricket was not necessarily a ‘young man’s game’. In fact, he argued, not only might the format prolong the playing careers of certain cricketers, but that they would be in demand.

It is hardly unprecedented in sport. Senior golfers not only have all the skills of their junior colleagues but more so. They may not be able to smash the ball 300 metres down the fairway, but they certainly know where to hit the ball and they make a lot fewer errors than the youngsters on the main tour.

Fortunately, cricket is a team game so, if organised and selected properly, a T20 team can combine the skill and knowledge of a couple of senior players with the power and muscle of the young guys, and they can do it more effectively in the shortest format because stamina becomes so much less of an issue.

“I don’t think it’s a question of money when you see guys like Shane Warne playing IPL and the Big Bash in his 40s, he’s got more than enough cash! Sure, he loves the big stage and enjoys the crowds, but it’s also because he knows he can still perform for four overs. You wouldn’t see him, or any other 40-year-olds, making a comeback to 50-over cricket!” Kallis says.

“You’ve played a lot of cricket once you get to your mid or late 30s and that experience helps a hell of a lot in T20. You have far more idea of where the batsman is going to try and hit you, or where the bowler is going to bowl. Personally, I wasn’t surprised to hear that Brad Hogg and Stuart McGill had done well in the Big Bash,” Kallis said.

The great allrounder admits that he enjoys the idea that his own career might end with a couple of seasons of T20 cricket – probably also in his 40s: “Provided I’m still in one piece. The mind will be willing if the body is…”

Of the 144 players about to go on auction for this year’s IPL, a relatively small number – 12 – are 35 or over. It’ll be interesting, however, to see how many of them are bought. There is still a perception that most ‘senior’ players are simply looking for a late boost to the pension fund. But if Kallis is right, they could become increasingly in demand in the years to come.

12 Players 35+ in IPL auction:

35 – Mark Boucher (SA)
35 – Ray Price (Zim)
36 – Lee Carseldine (Aus)
36 – Azhar Mahmood (Eng)*
36 – Neil McKenzie (SA)
37 – VVS Laxman (Ind)
37 – Shane Harwood (Aus)
37 – Herschelle Gibbs (SA)
38 – Nicky Boje (SA)
39 – Muthiah Muralitheran (SL)
40 – Stuart MacGill (Aus)
41 – Brad Hogg (Aus)

*Former Pakistan all rounder, Azhar Mahmood, is now qualified, by marriage, as a UK citizen

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