Pete Sampras timed his retirement perfectly. Right after winning his 14th Grand-Slam (US Open 2002). At that time, he was still among the Top-10 players in the World.
Imran Khan timed his retirement perfectly. Right after Pakistan won the 1992 Cricket World Cup. He had made significant contributions (mainly as a batsman, though he did take the last wicket in that tournament) to the victory.
On the other end of the spectrum, Kapil Dev made a mockery of retirement and hung around as a passenger in the Indian Cricket Team till he broke Richard Hadlee’s then world-record haul of test wickets. It was obvious even to the most ardent Kapil Dev fan that he was being kept around for that event alone.
Michael Jordan is the only one with multiple perfectly-timed retirements! 🙂 (Though he did come back one final time with the Wizards and didnt have much to show for it, he was scoring pretty well even at an age of 40+).
Like Kapil Dev, there are countless other examples of former Champions and former World No:1s hanging around a bit too long and overstaying their welcome. Venus Williams, Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick, John McEnroe etc. are other examples. (I am afraid the great Roger Federer might join this gang, if he is not careful).
I am getting concerned that India’s jewel, the little Master, Sachin Tendulkar, might be heading this same route. After such a fantastic career, where he has been part of some of the greatest Indian triumphs, it would be a great pity if he tarnishes his legacy with mediocre performances at an advanced age (for the sport). He is way past his prime and though he has had some decent scores recently, it is nothing like the Sachin of old.
But “Sachin retiring” seems to be a taboo topic and will bring out the worst from his fanatic fans. Throughout his career, at no point was/is Sachin my favorite Cricket player. It has been Mohammed Azharuddin, Saurav Ganguly (“Dada”) and now Yuvraj Singh. But I respect the man’s work ethics and his dedication to the game. Not everyone gives up various captaincy positions like how Sachin has done. He has always had the outlook that he is just a member of a team.
I sincerely hope that the great man realizes that nothing goes on for ever and time his retirement to perfection, just like one of his cover drives.