Ever since the advent of T20, cricket careers have become shorter. The simple logic behind the same is that it is too taxing for players to feature in all three formats of the game. The news of newly-appointed Pakistan T20 skipper Shahid Afridi's likely retirement post the 2015 World Cup has brought back into focus the burden that has increased on international cricketers ever since the advent of the T20 format. It is almost humanly impossible for players to focus on the three formats of the game, which is why we have more and more specialists in each format. The way things are, this trend might become a norm in the near future.
The simple logic behind the enormous pressure on players when it comes to playing the different formats is that each version requires different skills sets, and is taxing both emotionally and physically. If Tests call for immense stamina and concentration from batsmen, bowlers as well as fielders, one-dayers need an element of smart play combined with the ability to last almost seven hours on the field. T20 is a completely different sport in itself though at the end of the day, it is counted as cricket. Here, street-smart play is the order of the day, with quick, supple showing expected from all aspects of the game.
One of the key reasons why very few players are able to feature in all three formats of the sport is because of the humungous amount of international cricket being played these days. Till a couple of decades back, there was a cricket calendar in place, which had ample space for an off season. However, with the addition of a format, and the growing commercialisation of the sport, the off-season funda has been thrown out of the window. Now, we have the sport being played all 12 months of the year. This has resulted in the rise of injuries to players and, subsequently, many have decided to quit one format of the sport or the other.
International cricket is not the only reason the burden on players has increased. Domestic T20 events like the IPL, CLT20, and other such leagues have also played their part in making players' careers hectic. Almost three to four months in a year are consumed in such matches, and most top players feature in such league. As a result of this, hi-profile events are not held during this time. Of course, players have an option to skip these domestic games, but many do not since it is difficult to say no to the humungous amount of money on offer in these leagues, especially Indian.
Under the circumstances, it is not wrong for players to skip one format of the game in favour of the other. But, players retiring in their early 30s, and some even in their late 20s is not a good sign. This is where the cricket administration needs to step in. Somehow a way needs to be figured out wherein players' careers can be extended beyond 10 years, which is too little for any sport. Even if a player is featuring in only a couple of formats, he must do it long enough to have a fulfilling career. And, this is why a balance must be struck between the demand and supply of cricket. Over to the administrators.
--By A Cricket Analyst