Managing generational change is an elusive skill and it is a rare selector with the intestinal fortitude to take on the onerous duty of informing a legend that their time for that final sad salute to the crowd has come.
Sure, it can be scary facing up to a rippling, frothing, hard-nosed warrior of the sporting field, but it still has to be done. Maybe we could think laterally.
You could call a team meeting and say, Hands up everyone who plays for Australia? Not so fast Steven Larkham! But that might be a bit abrupt.
One possible angle is to ring them up and have a quiet chat.
Hi Justin, look, Ive spoken with the other selectors and were concerned that if you dont retire of your own free will, the Poms will retire you into a pine box next time they hit you in the head. We know that youre willing to die for your country, but we dont think your death on the cricket pitch would be good for the game. But hey, no-one should break it off over the phone, and Langer would be well within his rights to want to hear it face to face. But then youd have to look into that hang dog expression, those watery submissive eyes and it would be impossible to do it to him; it would be like shooting a faithful old dog. Maybe its better to just let him die doing what he loves?
How else do you go about it? You could let it slip to the media and wait till the player gets wind of it and gives you a call, like they did to Ian Chappell.
Maybe you could write a bogus memo which said Re: Thorpe. Hes over it, could you tell him to quit before it becomes embarrassing then accidentally drop it in the pool and get Ian to dredge it out for you.
There was a time when players actually chose to retire; people talked about going out while they were on top of their game. Not anymore. Players have to be ripped screaming from the field because there is no place for honest self-assessment in modern sport. Its all about the competitive edge, about unflinching self belief. The modern player needs to be constantly cut throat and desperate. Theyre warriors in the war of sport. Intriguingly, while soldiers become more secure hidden away in war machines kilometres from the conflict using laser guided missiles, sports people are now more and more likely to be injured. While Australian soldiers are busy doing administrative back up as part of peace keeping forces our footballers and cricketers are busy targeting other players injuries. Go figure. Its like Orwell on ice. War is sport and sport is war.
The concept of nobility or what is now laughingly referred to as sportsmanship seems to have vanished all together and in its place exists carefully orchestrated media campaigns by professional managers which cast our brutal modern gladiators as tireless charity workers and champions of the underprivileged. Kind is cruel and cruel is kind.
In this high-pressure-big-money-modern-sporting-business world, being a selector wouldnt be any fun at all. But then again sport isnt about fun, is it? Its war.
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