Age is nothing but a number for some

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As the world game says goodbye to a legend and looks forward to the World T20, Peter May looks at three very different veterans who are making headlines.

As the world game says goodbye to a legend and looks forward to the World T20, Peter May looks at three very different veterans who are making headlines.

<B>End of an era for Indian batsmen</B>

The retirement of VVS Laxman is hardly surprising and perhaps overdue. His performances – not to mention body language – in England and Australia last year suggested a man who had booked a retirement cruise with the wife, forgotten to hand in his notice to the BCCI, been forced to turn up for work against his will, and was still very much hearing about it at home.

The full story going back nearly 13 years is quite different, of course. It has been a great pleasure to read the many career obituaries in recent days and weeks, reminders of a player who was a particular favourite of many.

This is a cherished status and not to be taken lightly: there will always be someone who scores more runs than you, but how you get them and when will ultimately dictate how you are received and remembered.

Laxman excelled in both columns. Famously the best opposition brought out the best in him; not only was he brilliant against Australia (until they became rubbish whereupon he floundered himself) but in general his record improved against stronger teams. As important, he did it in style, especially in the early part of the last decade.

An English mind thinks of David Gower by way of comparison, not only for elan at the crease but for a great sense of proportion away from it. Have we seen the last great Indian batsman who had no interest in the IPL?

<B>Colly a cautionary tale</B>

Over in England a contemporary of Laxman's is making the headlines.

Paul Collingwood was not half as gifted as the Indian, accumulating a body of work including 68 Test caps that is a testament to individual dedication.

The all-rounder is in the news because as Durham captain he has masterminded a change in fortunes that could culminate in a county record fifth consecutive championship win this week. The fourth such win last week was classic Colly, arriving at 35/4 to weather the storm, steady the ship and, er, row to shore. Or something.

As it happens I was thinking about Collingwood anyway because various 2012 World T20-related advertising features the 2010 winning captain holding the trophy aloft. It is little more than two years since he became the first Englishman to achieve the feat in a full ICC tournament yet his international career lasted barely a year thereafter. Collingwood himself had no intention of stepping down but Andy Flower did what he felt needed to be done.

Kevin Pietersen should take note. KP has more to offer a pragmatic coach as a player, for sure. But after cutting loose a close lieutenant so soon after an historic triumph, do you think Flower would pause even for a second to bin Pietersen if he thought it in the team's best interests?

<B>Sir Allen Stanford: Developing the WI stars of tomorrow</B>

Thinking back to the Stanford Super Series should only be done in moderation but one name in the news has sent us back in time four years…….Samuel Badree.

In England's warm-up exhibition against Trinidad & Tobago on Antigua in October 2008, the tourists held on for a one-run win in a performance that set alarm bells ringing.

There were mitigating circumstances – a stomach bug reduced them to 11 fit players, with Steve Harmison entrusted with bowling the last over – but Kevin Pietersen's side still faced a startling reality: they weren't any better than a moderate provincial side.

In particular the performance of Badree was an eye-opener: a 27-year-old leg spinner with a handful of first-class appearances under his belt, he opened the bowling and claimed figures of 1/15 from four overs.

How you feel about Badree's sort of success very much depends on your view of twenty-over cricket. It can reflect the innovation and unpredictability of the short form that a PE teacher with no professional pedigree whatsoever can suddenly become a force.

Or you can take the Michael Holding approach that T20 is not really cricket, which in turn might explain how a PE teacher with no professional pedigree whatsoever can suddenly become a force.

The West Indies selectors take the former view, calling up a man whose career economy rate is up there with the best in T20. After winning caps against New Zealand in Florida recently he is now in line for trip to the World T20 at the age of 31.

Will there be a less likely putative world champion in Sri Lanka?

<b>Peter May</b>

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