Hello, good afternoon sports fans, I hope you’re well, looking after yourselves and are in good health. I want to talk about an issue which I feel is important to mention in the world of sports and that’s the concept of coming out of the cold.
No, I am not referring to literally standing outside in the snow freezing yourself and then coming back in and then sipping a hot beverage in front of a nice warm open fire. Sports fans, I am talking about the sporting equivalent of that scenario.
This will only really apply to athletes who participate in team sports. No matter what people say, individuals can help a team win, just look at Lionel Messi at Barcelona and even Ronaldo at Real Madrid.
Of course in the case of these two absolute superstars, they did have some good players around them, but more times than not the individual performances of these two helped elevate their team.
I do digress because what I want to talk about is team sports. Sports fans, I find it amazing how players after so long in the sporting wilderness, come back into the team like they weren’t away. For example, Pakistan wicket-keeper batsman Sarfraz Ahmed who was a former captain of the team has come back into the side and has batted like he’s been away.
This takes serious mental strength, you have to admire the man, especially since he’s 36, which some would argue is towards the end of his career. The hunger, mental strength and desire are admirable, Sarfraz’s return to international cricket has been a nearly flawless one.
Three years is a big gap time-wise from when you played your last game for your country, if you’re Fawad Alam, you will think try over a decade! This is what the 37-year-old Alam would end up having to wait to next play for his country.
Just like Sarfraz did after him, he made a telling contribution upon his return. Fawad Alam’s conversion from 50-100 was one of the best in world cricket. Currently not in the Pakistani side, but that hasn’t stopped him in the past.
Other cricketers such as Alex Hales and Ben Duckett both need honourable mentions. For different reasons these two batsmen have been away from the international scene, but when they returned, they performed as if they have never been away.
Both played key roles in helping England become World T20 champions for a second time. A tip of the hat to you two indeed.
To try and keep the cricket side of this conversation balanced and not upset the bowlers union, then one example I can as far as a bowler is concerned is of Indian Jayav Unadkat.
Unadkat had a 12-year absence from the Indian side, but in the case of the 32-year-old, unfortunately for him, he’s now back out of the India team. With India, such is their talent, players like Unadakat, a very skilled left-arm seamer spend a lot of time on the sidelines.
At 31, the Porbandar native does have some time left, but the Indian think tank doesn’t seem to play a left-arm seamer in tests and it appears Arshdeep Singh is in front of him in the limited overs squads.
Sorry bowlers, in my era, I have struggled to find any bowlers who have been in the footballing wilderness, but found Dinesh Karthik and Parthiv Patel both had to wait eight years to play for India.
O India, you’re a tough bunch. Pakistan aren’t much more lenient though.
A footballing example I want to use is that of Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga. Kepa, formerly of Atletico Bilbao is the world’s most expensive goalkeeper. This title is of course due to no fault of his own and at the time was arguably a panic buy after regular number one, suddenly downed tools and leave for Real Madrid.
Arrizabalaga time hasn’t been easy in England. From the penalty shootout fiasco where he didn’t want to be substituted in the Carabao Cup game, to where in games he would make high-profile mistakes, the Keba hate brigade were out in full force.
His save percentage was low and many questioned why Chelsea stumped up the cash. Edouard Mendy was the club’s number one and seemed an immovable object until he too suffered a loss of form.
Sadly for the Senegalese stopper, he continues to be a shadow of his former self, but full credit to the Spaniard Keppa for showing real mental strength and regaining his number one spot back after being second choice for so long.
To stay with the football goalkeeper theme, Danny Ward of Leicester City is another. Wales international and former Huddersfield goalie Ward has been in the shadow of former number one and club legend Kasper Schmeichel.
After an initially tough start to life of being in the limelight rather than the shadows, Ward struggled but has since managed to get some consistency in a Leicester shirt. In the risk of upsetting the strikers union, let’s also mention a forward, one Marcus Rashford.
Manchester United academy product Rashford, last season was seen as surplus to requirements. Although that language came out of Ralf Ragnicks mouth, the German’s actions seemed to suggest as such as the 25-year-old got little or next to zero playing time.
A new manager has brought a fresh start for Rashford and his goal-scoring exploits have seen how much he has benefitted from the change, but immense credit must go to Marcus Rashford himself for showing such strength in character.
To keep the conversation Manchester United, reports are emerging that the former Stoke goalkeeper is going to be signed as backup to David De Gea. Butland, 29 has seen his career suffer a disappointing dip.
A move to 20-time Premier League champions Manchester United would be some way to come out of the sporting wilderness. Butland will have some cold nights as he will mainly be on the bench, but he will feature more than what he has done in the past few years.
I am sure there are many examples of players coming out of the sporting wilderness, but let’s hear from you, are there any that I have missed?
*this article has been taken from The Sports Buff substack page*
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