Sports is cruel and unfair.
Why would the career of the immensely talented NBA basketball player Jay Williams, who was also the 'Rookie of the Year’, end after a bike accident in 2003 which broke his pelvis and tore his ACL?
Why would a fan run into the Tennis court and stab the precious little Monica Seles in 1993 during a quarter-final match?
Why else would a bouncer sneak through Craig Kieswetter's helmet and hit him on his face, damaging his vision and career together?
Sports is cruel and unfair.
While every year, quite a few talented hopefuls bid goodbye to their favourite sports owing to injury, very few popular players make headlines, unless of course, the injury is of a freak kind that arouses the curiousity among the average newspaper reader.
A slew of back injuries and ankle issues is no headline making stuff and hence when John Hastings, a second string Australian pace bowling all-rounder, announced his retirement from first-class and one day cricket, there was little hullabaloo. After all, he wasn't even in the team at the moment.
On Friday, Hastings conveyed a pretty difficult decision to give up on Test and ODI cricket, and focus his attention on T20s alone. He joins a bandwagon of several cricketers who have gone down the freelance T20 route in 2017, like Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Mccleneghan and Chris Lynn being a few worth mentioning.
However, Hastings’ case is slightly different since he feels his body wouldn't hold up to the rigours of Test and ODI cricket.
"Trying to get back after four shoulder reconstructions, four major ankle operations and a major knee operation has just worn me down," Hastings had told cricket.com.au. "The body is just giving up and every time I try to load back to get back to four-day cricket or one-day cricket, it seems as if something else goes. It was a tough decision, one that wasn't made lightly, but I've decided to give the two longer formats away and focus on T20," he added.
At 31, Hastings could have had a rather fruitful career in ODI cricket at the least, but the current injury would have kept him out of action until the Big Bash season where he captains the Melbourne Stars franchise.
The Australian selectors have made some weird choices in recent times and the experimentation with a stadium full of fast bowlers has been the latest trend. Since 2013, in ODIs alone, they have tried 12 new fast bowlers and out of them, very few have gone on to play more than 10 games.
Hastings, who made his one day international debut way back in 2010, has played just 29 matches in the format, taking 42 wickets at a more than decent average and strike rate of 29.9 and 35.3 respectively. Combine this with his ability to clear the ropes at the fag end of the innings, you have a clear match winner.
Obviously, the Australian selectors did not think like that. Why was Hastings resting in the sidelines while the likes of James Faulkner and Kane Richardson consistently took the field?
Of his 29 matches spread across seven years, 15 have come in 2016, a memorable year for John Hastings. He seemed to have finally nailed down a spot in the Australian team with his outstanding performances in ODI cricket.
In 15 matches, Hastings plucked 29 wickets, the highest for any pace bowler in the world that year, at an average of 24.13 and a best of 6/45. He was Australia's second highest wicket-taker in the year behind Adam Zampa, who had one more. Even with the bat, the Melbourne Stars skipper stroked at an average of 31.00.
Yet, all he played was a single ODI since 2016 – a Champions Trophy match against New Zealand at Birmingham –which incidentally also proved to be his last for the Australia's ODI team.
"John has been a great servant of Australian cricket, and a player who worked extremely hard to be the best he could be, both at national and domestic level, and we congratulate him on his achievements," Cricket Australia's chief executive James Sutherland said. "He was a brilliant competitor particularly in limited-overs cricket for Australia, and a smart cricketer who with bat and ball was always in the game and looking to play his role helping Australia and the Victoria Bushrangers achieve success on the field."
The Duke as Hastings is fondly called is as big a loss for Victoria as it is for Australia. There is little to suggest that the selectors would have changed their minds and given Hastings a fair run in the ODIs. There are also concerns about how much role the injury has played in Hastings’ decision given that he is willing to continue playing in all kinds of T20 leagues.
Whatever be the case, Australia and Hastings will miss each other in ODI cricket and the goodbye does not auger well for a side struggling to identify their back-up seamers. They may not realise it now, but Hastings’ decision is a huge loss to Australian cricket. While they fiddled around with the likes of Hilton Cartwright, Mitchell Marsh, James Faulkner and Joe Mennie, Australia have let a gem slip through their fingers.
Congrats to my old mate @johnhastings194 on a huge FC career. Always there for you and would be the first in the trenches until the end. 🌟
— Michael Hill (@MichaelHill33) 6 October 2017