The continued suspense over Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s future has revived the debate on whether the biggest icons in Indian cricket know when the time is right to bow out of the scene gracefully. Retirement of Indian cricketers has been always a subject of dilemma for the BCCI, fans, and cricketers themselves. Only a few have left the scene with everlasting impressions and weeping fans craving ‘Ye dil maange more,’ whereas others have added discordant notes to their swan song. India’s one of the greatest cricketers Mahendra Sing Dhoni, also a very successful captain, is putting himself on hot burner with over-delayed retirement. You can take the example of a few who set the precedent in best possible manner. No one did it better than Gavaskar, who played one of his finest innings in his farewell Test against Pakistan, 96 on a Chinnaswamy ‘snake pit,’ where the ball jumped and turned square. Gavaskar had always walked the talk as a cricketer; he announced it after a few months, saying that he has already played his last match. Saurav Ganguly, now BCCI chief, retired after averaging 54 in four tests against Australia. Even though pushed to the wall by Dhoni, he never delayed it. But the same can’t be said about the so-called ‘God of Cricket’ Sachin Tendulkar. Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman retired at the end of the 2011 Australia series. But with series averages of 34.12, 35.87, 18.66, 32, and 21, with only 6 half centuries in 18 tests, Sachin continued to play till he got his 100th century and 200th test and a farewell at his home ground! If you compare the figures of Dravid and Laxman from the 2011 England series onwards, it’s baffling. The 38-year-old Dhoni was on a sabbatical for more than two months after India’s semifinal ouster from the World Cup in July in England. Later, he made himself unavailable for India assignments till November, and now in November he shouted at a scribe angrily, “Don’t ask me till January.” Dhoni’s steps have fuelled intense speculation about his future. There is no word on whether he plans to call it a day from international cricket despite a clamor for it. The BCCI has prepared a 45-day match schedule (international and domestic), training, anti-doping whereabouts chart for all senior and A-team cricketers, but there is nothing marked against Dhoni as he hasn’t said anything about his. It is learnt that he is also not going to play the Vijay Hazare National One-Day Championship for Jharkhand, which has nonplussed even the state officials. In 1987, Gavaskar was 37 but, with his impeccable technique, could have well played till the tour of Pakistan in 1989. But he knew when to leave. The same, however, cannot be said about Kapil Dev, one of the greatest Indian cricketers. He was a pale shadow of his old self after the tour of Australia in 1991. But there was a record in sight and Kapil continued despite loss of pace. The then skipper Mohammed Azharuddin would bowl him for a few overs and then go back to his spinners. There was a feeling in the Indian cricket fraternity that Javagal Srinath, one of the fastest bowlers of his time, lost three years of Test cricket at home as the establishment didn’t know how to send the message across to Kapil. This dilemma is the fate of cricketers as they start playing at the age of 10, may be make your debut at 20 and go onto play till 35. That’s 25 years of their life, doing just one thing. They have earned money, fame but suddenly they don’t know what else they are good at. They are at a crossroads. It’s not about money but about life’s larger picture. They want their Tendulkar moment, albeit in a smaller way. No one wants that silent goodbye. We live in a bubble and refuse to get out it. One could understand why everyone is cagey while talking about the timing of retirement in the context of Dhoni. Most cricketers don’t wish to be quoted. Ganguly, after those tumultuous years under Greg Chappell, had great last two years in Test cricket, but when he announced his retirement prior to the 2008 Australia series, one could gauge that he didn’t want another trial by fire from the selectors under a new Test captain Dhoni? It was on Dhoni’s suggestion that Ganguly and Dravid were dropped from the ODI side for being slow runners between the wickets. For Tendulkar, it was absolutely different as he wasn’t getting those hundreds but was still looking good and scoring runs. The erstwhile chairman of selectors Sandeep Patil later confessed that they conveyed the message to Tendulkar, which prompted him to first retire from ODIs in December 2012. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir also took time to fathom that Indian cricket had moved beyond them. Successful cricketers in India are not just sportsmen; they are big entertainers; they pull crowds to stadiums and endorse products in advertisements. Still, as the cliché goes, one should retire when people ask ‘why’ rather than ‘when,’ which late Vijay Merchant had once put so succinctly. It is time that Dhoni read the writing on the wall retired gracefully. For the sake Indian cricket which he has served so well.