Top 5 Cricketers Who Came Out of Retirement to Play Again

Ben Stokes joined a special list of cricketers who came out of retirement to play again, as he returned to the England squad for the 2023 World Cup. Get a full list.

Subhayan Dutta
Subhayan Dutta

Last Updated: 2023-10-12

Dillip Mohanty

Star England all-rounder Ben Stokes’ return to the national team ahead of the 2023 ODI World Cup might have created a buzz, but he is certainly not the first name on the list of cricketers who came out of retirement to play again.

From Pakistan’s Imran Khan and Shahid Afridi to England’s Kevin Pietersen and India’s Javagal Srinath, cricketers returning from retirement has been a popular trend in cricket. However, very few have been able to match the same intensity during their second stint as former Pakistan skipper Imran Khan.

Imran Khan Retirement

Assuming Pakistan’s cricket captaincy from the veteran Javed Miandad in the early 1980s, Imran Khan had made that role his own for a good seven years. Under his leadership, the Men in Green would go on to win an away Test match against England for the first time, draw with the mighty West Indies team three times as well as beat a star-studded Indian team 3-0 in a six-match Test series.

However, after Pakistan were eliminated in the semi-finals of the 1987-88 ODI World Cup, which was being hosted by India and Pakistan, the skipper decided to hang his boots. Needless to say, Imran Khan’s retirement from cricket was met with mass despair and upon the insistence of Pakistan’s then president ZIa-ul-Haq, Imran decided to return for one last time.

Imran Khan 1992 Cricket World Cup_1.jpg

He would announce his comeback by tallying 33 wickets against West Indies in three Tests in the 1988 series and follow that up by winning the 1992 ODI World Cup for Pakistan four years later. A 39-year-old Imran Khan would take the last wicket that made Pakistan the world champions, which was a fitting swansong to Pakistan’s best-ever cricketer.

Counted among the four best all-rounders of the ‘80s, along with Kapil Dev, Ian Botham and Richard Hadlee, Imran Khan finally ended his career with 362 wickets and 3807 runs in Tests, and 182 wickets and 3709 runs in ODIs.

Javagal Srinath Retirement

One of the best pacers the Indian cricket team has ever seen, Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad manned India’s pace unit at a time when the nation was struggling to produce quality fast bowlers. The seam bowler from Karnataka was a mainstay in the Indian team for over a decade and retired with a whopping 236 Test wickets and 315 ODI wickets.

After having a decent outing in the West Indies in 2002, where Srinath would add 13 scalps to his name, the bowler shocked the nation by announcing his retirement. Despite the emergence of Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and other bowlers during that time, Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly requested the veteran for one last run with the 2003 World Cup knocking at the door.

Javagal Srinath 1999 World Cup.jpeg

Srinath returned from retirement to participate in the marquee event being held in South Africa and tallied 16 wickets in 11 matches with an average of 23.06 and an economy of 4.04. He was India’s best bowler in that tournament as the Men in Blue reached the final before losing to Australia.

quote icon

Of course, Ben Stokes coming back and being available just as a batter sort of changes the dynamic a little bit. Ben’s a fantastic player to be able to welcome back.

England Captain Jos Buttler on Ben Stokes coming out from ODI retirement

Ben Stokes Retirement

The all-rounder has been one of England’s saviours on multiple occasions over the last five years. Whether it be his heroics in the Ashes against Australia or a single-minded battle to the finish in order to keep England alive in the 2019 World Cup final, Ben Stokes has been instrumental in England’s resurgence over the last decade.

Hence, when Ben Stokes retired from the ODI format in July 2022 citing workload issues, it left a massive gap in the England team as well as in their fans’ hearts. Desperate calls were made to bring him back into the side with the 2023 World Cup around the corner, but Stokes had stuck to his decision for a long time even mentioning that he would go on vacation following the 2023 Ashes.

Ben Stokes Training.jpegHowever, the 32-year-old all-rounder made a pleasantly shocking return to the ODI squad to face New Zealand preceding the World Cup and scored a brilliant 182 against the Kiwis. Defending champions England now come to the World Cup with renewed optimism. 

Kevin Pietersen Retirement

Before Ben Stokes became a fan favourite for the English people, a certain Kevin Pietersen used to rule the roost. England’s Ashes hero during the incredible 2005 series, the South Africa-born batsman’s contribution to England cricket’s revival has been pivotal.

Pietersen was a crowd-favourite during his playing days owing to his hard-hitting as well as innovative strokes to send the ball at all parts of the ground. He did court controversies during his career and fell off with the England Cricket Board quite a few times. However, the middle-order batsman’s sudden retirement from white ball cricket in 2011, to focus on Tests, didn’t sit well with the fans.

Kevin Pietersen Test Celebration.jpeg

Pietersen would take less than 60 days to come back from white-ball retirement and the board wasted no time getting him into ODI and T20I squads. He eventually retired from the limited-overs format in 2013 with 4440 ODI runs and 1176 Test runs. He would leave the Test format one year later, amassing 8181 runs with an average of 47.28.

Shahid Afridi Retirement

No cricketer on this list has taken retirement as loosely as former Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi. A star all-rounder for the Men in Green, Afridi was whimsical in nature and resorted to retirement at the slightest of inconvenience.

He would first announce his retirement in 2006 from the longest format, before returning to play only two weeks later. Afridi’s return, however, didn’t last long as he would retire after just one more match that Pakistan lost to Australia under his captaincy.

Shahid Afridi  ODI.jpegAfter retiring from the Test format, Afridi next announced that he was retiring from the ODIs as well. This happened after Pakistan were eliminated by arch-rivals India in the 2011 World Cup and Afridi was removed from captaincy, which didn’t sit well with him. But, he would return to play ODIs after six months.

Six years later in 2017, Afridi declared his retirement from all forms of cricket but came back again to play one final game for the Rest of the World at the Lord’s. That has been Afridi’s last match so far.  

While these have been some of the more popular cricketers who returned from retirement, there are other names like former West Indies skipper Carl Hooper, Zimbabwe star Brendon Taylor and more who followed this trend.

Subhayan Dutta
Subhayan DuttaSports Writer

An M.A. in English Literature, Subhayan is an experienced journalist and sports writer. Having worked as a journalist at Hindustan Times, Subhayan covered diverse beats including sports, education, and health, showcasing his versatility and in-depth understanding of various subjects.