Will Tendulkar, Kallis and Chanderpaul follow Ponting into the sunset?
Cricket fans fear that several cricketers in the autumn of their careers could be announcing their retirement in the coming months.
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting's decision to retire could be the start of an exodus of other batting greats, including Indian maestro Sachin Tendulkar and South Africa's Jacques Kallis.
With all the leading run-getters in Test cricket in the 35-plus age bracket, the next few years seem set to witness a host of retirements that will leave the game short of batting class and experience.
Ponting, who turns 38 next month, starts his 168th and last Test against South Africa Friday and Tendulkar, who is without a Test century since early last year and will be 40 in April, appears to be next in line to call it quits.
Kallis, West Indian Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Sri Lankan Mahela Jayawardene are also in the autumn of their careers, despite showing terrific form of late.
The five veterans make up half the all-time list of just 10 players to have amassed 10,000 runs or more, along with the already retired Rahul Dravid, Brian Lara, Allan Border, Steve Waugh and Sunil Gavaskar.
Tendulkar, the world's leading scorer in both Test and one-day cricket and the maker of an unprecedented 100 international centuries, has already said he has been contemplating ending his iconic 23-year career.
"I am 39 and I don't think I have plenty of cricket left in me," he said in a television interview in October.
Asked if he has been thinking of retirement, he replied: "Of course, I have been.
"I am 39 plus and it is not abnormal for me to think of it. At that moment, I will go by what my heart says. At this moment, my heart says I am okay. But you will have to look at series by series."
It was the first time the record-breaking Mumbai batsman had spoken of retirement, and a recent run of poor scores has many wondering if the end was drawing closer.
Tendulkar has scored a record 51 Test centuries, but he has now gone 28 innings without a hundred in the five-day format since his 146 against South Africa in Cape Town in January 2011.
In 2012, he has managed just 274 runs in seven Tests at an average of 22.83, a far cry from his career figures -- a record 15,562 runs in 192 Tests at 54.60.
Recent media reports suggested that Tendulkar had discussed his future with the selectors, but this has been denied by both the Indian cricket board and close friends of the batsman.
At least Kallis and Chanderpaul have the runs behind them to prevent speculation about their careers.
A string of injuries has left question marks over the South African, with a hamstring strain preventing him from bowling for all but three overs of the last Test against Australia in Adelaide.
However, the 37-year-old's appetite for runs remains undiminished.
This year alone, Kallis has smashed 905 in eight Tests at an amazing average of 75.41, with four centuries including 224 against Sri Lanka in January and 147 against Australia in Brisbane in November.
Most recently, he played through the pain barrier in the Adelaide Test to score 58 and 46 as South Africa held out for an improbable draw.
Chanderpaul, described by Cricinfo as possessing the "crabbiest" technique in world cricket with an ugly front-on stance, continues to defy critics as he piles on the runs for the West Indies.
The 38-year-old left-hander scored 987 runs in his last nine Tests at an average of 98.70 and ended a remarkable year with two unbeaten marathons of 203 and 150 in Bangladesh in November.
The slim Guyanese lies third in the individual Test rankings behind Australian captain Michael Clarke and Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka, and is a rock-solid pillar in the otherwise fragile West Indies line-up.
The Sri Lankan duo of Jayawardene and Sangakkara, both aged 35, head to Australia in December for a three-Test series with no immediate signs of fading away from the scene.
Jayawardene continues to lead Sri Lanka with distinction in his second stint as captain, while Sangakkara was this year named the International Cricket Council's player of the year.
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