We sometimes think ourselves to be lucky to have been born in an era where we got the chance to witness so many cricketing legends. From Steve Waugh to Brian Lara, Warne to Murali but there are people who consider themselves ill-fated for this very reason. No, they are not their rivals; in fact they are their teammates! These people are none other than the talented players who are either reduced to playing a second fiddle role to their legendary teammates or worse they don’t get much opportunity due to the side being heavily packed by the big names.Cricket has always produced legends and also such tough lucked players for whom one should feel for. Their performance or feat often remains unnoticed. Its unfortunate for such cricketers who are otherwise brilliant but their performances gets overshadowed by their legendary teammates more often than not. For the most part of their career, they have to wait for long periods to get a chance to showcase their talent at the highest level and if they do get such an opportunity, only some are able to make their own name and not get outranked by the players whom they have to fill the big shoes of.
There are also some players who have been consistent in whatever opportunities they had got but were sidelined just because their team was either too good or the preferences of the team were different. However, the contribution of such cricketers to the game is immense. They are the cricketers who, at times, have to warm the bench despite being in good form. They are the players who end up getting their careers ended for the reasons they are not responsible for. Some of them even fail to make it to the highest level no matter how good they perform.
It is disheartening to see such immensely talented players not getting the chances he deserves just because he is born in a legend’s era. It is neither their fault nor that of the legend(s) in the national team. Cricket, as they say, can be cruel a times and such players whose talent goes as a waste or are not given due credit more often than not are perfect examples of it.
Let us have a look at some of the many such talented cricketers who never got what they deserved:
Stuart MacGill: Probably the unluckiest cricketer in the past decade. On his day, MacGill could play a pivotal role in deciding the outcome of a test.Australia isn’t known for producing many great spinners but it was the misfortune for MacGill andAustralia to have both Macgill and Warne in the same period. As a result, this leg spinner with a lethal wrong’un only got to don the baggy green when either Warne was injured or if a track demanded a second spinner. His chance to become the main spinner finally arose on the back of Shane Warne’s retirement but MacGill struggled in the post Warne era. Soon, he decided to call it a day. He ended his career with over 200 wickets from 44 test matches with a strike rate better than the great Shane Warne leaving many wondering what could have been had he played more test matches. Stuart now gives his services as a commentator.
Taslim Arif: Born in an era where a wicket-keeper’s skills behind the stumps were given much more importance than their batting ability, Arif made his debut as an opener forPakistan in 1980. In his very first match, a test against arch rivals India, he showed good signs and went on to score 90 in the first innings and 46 in the second. The best from Arif came in his third test when he scored an unbeaten 210 against Australia in which each Aussie player including their wicket-keeper Rod Marsh rolled their arms over. This remained as the highest score for a wicket-keeper in tests for around 20 years. The score was surpassed by Zimbabwe’s Andy Flower in 2000-01 againstIndia. Taslim had 510 runs to his name at an average of over 62 in the10 innings of 6 test matches he represented his country. Despite a good record in his short stint in the national team, he was dropped in favor of Wasim Bari who was a better gloveman. Taslim’s career ended in the same year he appeared to the international scene. Later, he served as an ICC match referee. Arif breathed his last in 2008.
Darren Lehmann: The sturdy Australian known for his free scoring batting style and useful left arm spin, was one of the best players of his time. Darren who had a whopping first class average of a shade under 58 with as many as 80 centuries to his name was equally good in domestic one dayers too in which he had scored over 13000 runs at a fabulous average of 46.86 with 19 hundreds and 94 half centuries to his credit, was expected to turn the world wild with his brilliant show for Australia. However, it was not to be. For the most part of his career, he played as a stop gap player when someone was needed to up the ante in the lower middle order. Boof, as he is fondly known, was yet another Aussie not to be able to get ample opportunities in the star studded line-up. He had to fight for a place with the likes of Ponting, Taylor, Waugh brothers, Martyn, Bevan and Hayden in the ‘invincible’ line-up of the then Australian team. It is in fact Australia’s poor luck that such a supremely talented cricketer played a mere 27 test matches in which he scored at an average of a shade under 45 runs and 3078 ODI runs with his average reading almost 39 in a touch over 100 games that he represented the Kangaroos. The high in his career came when he was the part of a world cup winning side. He last represented his nation in an ODI againstPakistan on Feb 6, 2005. He bid adieu to all forms of the game in 2008.
Dheeraj Jadhav: An average of 47 in One dayers and that of 56 in first class matches would be good enough for any batsman to break into the national side, but Dheeraj Jadhav. Jadhav started his domestic career as a middle order batsman only to turn into an opener later in his career. Dheeraj who is known more as a stroke player has the ability to bat for long hours has been very consistent for both his domestic teams, Maharashtra andAssam. He has been scoring tons of runs but it was his misfortune that the Indian team was full of legendary batsmen. With the likes of Tendulkar, Ganguly, VVS and Dravid in the team, he didn’t get any chance to play for the country. Jadhav still plays domestic cricket in all three formats of the game and has been doing fantastic work, especially in the longer formats scoring tons of runs which shows his determination and skill. He was by far the top run getter for this year’s Ranji season in plate division scoring 704 runs at a whopping average of 176 with 1 fifty and 5 big ones. Dheeraj remains as one of many ill-starred domestic stars who never got the honor of representing the country at the International level.
Misbah-ul-Haq: Today, Misbah is celebrated as one of the best players of currentPakistan team. However, the journey wasn’t as smooth as it looks. He was first picked in the national side in 2001 but failed to impress one and all. Having a great domestic record to his name, it was only after the retirement of iconic Inzamam-ul-Haq that he a got regular chance to play for the country. He made the opportunity count, cemented his place in the team and in the process got the supporters in former cricketers including the legendary Imran Khan. Selectors showed faith in him and he was picked for the inaugural T20I worldcup. Misbah repaid the trust put on him and almost single handedly won the world cup for his side but he played a rash shot in the final against arch rivalsIndia and paid the price. He not only lost his wicket but also lost a chance to pick up the glittering trophy. Misbah’s scoop over the fine leg fielder caught the imagination of many and he became a star overnight for his brilliant show in the tournament. He has been very consistent since then and has scored runs at an average of 42.5 in ODIs and with that of 45.27 in the game’s longest format. Unfortunately, he is already over 38 years now and is not expected to serve the country for long.
Dinuka Hettiarachchi: Standing 5ft 4 inches tall, the left arm orthodox spinner from Srilanka is considered one of the most lethal bowlers in the island nation and the star–crossed one too. Dinuka, was always superbly talented and had wickets to his name more often than not. The high for Dinuka, who has picked up 743 wickets in 185 first class matches which includes as many as 49 five wicket hauls and 178 scalps to his name in 111 games at a frugal average of 18, came when he was called for the national duty in 2001 to play a test against the England. Hettiarachchi impressed one and all with his accurate bowling. He bowled tightly and was rewarded with two wickets marking a memorable debut where he shared the ball with the likes Vaas and Murali. He was so hard to put away that the experienced Englishmen could score at a paltry rate of 1.5 runs per over off his bowling which reflects how dominant Dinuka was. However, this remains his only appearance for Srilanka. With his age over 35 years now, he is not expected to return to international cricket and his entire focus is now limited to the domestic cricket itself.
One can think of several aspects about these cricketers but the biggest question would be that if they had been given more chances very early in their career and/or if they had born in some other era, with the talent and consistency they have had, would they have gone on to become legends?