Potential is a word commonly used in cricket. Some players live up to their potential and more. Others aren’t quite capable of it. Is there enough variety and players to make an XI out of those players? Certainly. Be it persistent injury, persistently cracking under the pressure of international cricket or other external factors, many players failed to truly achieve their lofty potential. Here’s a genuine test XI of them.
- Chris Gayle: Over 7000 runs at just over 42. Only 7 West Indians have made more runs than him. 103 tests, only 7 men from the Caribbean have played more. 98 sixes, only 2 players from any team have hit more than him. You’d think he’s mostly lived up what everyone expected from him. But Gayle is an enigma wherever he goes and with whatever he does. He’s made 2 test triples, surely his average should be so much higher than 42. He’s a modern day legend for his T20 exploits, but there was no reason he shouldn’t have achieved an image similar to that in the longest format of the game.Gayle truly hit his peak with the rise of T20s, but he didn’t play nearly as many tests as he should’ve in that time. Increasingly frequent run-ins with the board, which has caused him to miss many tests for numerous reasons. His dodgy back played up a lot in his later years as well, and he’s missed many games for that reason as well. Gayle will always be remembered for his T20 escapades, but his test (and ODI too for that matter)feats shouldn’t be forgotten, even if he never quite lived up to his lofty potential in the format.
Test stats: 7214 runs at an average of 42.18 from 103 matches.
Best format (T20): 9777 runs at an average of 41.60 (strike rate: 150) from 277 matches
- Herschelle Gibbs: For the start of his career, Gibbs hit the ground running and made runs upon runs without ever quite reaching his brutal potential. His form tailed away towards the end, and dreams of people who wanted to see him achieve that potential evaporated with it. Gibbs was someone who practiced the craziest of shots, a superb fielder and a possessor of awe-inspiring power. When he was pulled over for match-fixing (one of numerous blots on his record, one which he always denied carrying out), South Africa rushed him back as quick as they could because of he was a match winner, and has won more than a few games for his country off his own bat. But there was always the feeling that he could’ve done so much more had he not flirted with danger on numerous times with his lengthy list of off-field shenanigans and had he been slightly more patient. Bowlers the world over would’ve utterly dreaded a game against South Africa had Gibbs managed to achieve his brutal potential and sustain it.
Test stats: 6167 runs at an average of 41.95 from 90 matches.
Best format (FC): 13425 runs at an average of 42.21 from 193 matches.
- Shane Watson (captain): Watson has pretty much become synonymous with unfulfilled potential and for good reason. His raw power complemented his skill excellently and it should’ve been a combination that could succeed anywhere. His bowling was, in his youth, tearaway pace, but injuries turned him into a more line-and-length bowler and one of Australia’s best exponents of conventional and reverse swing during his playing days. His best time coincided with a run at the top of the order, but time and time again, injuries stopped him in his tracks. And while he was great at bowling it, he was awful at playing and judging reverse swing, and the fact that the image of him unsuccessfully reviewing an LBW only highlighted it. While many of his reviews were more comedic than anything, his final act as a test player was an unsuccessful review at Cardiff, more out of desperation than anything. Watson’s numbers aren’t all that bad for an all rounder, but, being a batting all rounder, he was always going to be compared with Jaques Kallis and no one comes out of that comparison well. But Watson always had the potential to stack up against the likes of Kallisbetter, and that was apparent in glimpses, be it at Mohali, where he batted all day for the only time in his test career to make a tough 126, the Oval, where he blitzed his final (and biggest) test hundred in 2013, Nagpur, where he rattled India with a superb command of line and length and harnessed reverse swing to extraordinary effect, and Cape Town, where he ran through South Africa by getting the ball to seam everywhere. Watson could have been so much more than he eventually became, but few would claim that he didn’t live up to at least part of his vast talent.
Test stats: 3731 runs at an average of 35.19, 75 wickets at 33.68, 59 matches
Best format (FC): 9451 runs at an average of 42.57, 210 wickets at 29.97
- Mark Ramprakash: If Watson is synonymous with the phrase “unfulfilled potential” in Australia, Ramprakash is certainly the man interchangeable with it in England. He was a colossus at county level: one of only two men to score over 2000 runs in a season since the introduction of two divisions (he did it twice after two divisions began, and once before). He became only the sixth man to average over 100 runs per dismissal having played 8 or more innings in an English season and the only player to make 150 or higher in 5 successive matches over the course of a record breaking 2006. He followed that up with another ground breaking 2007, where he became the only player in history to average over 100 in two consecutive English seasons. The crowning moment was in 2008, where he became the most recent (and possibly final) player to reach the landmark of 100 hundreds. But all of this came after he’d been dropped for the final time, in 2002. He played 52 tests and only on a couple occasions looked even half the player he did at county level. He only made two hundreds for England and averaged 27.32. It was puzzling as to how this was even possible, and we can never really be certain as to why, but Ramprakash deserves to be remembered for his prowess at domestic level. He was a true giant there.
Test stats: 2350 runs at 27.32 from 52 matches
Best format (FC): 35649 runs at 53.14 from 461 matches
- Michael Bevan: An astronomical first class average of 57.32, more runs in the Sheffield Shield than all but 3 people, more hundreds than all but one person in Shield games,the highest average (60.69) in the competition (with a minimum of 70 matches), a then-record (now second highest) 1464 runs in 2004/05 season, the highest in a Shield season for 3 years, averages of 53.58 and 57.86 in ODIs and List As respectively, yet his test stats are mediocre at best. He never made a hundred for Australia in whites, but ironically took a ten wicket haul once. Bevan dominated all comers in domestic games in Australia and England, yet he seemed to struggle at test level and only test level, as he never looked unsettled by any in any other format. He played 18 tests over 4 years and never looked at his best in the 5 day game after his debut season. But ask any bowler who bowled to him in his time for South Australia, New South Wales, Tasmania, Kent, Sussex or Yorkshire and they’ll tell you how powerless he made them look. Bevan was irrepressibly good at every format he played but tests, and that’s a great loss to the traditional international format. Few but the bowlers bowling to him would’ve not wanted to see Bevan run the show at test level.
Test stats: 785 runs at 29.07 from 18 matches
Best format (FC/LA): 19147/15103 runs at 57.32/57.86 from 237/427 games
- Andrew Flintoff: Freddie, Freddie, Freddie. He’ll forever be defined by his showings in an incredible run over 2004-2005, especially the 2005 Ashes, but one might wonder what’s so special about him just by looking at his numbers. However, Flintoffwas more than just his numbers. He was the life of any team he played for, on and off the field, an excellent fielder, and his ability to lift his team with bat, ball or in the field was unmatched. But Flintoff’s numbers could’ve been better were it not for persistent injuries. They set him back a lot at the start, he missed a few after the high of the 2005 Ashes because of his dodgy knee flaring up again, and led to his premature retirement at 31. His chances of fewer injuries weren’t helped by his captains playing him when he was half fit, such was his utility to his team. But the lessons have been learned from the management of Flintoff, and now every fast bowler on the England radar has his fitness monitored and managed to prevent more premature retirements. A brief comeback for Lancashire in 2014 wasn’t meant to be, and injuries once again curtailed his career, bringing it to a quiet end. Were it not for his injuries, Flintoff could’ve been one of the greatest all rounders of all time, but England should be happy with what they got, a quick and feisty player with bat and ball, lively in the field and the brightest part of any team, who won more than a few games on his own. That’s something special.
Test stats: 3845 runs at 31.77 and 226 wickets at 32.78 from 79 matches
Best format (LA): 6641 runs at 29.78 and 289 wickets at 22.61 from 282 matches
- Chris Read (wicket-keeper): On September 11th, 2015, Chris Read became the first person since Jack Russell in 1997 to effect 1000 dismissals. Like Ramprakash in 2008, he could very well be the last person to reach the mark as first class competitions the world over contract with T20 competitions being far more profitable. But that is a discussion for another time. What’s for now is that Read is among the pre-eminent glovemen of this era. He only played 15 tests across 8 years as England searched for a Gilchrist they didn’t have, someone who could keep well and bat. As a result, he fell behind Alec Stewart, Geraint Jones and Matt Prior in the pecking order, as they were all better batsmen, but probably worse keepers. That’s not to say that Read can’t bat, far from it. His record at county level with the bat is respectable for a keeper, and most of his runs have come at Trent Bridge, one of the toughest surfaces in the country. He’s known as “the fire fighter” down in Nottinghamshire, as he’s routinely had to rescue his side, one which he’s captained a fair bit, from abysmal collapses. His work behind the stumps at test level was never bad, but he left a lot to be desired in front of them. But had England persisted with him, those runs could’ve come, as Nottinghamshire know, but Read can be proud that he played for his country at the highest at the very least.
Test stats: 360 runs at 18.94 and 54 dismissals (48 catches) from 15 matches
Best format (FC): 15700 runs at 37.20 and 1047 dismissals (995 catches) from 334matches
- Kyle Abbott: South Africa were incredibly fortunate to have a bowling attack with the pedigree of Steyn, Morkel, Philander, * insert spinner here * and still have the someone as good as Abbott waiting in the wings. He took 9-68 in his debut match against Pakistan, the third best match figures by a South African on debut, and it was a brilliant display of speed and swing. Abbott made it to the national side on the back of consistent domestic performances but he came a bit too late to be able to nail down a spot. None of his first 7 tests were consecutive in the same series despite two 5 wicket hauls (7-29 and 5-40). It could’ve been over when KagisoRabada jumped the ahead of him in the queue, and he certainly thought so. But he finally nailed down his spot with Steyn and Morkel both injured on the Australia tour in 2016, taking 9 wickets and a man of the match award at Hobart, and his side’s best bowler at Adelaide. He started well against Sri Lanka in the series that followed, but news of his Kolpak signing with Hampshire, which had been signed earlier in the year, leaked out. That test would be his last international for South Africa, as he parted on acrimonious terms. South Africa’s loss will be Hampshire’s gain, but this incident (and the subsequent departure of RileeRossouw) was a wake up call to South Africa, who realized that they had to rectify this problem before it became irreversible. The morality of Abbott’s decision is one for another time, but regardless, few can say he wasn’t good.
Test stats: 39 wickets at 22.71 from 11 matches
Best format (FC): 259 wickets at 22.46 from 71 matches
- Shane Bond: Among the fastest bowlers of his time, right up there with ShoaibAkhtar, Brett Lee and Mohammed Sami, Bond’s brittle body was his undoing. 18 tests and 82 ODIs over 8 years, is a striking figure as he was never dropped for bad performance. Many operations and time out of the game never really helped him, as he never wanted to slow down. He always wanted to bowl 150 an hour regardless of the risk to his first because that’s the type of person he was, competitive to the bitter end. Bond’s sheer talent and skill was on perfect display every time he played the old enemy and best team in the world: Australia. 44 ODI wickets at 15.79 which included Ricky Ponting in each of the first 6 times he played against him, a hat trick and incredible figures of 6-23. Bond always looked like taking wickets against everyone, and his test strike rate of 38.7 is the second lowest among bowlers with more than 75 wickets. New Zealand reminisces about how good he was, but can only imagine what might’ve been had he had a stronger body. Perhaps he could’ve even surpassed Richard Hadlee on the New Zealand bowlers list.But it was never meant to be, and that glimmer of hope faded for good in 2009, as his body failed him one final time at test level.
Test stats: 87 wickets at 22.09 from 18 matches
Best format (ODI): 147 wickets at 20.88 from 82 matches
- Mohammed Zahid: Described by Brian Lara as one of the fastest bowlers he ever faced and the only Pakistani to take 10 wickets on debut, Zahidcould’ve been something special. Picked in the absence of WasimAkrama and WaqarYounis, he immediately set the international stage alight, taking 11 on debut with a searing display of pace. But things went downhill quickly. Wasim and Waqar also missed the next series, against Sri Lanka, and ahead of the first test, Zahid felt a sharp pain in his back. The team management still made him play both tests as they only picked 4 fast bowlers for the tour, two being Wasim and Waqar. Bowled into the ground, he was in immense pain and scarcely breathing by the end of it. He had broken his back, and had he been allowed to rest, he would’ve been fine in a little while as it recovered naturally. As it happened, he needed surgery and was out for 16 months. When he came back, he wasn’t half the bowler he once was, far slower and lost his line and length. Things could’ve been much different for Zahid and team Pakistan had it not been for that.Pakistan might’ve transitioned from Wasim and Waqar to the next generation better, with Zahid and Akhtar leading the charge to be joined by the likes of Mohammed Asifand Mohammed Sami in the near future, a mouth watering combination if the quartet were at their best. But as it happened, Akhtarspent significant time out of the game due to various misdemeanors, Asif also had run-ins with both the ICC law and the PCB which culminated in a 5 year ban for spot fixing, Sami never found consistency and Zahid faded out of memory, an unfortunate result for what could’ve been a world-class quartet.
Test stats: 15 wickets at 33.66 from 5 matches
Best format (FC): 128 wickets at 26.00 from 43 matches
- Imran Tahir: Had he played for Pakistan, he could’ve been a great test spinner. But playing for South Africa, his role in the test team is different, he needs to contain and give the pacers time to rest, and a wicket or two won’t hurt (something with KeshavMaharaj does very well now). But Tahir always tried to take wickets and steal the show. That would’ve been his role for Pakistan, but he moved from there long ago. His variations are his strongest suit in limited overs, which has made his incredibly successful there (they’ve helped him to the number one ranking in both formats), but has been his undoing in tests. He would go after variations in attempt to take wickets quickly rather than bowl a consistent line and length for with variations as a surprise. The quick wickets have come a few times, notably 5 wicket hauls against Pakistan and Dubai and India at Nagpur, but the variations have also backfired spectacularly for him, especially at Adelaide in 2012, where he went for 260 runs without taking a wicket, the worst wicket-less figures in tests.South Africa’s spinner problem could’ve been solved years earlier had Tahir realized his role in the side, and his returns in limited overs are a testament to that, having been nothing short of extraordinary. It’s been a long journey, full of disappointment for South Africans, but with Maharaj and TabraizShamsi coming through, it seems to be over for him at test level. It was fun while it lasted though.
Test stats: 57 wickets at 40.24 from 20 matches
Best format (ODI): 121 wickets at 23.20 from 69 matches
There are so many players who didn’t quite reach the heights there should’ve. Enough to make a second XI:
- Mark Waugh: Stylish and beautiful to watch, but didn’t have the grit of his brother. Also looked like scoring but never quite did make as much as he should’ve
- Phillip Hughes: Never reached the highs of his second test, where he became the youngest player to score two hundreds in a match. Was in and out of the side though over 5 years, before tragically passing away in late 2014.
- Brendan Taylor: Another country, another time, he could’ve played a lot more. But he played for Zimbabwe at the worst time, shorn of tests but impressed whenever he could. Retired in 2015 because it was becoming increasingly difficult to earn money playing for Zimbabwe. Could’ve challenged Andy Flower if circumstances were better.
- James Taylor: Could’ve been a potential England captain or vice captain had circumstances been different. Debuted against the best team in the world for a divided side, was promptly dropped despite playing quite decently and spent 2 years in exile, seemingly for his height. Came back strongly to the test side 3 years later, proved adept at playing spin, and an excellent short leg. Was diagnosed with a rare, genetic heart disease though, bringing his career to a sudden end.
- Brendon McCullum (captain): Underperformed for most of his career until he finally came good in his last two years. Those couple of years showed the brutal potential he had, and it would’ve been a great decade of McCullum for New Zealand if he realized that potential much sooner to the fullest.
- Jesse Ryder: The most undisciplined New Zealander for a long time, but he had power. Essex know how good he is and have kept him around for many years. He looked like he was finally settling into the New Zealand set up before being hospitalized in 2013. Made a brief comeback in 2014 but was dropped and then grew disenchanted with the international game. His raw power and nippy bowling could’ve been a great asset had Ryder the man been handled better by NZC.
- ThamiTsolekile: Was unlucky to play at the same time as Mark Boucher, but was overlooked for AB de Villiers as de Villiers could bat well. Never played another test, and was recently banned for match fixing. His path shouldn’t have diverged so much from what was expected from him
- Brad Hogg: Chinamen bowlers always look excellent, and Hogg was no exception. Looked fantastic in limited overs, but was picked for tests too early which affected his first class cricket negatively after that. Retired from the format in 2008, but is now a T20 grandpa, playing on at 46.
- Shaun Tait: Among the fastest in the world, injuries harmed his career and he looked increasingly inconsistent as the injuries kept coming, particularly in 4 day cricket. His raw pace combined with his mindset was perfect for limited overs though, as his short sharp burst startled batsmen in the shorter formats. More dedication and a less injury prone body could’ve made him among the best in the test world though
- Ryan Harris: A late bloomer, who picked up pace later in his career, nothing could stop his body from breaking. An excellent command of line and length, some good control of seam but despite how much CA wrapped him in cotton wool, he still broke down. But his spirit was unbreakable, notably taking two wickets in an over to end South Africa’s remarkable blockathon 5 overs short, all on one leg. One final injury ended his career in 2015, as he was going to miss the Ashes, the only reason he stayed on.
- Simon Jones: Arguably the greatest Welshman to ever play the game, and certainly the greatest of the 21st century, Jones had pace, he had swing, and was arguably the best exponent of reverse swing from England’s class of 2005. But injuries blighted his career, from Brisbane in 2002 to Nottingham in 2005. When he hobbled off at Nottingham in 2005, having taking 18 wickets at 21 from the 4 tests that series on the way to Ashes triumph, he became the last Welshman to represent England. More may come, but it’ll be hard for them to match Jones