Talent is one thing, timing is another. And both play an equally important role in the making of a successful cricketer. Look no further than the contemporary wicket-keepers of the Indian side — too many talents fighting for limited spots. Despite being one of the most gifted wicket-keepers, Wriddhiman Saha strayed on the fringes for his entire career, simply because there was no vacancy on the Indian side. While Saha at least managed to remain in contention until the very end of his career, there are many who fade away into obscurity after just a summer or two of dominance.
Injury is another factor that shortens cricketers’ careers. The game is rife with players, especially fast bowlers, failing to regain initial highs after being struck by an injury. Let’s take a look at five such players who shone bright but faded rapidly from our consciousness:
Just like his bowling, Simon Jones’ cricketing career was fast, furious, and brief. Only 18 Tests and a handful of ODIs before a series of debilitating injuries brought an abrupt halt to his career. But even in his brief spell, Jones achieved something that will be talked about for ages to come. He was the chief destructor for England in Ashes 2005 – arguably the most thrilling battle of Test cricket the world has ever seen. Jones made Australian batters grovel to his tunes, before being ruled out in the fourth Test.
There’s no better definition of one-Test wonder than Bob Massie. In his debut match, Massie outshone his more accomplished partner Dennis Lillee, running through the entire English defence with his lethal pace and prodigious swing. Massie picked up 16 wickets in the game, but played only five more international matches. Within 18 months of that stellar debut, Massie found himself out of both Australia and his domestic side. A blistering debut that ended in a whimper.
On England’s tour of 1986-87, West Indies unleashed another fast bowler from their treasure, a 25-year-old Patrick Patterson, whom Graham Gooch went on to describe as the nastiest he had ever faced. Jeff Dujon, the wicket-keeper, recalls Patterson’s deliveries used to hit his cushion gloves with a pain-inducing force. Anyone who has faced him agrees that there was none like Patterson.
Sadly, his career lasted only 28 Tests before he literally faded away to obscurity. After being dropped, Patterson left two things forever: cricket and worldly pleasures. There were no interviews, no pictures, and no traces of him on the Caribbean island for decades. A few years ago, Bharat Sundaresan, a prominent cricket journalist, located Patterson, who leads a very reclusive life in some tiny village in the Caribbean.
Stuart MacGill was one of the greatest leg spinners who never got a consistent chance for Austalia. But there’s not much to complain about, as his destiny coincided with someone called Shane Warne. Both of them emerged at the same time, but there was place for only one leggie, and it definitely belonged to Warne, the man who made the impossible seem mundane. While Warne finished with 700 Test wickets, MacGill took 208 scalps in 44 appearances.
A 19-year-old bespectacled prodigy, with a little help from the underprepared Madras pitch, blew apart the mighty West Indies side with his impeccable control over leg-spin. He took eight wickets each in both innings to end the game with match figures of 16 for 136. In the next three Tests, Hirwani took 20 more wickets. But once the action shifted outside India, Hirwani saw his efficacy drop and was soon dropped out of the team. For the rest of his career, he kept coming back to the side sporadically, but was never able to confirm his spot.
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