Some cricketers are supremely talented. Paradoxically however, often these super talents do not fulfil their awesome potential.
Such people are not being criticised, I am only heaving a sigh of sadness at how much more they could have achieved.
My World XI for unfulfilled potential does not feature players whose career was threatened and cut short by injury, such as Ian Bishop or Shane Bond – only those who did not perform to their perceived potential figure.
I will go in for Mark Ramprakash and Shoaib Mohammed as openers.
Only 25 players have 100 first-class hundreds, and English batting coach Ramprakash is one of them. However, he did not do well in international cricket, where he scored only two hundreds in his 52-Test career – delightful ones at Barbados and the Oval.
Nicknamed ‘Bloodaxe’ for his fearsome temper, Ramprakash has more than 50,000 runs in different formats of the game, but was probably picked too soon.
Hanif Mohammed’s son, Shoaib Mohammed, was dubbed a ‘strokeless wonder’ during his playing days. He played 45 Tests and scored seven hundreds, including a double hundred as well. The fact that he also has an ODI hundred and eight 50s in ODI shows that he could have batted faster.
Like his illustrious father, Shoaib too was a classical Test opener and will provide stability and solidness to my team.
At three is Zimbabwean born Graeme Hick, who debuted in the same Test as Ramprakash. He too has 25 first-class hundreds and he, Graham Gooch and Sachin Tendulkar are the only three players to cross 20,000 runs in List A Cricket (international and domestic ODI).
He has an outstanding first-class record, with over 40,000 runs and 136 tons and 158 half centuries, but he was an underachiever at Test level, with 3383 runs and six hundreds at an average of only 31.32 in his 65 matches.
Could it be that the seven years spent waiting for qualification to play for England reduced his appetite for international cricket? One can only speculate. He definitely was a great the world waited for and never got.
At four is Carl Hooper, who with Jacques Kallis is one of only two players to have scored 5000 runs, taken 100 wickets, held 100 catches and played over 100 matches in both Tests and ODIs. He made batting look easy and was never unfazed by any kind of bowling. Unfortunately, he never performed to his potential. He did score 5700 runs in Test cricket but with only 13 hundreds at an average of 36.46. He should have done much better.
At five is Vinod Kambli, the childhood friend of Tendulkar who had back-to-back 200s in only his third and fourth Test matches. In his first seven Tests Kambli had two 200s and two 100s. However, thereafter his form alarmingly plummeted and after only two years he was dropped from the Test team, never to return. His Test average in 17 Tests is 54.2.
Wicketkeeper is Sadanand Vishwanath. Can anyone forget his mesmerising performance in the World Championship of Cricket in Australia? Indian captain Sunny Gavaskar paid him the ultimate tribute in his book One-Day Wonders, saying, “People will talk about many other reasons why we won the World Championship of Cricket in 1985 but one of the main reasons was the presence of Sadanand Vishwanath behind the stumps.”
Sadly Vishwanath faded away, playing only three Tests and 22 ODIs instead of becoming India’s best ever, as predicted by the Australian media.
My choices for all-rounders are Chris Cairns and Irfan Pathan, who both faded away even though they had potential to play for years.
Steve Harmison and Patrick Patterson occupy ninth and tenth spot in my team. Harmison, an awkward bowler in the Curtly Ambrose mould, ended up playing 63 Test matches and took 226 wickets, once taking 7-12 as the West Indies collapsed to 47 all out.
Harmison played a crucial role in the 2005 Ashes win and was Wisden Cricketer of the Year, but he could have achieved much more.
So also Patrick Patterson, a fearsome fast bowler who took seven wickets on debut but did not go on to even complete 100 Test wickets.
The sole spinner is current commentator Laxman Sivaramakrishnan. He too played a vital role in India’s 1985 win Down Under, and the stumping of Javed Miandad by Vishwanath off Siva’s bowling will always remain etched in memory. Siva was incredibly talented but played only nine Tests and 16 ODIs before fading away.
That rounds up my 11, with Hooper as the captain.
In a 16-man squad are batsmen Marlon Samuels and Ricardo Powell, allrounder Wasim Raja, fast bowler Shaun Tait and spinner Narendra Hirwani.