Underrated Cricketers is the hot topic these days on social media.
Last week, I wrote a tribute to one of New Zealand’s greatest, Ross Taylor. Around the same time, ESPNCricinfo published a wonderful article on the alpha male, Faf du Plessis. Then, Mushfiqur Rahim had that brilliant series against Sri Lanka.
What do they all have in common? They are all candidates for the Most Underrated Cricketers. Can you create an XI of these so-called underrated players?
Table of Contents
- Today’s Twist – Create Your Own Underrated XI
- The Catch
- Current Underrated Cricketers XI
- 1. Paul Stirling (Ireland)
- 2. Azhar Ali (Pakistan)
- 3. Faf du Plessis (South Africa)
- 4. Ross Taylor (New Zealand)
- 5. Mushfiqur Rahim (Bangladesh) – WK
- 6. Sean Williams (Zimbabwe)
- 7. Angelo Mathews (Sri Lanka)
- 8. Chris Woakes (England)
- 9. Ishant Sharma (India)
- 10. Kemar Roach (West Indies)
- 11. Adam Zampa (Australia)
- 12. Asghar Afghan (Afghanistan)
- Create Your Own All-Time XI
- A Bit of Philosophy, Of Course
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Today’s Twist – Create Your Own Underrated XI
First we need to define what it means to be ‘underrated?’
Definition: These cricketers may not break into the Current World XI, but are great players in their own right. They usually flow under the radar and might not have the largest fan clubs.
To limit our search, here are the rules:
- Minimum of 100 international matches across formats
- Maximum of 1 player per country
- Should be able to field a team – 5 bowlers and wicket keeper needed
- Build an Underrated XI to go head to head against Current World XI.
Imagine an opposition XI consisting of David Warner, Mohammad Rizwan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Babar Azam, Kane Williamson, Steve Smith, Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Shakib Al Hasan, Ravindra Jadeja, Pat Cummins, Rashid Khan, Mitchell Starc, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Jasprit Bumrah, & Trent Boult in the opposition.
- Majority of the New Zealand team will walk in the ‘underrated’ XI if we do not keep a 1-player limit per country—Ross Taylor, Tom Latham, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, Henry Nicholls. If you only had to choose one, which one would you go with?
- Rahul Dravid, Cheteshwar Pujara, & Hashim Amla have a massive cult following. Understated cricketers for sure, but not necessarily underrated.
Current Underrated Cricketers XI
*Note we consider T20I + ODI + Test combined statistics.
1. Paul Stirling (Ireland)
- Matches: 208 (127 ODIs, 78 T20Is, 3 Tests), Runs: 7046, Best: 177 (ODI), 100s:12, 50s: 44
- Why is he underrated: Although Ireland cricket does not receive much media coverage, 2020 showed why he is one of the bests in the town. 3 hundreds in just 5 matches with 105.00 average was the highlight of the COVID-hit cricket calendar. Continues his good form in the ongoing Ireland-Netherlands series.
2. Azhar Ali (Pakistan)
- Matches: 140 (87 Tests, 53 ODIs), Runs: 8424, Best: 302* (Test), 100s: 21, 50s: 45
- Why is he underrated: Wonderful player for Pakistan cricket, but never really got the recognition he deserved, even from his own country. One of the standouts of the 2010s, especially overseas performances. 6579 of those runs came in Test matches. He has scored a triple century, hundreds in each innings, and carried a bat once.
3. Faf du Plessis (South Africa)
- Matches: 262 (143 ODIs, 69 Tests, 50 T20Is), Runs: 11198, Best: 199 (Test), 100s: 23, 50s: 66
- Why is he underrated: Sandwiched between the generations of Graeme Smith-Jacques Kallis-Mark Boucher-Shaun Pollock and Hashim Amla-AB De Villiers-Dale Steyn, Faf’s career was delayed about seven years. Highly regarded as a captain, Faf may have never gotten his due as a batsman. High commodity in T20 leagues.
4. Ross Taylor (New Zealand)
- Matches: 440 (233 ODIs, 105 Tests, 102 T20Is), Runs: 17869, Best: 290 (Test), 100s: 40, 50s: 92
- Why is he underrated: Will go down as the best #4 ODI batsman of all time, and has most New Zealand batting records to his name. Neither is he quite as outspoken as Brendon McCullum, and nor is he as popular as Kane Williamson. Not considered in the Fab 5 either. A mainstay in this Kiwi generation nevertheless.
5. Mushfiqur Rahim (Bangladesh) – WK
- Matches: 386 (227 ODIs, 86 T20Is, 74 Tests), Runs: 12520, Best: 219* (Test), 100s: 15, 50s: 68
- Why is he underrated: One of the pillars of Bangladesh’s growth, Rahim has come into his own over the past 4-5 years. He has the best record for #4 since the 2015 WC after Ross Taylor. Only wicketkeeper to score 3 double centuries in Test cricket. Energetic behind the stumps and plays innovative shots. Why doesn’t he ever get an IPL contract?
6. Sean Williams (Zimbabwe)
- Matches: 197 (136 ODIs, 47 T20Is, 14 Tests), Runs: 5937, Best: 151* (Test), 100s: 8, 50s: 41, Wickets: 125, Best: 4/43 (ODI)
- Why is he underrated: In and out of the national side due to run-ins with the board, there was never any doubt on his talent. In the form of his life, average 132.00 in Tests this year with 2 centuries.
7. Angelo Mathews (Sri Lanka)
- Matches: 386 (218 ODIs, 90 Tests, 78 T20Is), Runs: 13219, Best: 200*, 100s-14, 50s-81, Wickets: 191, Best: 6/20 (ODI)
- Why is he underrated: Speaking of run-ins with the board, Angelo Mathews. Debuted as Sri Lanka’s future in their golden generation, but has not quite lived up to the potential due to injuries, fitness issues, and problems with Sri Lanka Cricket Board. Does not bowl much anymore, but still has a stellar all-round record. Gritty batter.
8. Chris Woakes (England)
- Matches: 145 (104 ODIs, 38 Tests, 8 T20Is), Runs: 2727 , Best: 137* (Test), 100s: 1, 50s- 10, Wickets: 268, Best Innings: 6/17 (Test), Best Match – 11/102, 10w – 1, 5w – 7
- Why is he underrated: With Jimmy Anderson & Stuart Broad in the England team for the majority of the decade and due to the emergence of Jofra Archer & Mark Wood, Chris Woakes has never really received a consistent run. He has delivered in his limited opportunities and his record in England (specifically Lord’s) is impeccable. One of the greatest underutilized all-round talent of all time. Oh yeah, and has the highest ODI score for a #8 batsman (95*).
9. Ishant Sharma (India)
- Matches: 195 (101 Tests, 80 ODIs, 14 T20Is), Wickets: 426, Best Innings: 7/74 (Test), Best Match: 10/108, 10w: 1, 5w: 11
- Why is he underrated: Sharma has always been under the radar compared to his standout peers—Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Jasprit Bumrah, & Mohammad Shami. Yet, his consistent work ethic has been a boon for the Indian team. After a prodigious beginning with that Ponting spell, ‘unlucky’ middle stage, and Faulkner’s 2013 ODI assault, Sharma is finally reaping rewards in the final stage of his career. Now an elderly brother figure to the young fast bowlers.
10. Kemar Roach (West Indies)
- Matches: 166 (63 Tests, 92 ODIs, 11 T20Is), Wickets: 348, Best Innings: 6/27 (ODI) , Best Match: 10/146, 10w: 1, 5w: 12
- Why is he underrated: What names come to your mind when once speaks of West Indian pacers? Walsh, Ambrose, Holding, Marshall, Garner, Roberts? Well, sadly these are all from the past era, but Roach is leading a revival of fast bowling in the Caribbean. Not quite as fast after injury, his consistency has lead him to the 8th highest Test wicket-taker for the West Indies.
11. Adam Zampa (Australia)
- Matches: 102 (61 ODIs, 41 T20Is), Wickets: 135, Best Innings: 4/43 (ODI), 5w: 0
- Why is he underrated: The 2010s was the revival of leg-spinners & wristspinners—think Rashid Khan, Imran Tahir, Adil Rashid, Yuzvendra Chahal & Kuldeep Yadav, Ish Sodhi, and now, Lasith Embuldeniya. Adam Zampa will not be considered the best legspinner of the generation nor will he be in the top of the Australian list due to the presence Shane Warne & Stuart MacGill. Yet, he is a vital cog in the Aussie limited overs lineup.
12. Asghar Afghan (Afghanistan)
- Matches: 192 (114 ODIs, 72 T20Is, 6 Tests), Runs: 4205, Best: 164 (Test), 100s-2, 50s-19
- Why is he underrated: While Mohammad Nabi & Rashid Khan are considered the beacon of Afghanistan talent, Asghar Afghan, the captain & batsman, is the heart of the Afghanistan team. Removed from captaincy once again, but has always been their leader. A clean six-hitter as well.
Create Your Own All-Time XI
Here was my Current Underrated XI, but what about an All-Time XI? There are way too many players to choose from, but I am curious what you would choose? Send in your submissions in the Comment section below!
Here is my short list:
- India – Ajit Agarkar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Roger Binny, Farookh Engineer, Suresh Raina, Chetan Chauhan
- Sri Lanka – Thilan Samaraweera, Rangana Herath, Upul Tharanga
- Pakistan – Moin Khan, Asad Shafiq, Umar Gul
- New Zealand – Daniel Vettori, Chris Harris, Craig McMillan
- South Africa – Barry Richards, Graeme Pollock, Clive Rice, Jacques Kallis, Morne Morkel
- England – Alan Knott, Alec Stewart, Michael Atherton, Mike Brearley
- West Indies – Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Alvin Kallicharran, Desmond Haynes
- Australia – Damien Martyn, Jason Gillespie, Justin Langer
- Zimbabwe – Flower Brothers
A Bit of Philosophy, Of Course
Not all players get their due that was due to them. To be honest, I am not a huge fan of this ‘underrated,’ ‘unlucky’, ‘overrated’, ‘Agree or Die’ jargon that goes around in Twitter.
Every sports player tries to give it their all. Not every player can scale the heights of a Sachin Tendulkar or have millions of fans & followers. However, as long as they fulfill their defined role & help their team win, they have done enough.
Why should we compare players anyway? Let us just enjoy watching them when we have time and try to learn from each and every one.
Here was my list of underrated cricketers. How about you? Let us know in the comment sections below. And if you like these ‘Create your Own’ World XIs, check these articles out below.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Ross Taylor, Faf du Plessis, and Mushfiqur Rahim are currently the most underrated international cricketer. Paul Stirling, Azhar Ali, Sean Williams, Angelo Mathews, Chris Woakes, Ishant Sharma, Kemar Roach, Adam Zampa, Asghar Afghan, Tom Latham, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling among others.
Ross Taylor is the most underrated batter of all time. Desmond Haynes, Shivnairne Chanderpaul, Jacques Kallis among others.
Ajit Agarkar, Daniel Vettori, and Rangana Herath are the most underrated bowler of all time. Here is the rest of the list.
Image Courtesy: NAPARAZZI, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons