Famous French fashion designer Coco Chanel professed that “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”
Simplicity and Intensity were the hallmarks of Dale Steyn’s illustrious career—ever smiling character with a popping veins-chainsaw celebration, a smooth, silky action that delivered lethal bouncers, a humble down-to-earth character who assumed the mantle of being the greatest fast bowler of his generation.
Hence, it was true to his character that he hung up his boots via an understated tweet. He signed off with a snippet from the Counting Crows rock band and summed up the end as “bittersweet, but grateful…It’s been 20 years of training, matches, travel, wins, losses, strapped feet, jet lag, joy, and brotherhood.”
Steyn was thrusted in the international arena after just seven first class games. He began his Test career on December 17, 2004 against England, debuting in the same match as the another-to-be legend, Abraham Benjamin de Villiers.
Both teams had great bowlers. On the opposite end—Steve Harmison, Simon Jones, Matthew Hoggard, and Andrew Flintoff (formed the core of the great 2005 Ashes series), while South Africa had the dependable duo of Shaun Pollock & Makhaya Ntini.
Then arrived a 21-year old boy in iconic fashion, going through the gates of Marcus Trescothick and breaking a 152-run opening partnership. In the 43rd over. Full and straight. Slight movement. He screamed. Crowd erupted.
Usually, one brilliant delivery in a match is good enough. However, the ball from Steyn’s debut that is remembered is that Michael Vaughan ball in the second innings. Good length, outswing, beats the bat, off stump rooted. Perfection.
Although South Africa eventually lost that match, they found someone would would win them the decade.
Dale Steyn Stats – Strike Rate Like No Other
Before we jump into his best hits, let us look over some numbers really quick.
We tend to focus on batting strike rate much more due to T20 cricket and increasing run-rates, but to understand what set Steyn apart, we need to understand bowling strike rate. Bowling strike rate is the number of balls taken per dismissal on average. The lower, the better.
7/51 (Innings) 11/60 (Match)
7/51 (Innings) 10/108 (Match)
Steyn in Tests
Steyn in ODIs and T20Is
To put this into perspective, for those with at least 100 Test wickets, Waqar Younis (43.4), Shoaib Akhtar, (45.7), and Allan Donald (47) are the only other contemporary fast bowlers who were close to Steyn’s SR. From an earlier era, Malcolm Marshall (46.7) was the best, while Kagiso Rabada (41.2), Anrich Nortje, and Pat Cummins (47.1) are in the race right now.
(42.30) 6th Best Strike Rate of All-Time, 3rd Best post-World War I. Only Shane Bond (38.7) & fellow countrymen Kagiso Rabada (41.2) higher
3rd Fastest to 400 wickets, and the joint-fastest fast bowler to this mark alongside Sir Richard Hadlee (80 matches)
Most Test Wickets for South Africa, surpassing Shaun Pollock’s 421 wickets.
8th Highest Wicket-Taker of All-Time (Only Muralitharan, Warne, Anderson*, Kumble, McGrath, Broad, Walsh ahead. None had a strike rate below 51.9)
ICC Test Cricketer of the Year (2008)
ICC Test Team of the Decade (2020)
#1 Ranked ICC Test Bowler (2008-2014) – 78 wickets at 16.24 in the 2007/08 season.
IPL: Royal Challengers Bangalore, Deccan Chargers, Sunrisers Hyderabad
Other T20 Leagues: Cape Town Blitz (Mzansi Super League), Melbourne Stars, Islamabad United, Quetta Gladiators, Kandy Tuskers
My Favorite Steyn Memory
My favorite aspect about Steyn was his action. Just a joy to watch. Anytime any format if Steyn is bowling, I would turn my TV on.
You see, the Shoaib Akthars and Lasith Malingas are legends in their own rights, but emulating their actions is a convoluted task. The two pace bowlers with almost perfect actions that I tried to imitate in gully cricket were Brett Lee and Dale Steyn. Uncomplicated yet effective.
To be perfectly honest, I do not remember his specific bowling figures from the top of my head. He has bowled so consistently over the decades that you only remember his iconic wickets or spells. More often than not he probably took a 4-fer or a 5-fer. Most times, I was scared for my favorite batter in the opposite camp, and that is the beauty of Dale Steyn—the ability to send shivers in the opposite camp but in an awe-inspiring, charming kind of manner.
The Rise of Dale Steyn, Conqueror of All Conditions
It would be difficult to go through all of his 29 5-fers, so let us talk about the greatest hits from Steyn’s career. Dropped after his early debut, he made a comeback. Against New Zealand, he would get his first five-fer in 2006.
He had memorable spells against England, Australia, and New Zealand. He took 5 wicket hauls in every condition and situation. Either with helpful seaming conditions or reverse swing.
He has literally taken a 5-fer against every country he played against.
Best Figures (Overall) Against This Team
Best Figures In This Country
The King of Asia
Steyn’s best figure was 7/51 at Nagpur in 2010, but it was his 5/23 in Ahmedabad (2008) that landed him in the lengdary fast bowling pantheon, when India were skittled out for 76 at home soil. His brilliant consistency in the 2008 series against India continued- 4/103 (Chennai), 5/23 & 3/91 (Ahmedabad), 3/71 (Kanpur).
In Sri Lanka, he lifted his game even more. 5/82 (2006), and beast mode in 2014 (5/54, 4/45, 2/69, 2/59). He even landed a 5/56 in Karachi (2007) and had a best innings of 4/48 in Bangladesh.
In limited overs, his record is decent as well although he did not play as many matches. 5 wickets in Nagpur against India in the 2011 World Cup, 4-0-17-4 figures while defending a thriller in the 2014 T20I World Cup, and a T20I economy of under-7 suggests he was a much better bowler than his T20 leagues returns suggest.
It would be grave injustice if I did not mention his batting. He was more than a useful down-the order player. Two Test fifties including a crucial 76 and a best of 60 in ODIs meant he was a better than a tailender, but not quite an all-rounder. Kemar Roach-esque batting abilities.
Steyn Vs AB De Villiers IPL
Another riveting memory is the 2012 IPL game between Deccan Chargers and Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Chinawamy. 24 runs in one over. The inside out shot was the best of them all and even got a wry smile from Steyn in appreciationg of ABD’s class.
The brilliance of that passage of play was two players at the top of their games in a pressure situation and for once, Steyn had lost to his fellow countrymen.
Another miraculous part of Steyn’s journey was his career of two halves—with respect to injuries.
Usually a fast bowler succumbs to an injury early in their career and comes back stronger, more well built (like Pat Cummins). An injury in the middle of the career means lowering the pace and focusing on line & length (like Munaf Patel). Another extreme is Brett Lee or Shane Bond (always injured, played cricket in between without compromising speed).
Steyn completely escaped this phase and never lost control, momentum, or pace. However, the law of averages came back to bite him at the end of his career.
Injury. Rehabilitation. Few games. Repeat.
2013 (Groin Strain, Side Strain)
2014 (Rib Fracture, 3 Hamstring Strains)
2015 (Groin Strain)
2015-16 (Shoulder Injury)
2017 (Freak heel injury)
2019 (Shoulder Injury) after being selected into the ODI World Cup squad
Climbing the Peak
Although his goal was to lift a trophy with South Africa, there was always a personal goal—to go one past Shaun Pollock. After numerous injuries, he got back up on his feet and on Boxing Day 2018, he took his 422nd wicket to become the leading wicket-taker for South Africa.
It was probably fate that Shaun Pollock would be commentating on that exact moment. Watch the video below to relieve that moment and all of his major milestone wickets till then.
After his shoulder injury again just before South Africa’s 2019 campaign started (and derailed), he announced on 5 August 2019 he would retire from Tests to focus on limited overs cricket. He ended at 439 after going past 400 in 2014.
Loss of form, pandemic, and postponement of the T20 World Cups meant it was time to retire in the other formats as well.
Who Is Dale Steyn, The Person?
Now that we know how good Steyn is as a bowler, let us get an insight on who the person he truly is—what really makes Dale Steyn kick.He has a life outside cricket, ya know? Thankfully, his interviews, especially this ESPNCricinfo’s Cricket Monthly interview with Nagraj Gollapudi,provides us a glimpse into his life.
Dale Steyn was born in the small town of Phalaborwa in the Limpopo Province (borders Kruger National Park in South Africa). Maybe the natural environment around him had an effect of him since he became an out-doorsy kind of person. Skateboarding, surfing, and fishing are some of his favorite hobbies. He even flexed his acting muscles for a cameo role in a Drew Barrymore-Adam Sandler movie Blended.
He is a natural athlete who competed at various sports from an early level. 100 meter sprints, long jump, triple jump, high jumps all prepared him for long spells of bowling in Test match arena. He wanted to be like “Allan Donald through the air, but I wanted to land the ball the way Polly landed.. I wanted to be a faster version of Shaun Pollock.“
The best of both worlds.
Steyn said that the “difference between a good fast bowler and a brilliant fast bowler is the wickets column.” He always backed himself to take wickets regardless of the condition and taking 5-fers in every Test playing nation was one of his goals. Here is his collection of souvenir cricket balls.
Dale Steyn shows his collection of souvenir fifer balls 🔥
In order to rise to this level, he has had a lot of support from his coaches, Chris van Noordwyk, Vinnie Barnes, Geoff Clarke, and captains, Graeme Smith, AB De Villiers, and Hashim Amla.
Other Interesting Steyn Facts
There were couple of other cool snippets in there as well. Keeping his cool against dropped catches, facing the Kohlis and de Villiers, altercation with Michael Clarke, Tests vs ODIs, Tendulkar Vs Donald, and video analysis & field settings.
A fun fact is that his full run up is 19 meters, 21 steps, which helps him avoid bowling no-balls. Why is this important? Well because he once took a wicket on a no-ball early in the innings, and it cost his team dearly. The batter was Kumar Sangakkara and the innings became famous for the record 624 partnership with Mahela Jayawardene.
Now for a moment, let us put ourselves into Dale Steyn’s shoe. He dominated the world between 2008 and 2015. Responsibility for the last over of a World Cup semi-final rested on his shoulders (which would literally break a year later). South Africa’s history of collapses and chokes running in the background.
How must have it felt. Carrying the burden of the nation, the tag of the best fast bowler of the generation. One good ball, and you are in the legendary books. One bad ball, and you are scarred for life. Vettori squeezing a wide yorker, chaos in the field, overthrow chances. Steyn calm under pressure. Yet a half-volley in the small grounds of Auckland and Elliot did not miss his chance to glory.
Six. South Africa out. Steyn changed forever.
He reveals how he knew he was going to bowl the final over irrespective of Brendon McCullum’s expensive assault earlier in the innings. After all, he defended 7 runs in the 2014 T20 World Cup match against the same opposition. (He ended with 4-0-17-4 in Bangladesh. Wow). “This year was the hardest in dealing with that pain after the World Cup…We had our chances to win the game…Knowing that you have put four years’ hard work in, especially the last two years before the tournament, all you see is yourself holding the trophy. And then you don’t.”
The Downfall of the Great Era
With Steyn’s retirement, this is the close of one of the better chapters in South African cricket (Technically Faf and Tahir are still available for T20 World Cup selection, but have not been selected recently). All of them deserve a separate article.
Herschelle Gibbs was the architect of that 438 chase. Graeme Smith was the young leader who could bat with a broken hand. The pure class of Hashim Amla & AB De Villiers was unmatched. Faf’s leadership & resilience and once-in-a-generation-allrounder, Jacques Kallis, are often underrated. JP Duminy & Mark Boucher were the utility players every team needs for balance.
Steyn, Morkel, Philander, Rabada
Donald, Ntini, and Pollock passed on the baton to Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, and Kagiso Rabada—possibly the greatest line up (if only for just a few Tests). Philander’s swing made him the second fastest to 50 wickets, while Morne’s height and action bamboozled one and all. Rabada will soon form his leagacy of his own, and Imran Tahir was the energy boost South Africa required.
Together, they conquered teams overseas and became the No. 1 Test Team of the decade, the only ones to really challenge the great 2000s Australia team consistently and win away from home in the 2010s.
The future of South Africa lies with Quinton de Kock, Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Janneman Malan (100+ average in 9 ODIs by the way), Keshav Maharaj, and Tabraiz Shamsi. This is a pretty solid core, but it will take quite a few generations to reach the heights of Steyn’s South African team.
The Legacy of Dale Steyn
To answer this question, we must first ask ourselves what is great fast bowling?
Is it swinging it like Jimmy Anderson? Putting fear in the opposition’s heart like a Mitchell Johnson or Shoaib Akhtar? Delivering consistent line and lengths like Glenn McGrath & Shaun Pollock? Having a seamless action like Brett Lee? Bowling yorkers at will like a Mitchell Starc? Reverse swing like Waqar Younis?
Imagine all of these players. Package them into one. Add a tinge of humbleness with Sam Curran’s ability to make things happen. There you have it. Dale Steyn, the greatest Test pace bowler of all time.
The 1980s had Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, and the West Indies fast bowlers. The 1990s with was dominated by the Pakistan duo Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram. Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee all played stellar roles in this era as well. Steyn, Akhtar, and Lee a carried the baton to the next generation and made sure that “fast bowling is cool.” In the age of T20 cricket where sixes are hit on will, Steyn played his part in extending the beauty of pace bowling. The fact that Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje have arrived on the scene has to be credited to senior bowlers like Steyn & Morkel.
He ends that interview with, “The moment I feel I can’t contribute anymore I will not hang on. And if I fall just short of 100 Test matches or five short of 500 Test wickets, that’s fine.”
Unfortunately, that his how it ended. 7 short of a 100 Tests and 61 short of 500 wickets. Legendary career nevertheless.
Dale Steyn Vs Jimmy Anderson – Let Us Settle The Debate
Every generation, there are three to five great fast bowlers but maybe one all-time great. We should be grateful we had two. Jimmy Anderson, the greatest swing bowler in the history of Test cricket and Dale Steyn, the greatest pace bowler of all-time.
Let us appreciate both and cheer on Jimmy Anderson in whatever time he has left.
What Can We Learn From Dale Steyn?
Being at the top for over a decade requires immense discipline and fitness levels.
It is one thing to be a great fast bowler. Another to comeback with the same intensity. Not once, not twice. But thrice. My heart sank when his freak heel injury occurred, a sign that the end was near.
I just wanted him to bowl some more. Another Test. Just another spell. Maybe one more over.
Every good thing comes to an end, and so does his magnificent career. I am sure he will continue to inspire athletes around the world and mentor fast bowlers like he did in his career. We will all miss watching Dale Steyn dominate the best batting attacks around the world. I will miss that anger, speed, cartwheeling stumps, celebration, and of course, the action.
Kids, if you are reading this and want to make a sports person your idol, there is no one better than the great Dale Steyn. So what can we learn from Dale Steyn?
Give it your all on the field and be a decent human being off it. Steyn might have shown plenty of emotions in intense situations, but outside the cricket ground, he is a super chill dude who likes to fish and stay away from conflict.
The truth is that being gifted alone cannot make you great. Simplicity. Honesty. Hard work. Discipline. Consistency. Longevity. Adaptability. You need all characteristics to work in sync.
Steyn was gifted. Not everyone can bowl at such high pace. If you are talented in a particular area and enjoy doing it, you should pursue it further. In order to convert the potential into actual realization, persevere and power through.
You will eventually find your away. Just like a Steyn outswinger that beat the bat and rattled the top of off stump.
Today I want to reflect upon the career of one of my all-time favorite players, Ross Taylor. We will discuss it all—the achievements, the struggles, my favorite memories, and ultimately what we can learn from him.
But you ask, why am I talking about Ross Taylor all of a sudden?
Well for once, he has been in the news recently.
Last month, he suffered from a calf strain, which cast a slight doubt on his place for the Test series against England and the much awaited World Test Championship final.
In the last year, Taylor has already been dropped from the T20I side for the likes of Devon Conway & Glenn Phillips.
New Zealand cricket is now a powerhouse. Across the three formats, their record is spectacular:
Semi-finalists: 2007 & 2011 ODI World Cup; 2007 & 2016 T20 World Cups
Runners-Up:2009 Champions Trophy; 2015 & 2019 ODI World Cup finals
Finalists:Inaugural World Test Championship Final
This is surely New Zealand’s greatest cricketing generation, and great teams are built upon the contributions of exceptional individuals.
Post the Martin Crowe era, New Zealand’s performances were inconsistent until the Stephen Fleming generation. With a side consisting of Fleming, Daniel Vettori, Nathan Astle, Craig McMillan, Jacob Oram, Scott Styris, and the feisty Brendon McCullum, the Black Caps began to generate consistent performances.
Fast forward fifteen years, New Zealand have transformed from a team that ‘perennially punches-above-their-weight’ to serious ‘contenders.’
The Brendon McCullum-Kane Williamson generation has unearthed heroes like ODI double centurion Martin Guptill, superman Grant Elliot, American-bound Corey Anderson, steadiness of Tom Latham & Henry Nicholls, the all-round power of Colin de Grandhomme, Jimmy Neesham, Kyle Jamieson, & the Mitchells (Daryll and Santner), spin-guile of Ish Sodhi, and the depth with incoming youngsters like Conway-Phillips-Will Young-Tim Seifert-Tom Blundell.
From the land of dibbly-dobblies to the genuine pace regime consisting of Southee-Boult-Henry-Jamieson-Wagner-Ferguson-Milne, the transformation is complete.
One man was a constant that connected the Fleming and Williamson generations. From the promising youngster in 2006 to the calm senior in 2021, across 4 ODI World Cups, he has seen it all. The name is Luteru Ross Poutoa Lote Taylor, the second cricketer of Samoan descent to play for New Zealand.
When things are all said and done, Taylor will go down as the best #4 ODI batsman of all time.
Ross Taylor at #4
To put this in perspective, at #4, Taylor has the (1) most runs, (2) most centuries, (3) most 50+ scores, (4) second highest individual score after Vivian Richards’ 189*, and (5) second highest average after AB De Villiers of course (with at least 100 ODIs).
His international career as a whole is not that bad either.
Ross Taylor’s career stats
Taylor’s career can be broken down into three phases—(1) swashbuckling slog-sweeper, (2) responsible middle order batsman, (3) and absolute world dominator.
His averages between 2017-2020: 60.50, 91.28, 55.47, 99.00. 6 hundreds, 19 fifties. Brilliant.
Ross Taylor Records In a Nutshell
1st cricketer to play 100+ matches in each international format.
3rd most catches combined (340) behind only Mahela Jayawardene & Ricky Ponting
Most capped player (440) for New Zealand across formats
Highest run scorer, most hundreds, and most fifties for New Zealand in ODIs
Highest run scorer in Tests, second most hundreds after Kane Williamson
3 double centuries in Tests
3 consecutive ODI centuries – 112* Vs India, 102 Vs India, 105* Vs Pakistan (2014)
6 consecutive ODI fifties – 181*, 80, 86*, 54, 90, 137 (2018-19) Vs England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka
My first memory of Ross Taylor was in that magnificent 2006-07 series vs Australia, one of the best ODI series of that era. The Kiwis whitewashed Australia 3-0 scoring 340 & 350 respectively in successful chases. These were the days where chasing 270 was considered a difficult task.
Next came IPL 2009. I was already a fan of the 2009 RCB team – stalwarts Rahul Dravid & Anil Kumble, Robin Uthappa, and youngsters Manish Pandey & Virat Kohli. Finisher Ross Taylor just took RCB to the next level, one of their key players taking Royal Challengers Bangalore to their first final.
At the halfway stage, the required rate hovered around 11. What came next was pure genius. With 52 needed off 24, Taylor unleashed five slog-sweeping sixes against the likes of fast bowlers Ishant Sharma and Ajit Agarkar. RCB won by 4 balls to spare. He would play a couple of more cameos in 2009, including a player of the match performance in the Champions League.
In the next few seasons, Taylor would play steady knocks for Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Daredevils, but his T20 form never reached the heights of that 2009 season again.
One of Taylor’s sweetest moments came on his 27th birthday in the 2011 Cricket World Cup at Pallekele, when Kamran Akmal’s dropped catches and an array of full tosses literally gifted him a memorable birthday present.
He would make the most of this opportunity. After slowly rebuilding to 69* (108), what followed was carnage. He ended up scoring 131* (124) with 7 sixes. Carving away off-side yorkers, slogging leg-sided deliveries into the stand, and thrashing Shoaib Akhtar, Abdul Razzaq, and Shahid Afridi, this was Taylor at his best. In the last six overs, NZ scored 114 and gave Pakistan their only loss of the group stage.
Taylor was going through a lean patch in 2014-2015. Although he had a few 30s and 40s, questions were being asked on his place in the Test squad. On a flat track in Perth (when does that ever happen?), Taylor made the most of his opportunities, scoring a brilliant 290 & 36* with a 265-run partnership with Kane Williamson. That would be the end of Mitchell Johnson’s career.
Ross Taylor saved his best (thus far) against England at Dunedin in 2018. Chasing 336, New Zealand were reduced to 2-2 in 3 overs. Then he mastered a chase….on one leg.
When Taylor was 107, he ran for a two and dove to reach the crease in time. In the process, he injured himself. New Zealand still needed 116 from 13 overs. Since he could not run twos, for the last ten overs it was all stand-and-deliver stuff. The fact that he stayed in and remained unbeaten just blows my mind.
With healthy support from Williamson, de Grandhomme, and Henry Nicholls as well as a 187-run partnership with Tom Latham, NZ’s third highest successful run chase (after that 2006-07 Australia series) was complete. Following tradition, it was a day before his 34th birthday.
Here are some of the commentary clips from Taylor’s innings. Just dominated all across the park.
“Pull over long leg… Swung over long on… Flicked… Slaps it to point boundary…Swats it powerfully…Beats deep square… Carts it over deep mid-wicket… Over backward point… Beats third man… Conventional sweep… Through extra cover! Out of the ground.“
Definitely a candidate for the best ODI innings in a chase of all-time. Epic.
My favorite Taylor innings by far.
India Vs New Zealand 2019
One criticism of this New Zealand generation is not being able to lift the elusive trophy after seven ICC knockouts opportunities in the last 15 years.
Taylor himself had not played a match defining innings in a high-profile game apart from a few steady 40s here and there (I believed in the 2015 World Cup Final when Elliot-Taylor had ‘rescued’ NZ to 150 in 35 overs. In came James Faulkner for the final powerplay, dismissed Taylor off the first ball, and took the game away. Dreams crushed.)
In the 2019 Cricket World Cup semi-final, he finally came to the party. 74 (90) might not seem too much, but in the context of a slow pitch & disciplined bowling attacks, this was a precious little innings, keeping NZ’s middle order together.
Unfortunate that his innings ended with a direct hit from Ravindra Jadeja, but by then, NZ had pushed to a competitive total.
With the exception of McCullum-Guptill, New Zealand have often rotated through their openers resulting in frequent top-order collapses and slow starts. This brings in Taylor and Williamson in the game to do what they do best—read the situation, soak in the pressure, nudge it for singles and doubles, dab down to third man, flick it off the hip.
Next thing you know, the innings is halfway done, wickets are in hand, and the acceleration has begun. Standard Williamson-Taylor template.
The thing is they seem to do it over and over….and over…again. Astonishing consistency.
At the peak of his batting form, Ross Taylor was handed captaincy after an interview process, narrowly edging out Brendon McCullum. His two year tenure ended unceremoniously. Post a disastrous 2012 T20 World Cup and a tour of Sri Lanka, Taylor was sacked unceremoniously as captain from all three formats, without proper communication, especially from coach Mike Hesson. Putting this aside, he fought through and scored 142 & 74 against Sri Lanka.
He took a break from the game and skipped the subsequent tour of South Africa. New Zealand folded for 45 against Steyn-Philander-Morne Morkel and lost the first test by an innings and 27 runs. This match would be the catalyst for McCullum to compete in an ultra aggressive approach that catapulted them to the 2015 World Cup final. Taylor was selected back into the side as the trio put their differences aside.
The 290 at the WACA is special, but you know what is more special? Scoring that many runs against the pace of Josh Hazlewood & the Mitchells—Johnson, Starc, Marsh without a functioning eye.
He had to have a surgery in 2016 to remove the pterygium in his eye. This probably gave him that extra bit of timing that sparked the second wind in his career and elongated his career.
Apart from being a Black Cap legend and a critical thinker of the game, Martin Crowe was a mentor to the current crop of players in the New Zealand side, especially Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor. Crowe lost a tough battle with cancer in 2016, which impacted them both tremendously. After Taylor went past Crowe’s all-time Test record and closed in on his 100th test, Taylor could not hold his tears back in a press conference.
In his own words, Crowe was “New Zealand’s best ever Test batsman, best ever cricketing brain, a genius, and someone that inspired thousands of Kiwis and thousands of people overseas as well.”
End of his T20 career?
Ross Taylor was dropped from the T20I squad last year due to scintillating performances from Devon Conway and Glenn Phillips. He needs to re-invent his T20 game if he has any chance of resurrecting his T20I career. Since the upcoming T20 World Cup allows a squad of 23, I think he might just find a place.
What We Can Learn From Ross Taylor & the New Zealand team?
New Zealand Cricket Team: Camaraderie & Team Spirit Galore
Why are the Kiwis everybody’s second favorite team? Is it just because of the 2019 World Cup Final and the obsession with captain Kane Williamson’s smile? Umm…maybe.
Or is it because of the talent among the group? Possibly. Maybe it is due to the aggressive approach installed by McCullum’s captaincy? Maybe, maybe not.
Above all, I believe it is the due to the camaraderie between the players in the New Zealand team. Although Kane Williamson is the star of the team, he acts just like a core member and nothing more. Tim Southee is happy to relinquish his place for in-form Matt Henry and instead take diving catches as a substitute fielder. BJ Watling is going out but has given his complete support to Tom Blundell, the next in line.
This is exactly what this New Zealand team is all about. Actually, this is what sport is about. Give it your all, play aggressively on the field, respect the opposition, live & die for each member of your team.
This quote below encapsulates the dynamic within the Black Caps unit.
Ross Taylor’s Legacy: Stable, Steady, Responsible
One of the most popular cricketing social media question is, “Is Ross Taylor the most underrated batsman of our era?” First of all, I am not a huge fan of these pointless clichés like ‘underrated,’ overrated,’ ‘unluckiest,’ etc., etc.
Anyway, in my books, Taylor will go down as one of the all-time greats of our game. To do what Taylor has done for how long he has done it is truly remarkable. It turns out that slow and steady actually does win you the race.
Will Ross Taylor be remembered as talented as Sir Vivian Richards or the recently retired with confirmation, AB De Villiers? Was he as technically adept as Williamson and the Fab 5? Did he have the exquisite timing of Hashim Amla or the free-flowing nature of Mohammad Yousuf?
It all depends on your point of view, but one thing is for certain—Taylor is the glue that kept New Zealand together for so many years.
What can you learn from his life and apply to yours?
Dependability – In case of a crisis, you could always depend on Ross Taylor. It might not pay off every time, but he had the uncanny ability of turning gloomy situations into positive ones. Not only as a batsman, his role as a trusted slip fielder as well.
Be dependable. Regardless of what is going around on you, internally or externally, try to weather the storm. Once you overcome the obstacle, lend out a hand and help someone else out in need.
Balance – Once Taylor rescued NZ from precarious situation, he knew when to accelerate and who to turn the strike to.
Be self-aware. Known your limitations and balance your life accordingly. Too much of anything is harmful. Learn how to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Responsibility – Taylor curbed his natural gameplay and transformed from a slogger to an accumulator to suit his side’s needs. In order to accommodate the firepower at the top & the lower order, somebody needed to take the responsibility and be that insurance policy.
Be responsible. Sometimes giving up your own personal comfort for others around you is the way to go. Follow your dreams, but also combine it with a slight dose of practicality.
There is probably no better match than Ross Taylor & the New Zealand cricket team, or shall I say they are tailor-made for each other (bad joke, sorry 😅). His responsible character gelled perfectly into the team spirit.
What will I remember the most? The tongue celebration, his bent stance, hard bottom-hand grip, the slog sweeps, and the numerous partnerships, and the calm demeanor.
I will leave you with a smiling picture of Ross Taylor. Because why not.
When things are all said and done, Kane Williamson will probably be regarded as the greatest New Zealand batsman of all time. Yet, for New Zealand cricket to get to this point, players like Martin Crowe, Ross Taylor, Stephen Fleming, Daniel Vettori, and Brendon McCullum, have played their parts.
How Good is the New Zealand Cricket Team?
Ranked #1 in ODIs, #2 in Tests, and #3 in T20Is according to the latest ICC rankings (2021), the New Zealand cricket team is definitely one of the best going around. The fact that they have qualified for 8 different semi-finals or finals in the last 15 years across the formats makes this generation of New Zealand team one of their bests ever.
Is Ross Taylor an Underrated Cricketer?
Ross Taylor is one of the unsung heroes of New Zealand cricket, but he will go down as one of the all-time greats of our game. To do what Taylor has done for how long he has done it is truly remarkable. It turns out that slow and steady does actually win you the race.
What makes Ross Taylor such a special cricketer?
Taylor’s ability to read the situation makes him such a special cricketer. Knows exactly when to attack and when to soak in the pressure.
What was Taylor’s highest score in one day cricket?
Taylor’s highest score is 181* in a run-chase in Dunedin (2018) against England. Second highest score in a successful run chase.
What is Ross Taylor’s Birthday?
Ross Taylor was born on March 8th, 1984 (8/27/1984).
Why does Ross Taylor stick his tongue out when he scores a century?
Taylor’s unique celebration can be credited to his daughter, Mackenzie. It is a tradition that started during his ODI hundred against Australia in 2007 and “made her happy.” He continues his famous tongue-poking celebration to this day and even passed on the tradition to his son, Jonty.
Tribute to Other Cricket Legends
Thank you all for reading! Really appreciate it.
If you like these stories about cricket legends, check these some of my earlier featured articles below:
Rahul Dravid: What Rahul Dravid Taught Me?
MS Dhoni & SK Raina: Retirement: An End of an Era
Shakib-Rahim-Iqbal-Mortaza-Mahmudullah:Why Shakib And Co Are the True Fab 5 of this Era?
Lasith Malinga: The Slinga, Slayer, and Superstar
Ellyse Perry: What Can Ellyse Perry Not do?
Dean Jones: A Celebration of Life
AB De Villiers & Faf Du Plessis: Can Faf Fulfill the Broken Dream of ABD?
Umar Gul: The Magician With the Yorker
Sam Curran: Why the World Needs Same Curran: Calm, Charismatic, Courageous
Joe Denly & Joe Biden: The Importance of Being Joe
Nicholas Pooran: A Story of Pain, Hope, & Inspiration: The Next Big Thing of West Indies & World Cricket
Nicholas Pooran announced himself to the cricketing world in the 2014 U-19 Cricket World Cup. Top scored for the West Indies and fourth highest overall in the tournament—303 runs at 60.60 with a strike rate of 99.34 with 1 century and 2 fifties.
Quarter Final time. West Indies Vs Australia. The West Indies are struggling at 7-3. In comes Nicholas Pooran. Nudges it around and brings up a calm fifty from 75 balls. Wickets keep falling at the other end. The Windies are now 85-8.
Then came the onslaught (Watch this). Straight sixes galore. Flicked six. Sixes over cow corner. Breathtaking stuff.
West Indies end with a score of 208. Nicholas Pooran top scores 143 off 160 balls, last man out. Next highest? 20 runs by the #10. The scorecard read: 1, 4, 10, 0, 143, 7, 1, 1, 1, 20, 0*.
With that knock, he came into national spotlight as a future wicketkeeper after Denesh Ramdin. A debut first class & CPL season with Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel would follow. At age 17, he hit 54 (24) including an inside-out six and reverse sweep to Sunil Narine. The 2014 Sunil Narine that is.
But barely into his cricketing career, little did he know that his world was about to turn upside down.
Two surgeries, several months on wheelchair, endless therapy & rehab sessions later, Pooran finally started to walk again after six months. A couple of months later, he would start jogging. 18 months from the incident, a CPL game with Barbados Trident.
Two and a half years later—a West Indian jersey.
During these tough times, he found a support system comprising of his parents, Dr. Oba Gulston (physiotherapist in CPL teams), Kelvin Williams (assistant coach in T&T), coach Phil Simmons, and mentor & future captain, Kieron Pollard. Pooran credits Pollard’s constant encouragement, communication, & support that got him through.
It was Pollard’s faith in Pooran & his talent, that he vouched for his selection in the CPL with his team, Barbados Trident. And boy did he repay his faith.
July 17, 2016. St. Lucia Zouks Vs Barbados Tridents.
Pooran outclassed a batting order comprising of Shoaib Malik, the 2016 version of AB De Villiers, and Kieron Pollard. In a 49 run partnership with Pollard, Pollard scored only 6. Dominating comeback performance. Watch his blistering knock of 81 (39). 558 days later, Nicholas Pooran was back.
As he said in his post-match interview, “I am back. I am back stronger.”
After the comeback, the only direction Pooran could go was up. He would make his T20I debut later that year in September 2016. International recognition would come in the 2018 & 2019 T20I series against India.
The moment when I realized he was the next big thing in world cricket was the 2019 Cricket World Cup. Whenever Pooran came to the crease, I knew something was bound to happen. Some of his knocks included:
34 (19) Vs Pakistan, 40 (36) Vs Australia, 63 (78) Vs West Indies, 118 (103) Vs Sri Lanka, & 58 (43) Vs Afghanistan.
His maiden international century against Sri Lanka was especially something else. In a chase of 339, West Indies struggle at 145-5. He pulls & heaves. Knocks the ball around. Brilliant partnership with Fabian Allen gets them close until Allen’s unfortunate run-out. Yet, until Pooran was at the crease, anything could have happened.
31 needed of 18, and West Indies are still in the game. Only for a hobbling Angelo Mathews to get Pooran off a wide one against all odds. End of the dream.
The West Indies did not make it to the semi-finals, but Pooran established his presence with that knock. The ability to combine composure & power is what makes him extremely dangerous. The sweet sound off his bat is second to none. And the question comes again, why isn’t he selected for Test cricket again?
What Is He Doing Now?
His stocks continued to rise with leagues around the world. Recently, Pooran’s performance in the IPL with the KXIP was outstanding, including the best fielding effort you will ever see. With the bat, 353 runs at 170 was not too bad either.
He is now the vice-captain in the T20I squad (as of the Sri Lanka series. Yes the one in which Kieron Pollard hit 6 sixes).
What Can We Learn From Nicholas Pooran?
Although just 25, we can learn so many from Pooran already. He does not like to dwell on the incident, and instead look on the bright side and stay in the present. Let us do exactly that and see how we can apply the inspirational lessons in our lives. Here is Pooran in his own words.
Pooran In His Own Words: The Life Lessons
“If I can come back from it, anyone can come back from anything.”
When life pushes you down, you always have two options—to view the glass as half empty or half-full. It is a matter of perspective. Optimism and keeping the hope alive will allow you to get through the tough times.
“I believe everything happens for a reason…blessing in disguise.”
Everyone has childhood dreams, whether that is to become a sports player, an artist, a world renowned scientist, but sometimes life works out differently. Instead of dwelling on the disappointments, we should be grateful what we actually have. Be thankful for your family, your health, and the fact you were given the opportunity to explore other ventures & improve upon yourself.
“I really doubted it but never give up on my dreams.”
Even the most positive individual can go in the depths of self-doubt. That is okay, it is just natural. Just keep working on it little by little by little, day by day. Who knows, your dream might come true and if it did not, you know you gave it an honest try. No regrets.
“Every single opportunity you get, you have to grab it.”
Do not wait to change to come. Find opportunities, and if you get a chance, give it your ALL. Put your entire soul & energy into it. Sometimes you will get multiple chances, while other times, you may only get one. Make it count.
Finally Pooran ends it perfectly with, “I appreciate the life that I have and the talent I have. I was blessed.”
Count your blessings. Gratefulness, Endurance, Persistence, Resilience, and Grace—that is what Pooran teaches us.
Joe Denly and Joe Biden? Alright I know what you might be thinking.
Joe Denly is a cricketer from Canterbury, England. Joe Biden will take oath on January 20th as the next President of the United States. Then, why in the world are they put together? What possibly could they have in common except for the name?
There is more to it than you think.
Both had early starts to their see-saw careers, boast their own MemeTeams (read till the end for some glorious memes & rants), have featured in dropped catches or awkward gaffes, and are massively underrated.
You may or may not like them, even disagree with their opinions or team selections. But you can definitely not ignore them. This is a story of patience, tragedy, and hope. There is so much to learn from both. Keep on reading!
“They also serve who only stand and wait.” – John Milton
*Note: Videos are linked & bolded. Other articles are just linked.
Nourished at the Kent County Cricket Club from an early age, Joe Denly would make his first class debut way back in 2004, at the age of 18. He would slowly rise through the ranks of England U-19 and England Lions to make his senior international debut in 2009.
Unfortunately, his first stint did not last long as England dropped him right before their victorious 2010 World T20 campaign. After going “missing for a few years,” he would reinvent himself to claim his test debut eight years later in 2018. At 32, he would become the oldest English Test batsman debutant in nearly a quarter of a century.
Born and raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania and later settling in Delaware, Biden has been referred to as ‘Middle Class Joe.’ Growing up, he had to battle stuttering and saw his father lose a job, two early moments that would impact his life.
In 1973, Joe Biden became the sixth youngest elected Senator and will soon become the oldest U.S. President.
Here are just some of the major highlights of Joe Biden’s career.
An iconic phrase from Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who is, “A person’s a person no matter how small.” In an orchestra or band, each part is just as important whether it is the front and center soprano soloist or the percussionist in the back.
In the last couple of years, Root, Buttler, Stokes, Woakes have all had at least one match-winning 100s and doubles, while the newcomers Zak Crawley 267, Dom Sibley 133*, Ollie Pope’s 135* have at least one career defining innings. Denly’s highest in this period was just 94 with a career average of 29.53.
Are Denly’s stats spectacular? No, but he played his part.
In Stokes’ epic in the Ashes, few remember Denly’s 50 (155) contribution. In hindsight, Denly was the transition cog England needed. Following Cook’s receding form & retirement, inability to find him a consistent opening partner after Andrew Strauss, Root’s diminishing conversion rates, and recent England collapses, Denly was the perfect find.
In his 15 Tests, 8 were overseas (West Indies, New Zealand, and South Africa), his batting position switched between opening or #3/4, and 17 out of his 28 innings were Half-Denturies. The Denturies might not be have provided him a long rope, but it provided the youngsters and the middle order stars a platform to produce the daddy hundreds.
Along with Biden’s humble beginnings, it is his story of rising up from the depth of unimaginable loss that resonates with the public.
Just a few weeks after his election, his wife and daughter died in a car accident, with his sons, Hunter and Beau, sustaining injuries. In order to be with his sons, he would commute via train from Delaware to Washington D.C. every day. A few years later, he would marry Dr. Jill Biden to complete his family again.
Unfortunately, this would not be the only tragedy to impact his life. His eldest son, Beau Biden, a budding star in American politics, would pass away at the age of 46 after a battle with brain tumor.
In his long career, he would also endure several controversial moments including the 1994 Crime Bill, the Anita Hill trials, and plagiarism allegations in his first failed presidential campaign in 1988 (the second one being 2008, which Barack Obama won).
From the depths of political mistakes and grief, Joe Biden always got back up. If you had to take one thing out of his life, it is to never step aside. Build a support staff, talk to others, but the next day, pull yourself up and start the engine back again. It is easy to give up, difficult to carry on.
Biden carried on.
Some of his career achievements include the Violence Against Women Act & Foreign Relations Committee as a senator, and his negotiations as a Vice President during the 2008 Great Recession, Gun Violence Task Force, and Cancer Moonshot. A lifelong Democrat, he is known for his ability to bond with people across the aisles, most famously with his friendship with Republican John McCain. (This video is worth watching as well).
For Joe Biden, it is straightforward. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take charge on January 20th, 2021 and will hope to implement measures to battle coronavirus and economic stress.
Joe Denly? It is less than certain after being dropped from the Test team last summer. In the ODIs, he was in contention for the 2019 World Cup squad as a lower order spin-allrounder, but just like 2010, he was dropped at the last minute. He has been in-and-out since, but has not been picked for the upcoming Sri Lanka tour.
Don’t write him off just yet. We are living in historic times, and Fawad Alam just scored an overseas Test century after being overlooked for a decade. Be assured, you can still find him at the Big Bash scoring 50s (with another Joe-Joe Burns), later in the PSL, or with Kent Cricket Club. Whatever it is, he will be enjoying his game and so will his fans.
What Can We Learn From Denly and Biden?
Michelle and Barack Obama were once-in-a-generation inspirational leaders. Ellyse Perry and Sachin Tendulkar are out of this world, two of the best cricket has ever produced. These individuals are great to idolize, but difficult to emulate.
But you can be like Joe Biden or Joe Denly.
Dale Carnegie, an American writer who wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, once remarked, “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”
Patience. Determination. Perseverance.
Joe Biden will become president at the age of 78—48 years after stepping into national politics. Similarly, Joe Denly received his Test cap at the age of 32—10 years after debuting in ODI cricket. They never gave up, and kept at it. After missing 3172 days of international cricket or failing two presidential races (and almost down and about in the 3rd), if you can still give it your all, then that is good enough.
Be like Joe.
What’s in a name anyway?
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Drum roll. Here is what you have been waiting for.
Here are some Biden-Obama bromance moments, Biden SNL imitation, Biden Gifs, and some of the Denly Memes.
Biden might have had Obama, and Denly might have had Ed Smith, but they both cultivated their own legacies due to their own hard work.
A Word on the Denly Meme Team
In a Twitter world with Viratians vs Rohitians vs Dhonians, the constant comparison between the Fab 4/Fab 5 (why can’t we love and appreciate them all?), the retirement of AB De Villiers, news filled with COVID-19 statistics and news, mental health crisis, and worldwide lockdowns, the #DenlyMemeTeam has been a revelation.
Regardless of the context, their immediate defense of Denly in a humorous, meme-filled manner is one of the highlights of cricket twitter. Even to the extent that several cricketers, commentators, and the Lord himself has taken notice. Here is Joe Denly, approving their message. 😂😊
Speaking of cricket twitter, one side note. Sure statistics, away averages, and star value has some relevance, but should that be the be-all-end-all?
Sir Alastair Cook ended his career with an average of 45.35 and 33 hundreds, way short of fans’ predictions of catching up to Tendulkar. Does that matter though? Starring in an iconic overseas Ashes victory, having the honor of captaining England for a number of years, longevity of 161 Tests, 12-year Test career, and a 17-year First Class career—does none of that matter?
AB De Villiers, Hashim Amla, and Graeme Smith all fell agonizingly short of the 10,000 run mark in both formats, but sometimes it feels these numbers matter more to the fans than the players themselves.
Let us just enjoy each and every moment—the on-drives, diving catches, sportsmanship moments, exhilarating tied Super Overs, and most importantly—the joy on players’ faces upon a victory. Because that is what matters.
Just some food for thought. Sorry, had to get all that out of the way.
Rant #2: A Note On Yesterday’s Incident
I thought I was done with the rants, but yesterday was a dark day in America’s 244 year-old history.
Violent ‘protestors’ stormed the Capitol, interrupting the Electoral College Certification of the U.S. Presidential Election. This resulted in broken windows, a loss of life, vandalism, lockdown, and a threat to American democracy.‘Insurrection’ & ‘mob rule’—just some of the terms used to describe this.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer exclaimed that just like the Pearl Harbor attacks on December 8th, 1941, January 6th, 2021 will be regarded as “Day of Infamy.”
Disagreements are fine and actually necessary for common discourse. Let us talk to each other and get over our differences to find some common ground. Democracy has no place for violence.
As Joe Biden summed it up yesterday, “Enough is enough is enough.”
Image Courtesy: Getty Images, Twitter, Joe Biden – Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” said someone not named Albert Einstein.
In the world of cricket, there is one player who follows this advice closely—Sam Curran. Commonly known by commentators around the world as Sam “Makes Things Happen” Curran, when results are not going England’s way, you can always find Curran around the corner—trying new things and rescuing England time and again.
In the first T20I against South Africa, he bowled a match-winning spell of 3-28 along with a crucial 7*(3) finishing punch. Another game, and yet another important contribution from Sam Curran.
He is given this title for a reason—the lad never gives up hope. And this is exactly why he is one of my favorite players in the current cricket circuit.
Ask him to salvage Test matches in the lower order? Can do. Ask him to sit out for the Andersons and the Broad? No problem sir. Operate as a swing bowler, death bowler, gun fielder, opener, pinch-hitter, finisher?
The sample size in ODIs/T20Is is relatively small with 5/7 games respectively with uninspiring numbers of combined 39 runs and 14 wickets. Hence, we will only focus on his Tests and T20 stats.
Tests: 19 matches, 728 runs, best of 78, average 26.96, 3-50s
T20s: 85 matches, 1032 runs, best of 55*, average 19.47, 130.79 SR, 5-50s
Tests: 19 matches, 41 wickets, 32.12 average, Best Match – 5/92, 2-4 fors
T20s: 85 matches, 79 wickets, 29.16 average, Best – 4/11, 2-4 fors
The numbers are not that spectacular, are they? Yet, numbers do not paint the whole picture. It his impact that is palpable.
My First Memory of Sam Curran
I am not sure I have ever seen a more sparkling introduction to Test cricket in recent memory.
India lost the 5-match series 4-1 although the series was closer than the score line suggested. Were India ever out of the series like 2011? No, but just whenever England seemed to lose their way, Sam came into the picture.
It all started in the first test at Edgbaston, which was the second Test for Curran.
In the first innings, from 6-224, he dragged England to 287 with a valiant 24(98). Next innings, he pulled England from 6-85 to 180 with an attacking 63 (103). In between, 3 wickets in space of 8 balls at Edgbaston to reduce India from 50-0 to 59-3.
He played a couple of other knocks like 78 (136) at Southampton, a few 40s here and there, and took important wickets.
Not the highest scorer, nor the highest wicket taker, but impactful nevertheless. Ending up winning England’s Man of the Series award and was deservedly, one of the breakout stars of 2018.
Since that Test debut, he has not got too many opportunities. With a bowling line up of Broad-Anderson-Woakes in Tests and Archer-Rashid-Jordan in limited overs, it is hard to find consistent opportunities. Heck, he even has to compete with his brother Tom for a spot.
Yet, as the South Africa match showed, whatever opportunities he gets, he makes the most out of it. Recently, in the IPL, he was one of the young stars for CSK amidst a dismal campaign. He bowled at the death, opened the innings, and finished a game or two as well.
So what can we learn from him?
Quick Learner: Give him a new role, he will take a game or two to adjust and then you see immediate results. Good skill to have for a job application.
Keep Curiosity Alive: There is never an age to stop learning. Ask questions, keep on learning.
Jack of All Trades, Master of None: Literally strike that out. As a rule of thumb, master two trades and the rest is bonus. Having a primary and a secondary skill is crucial in today’s day and age. Then, you can go and become the jack of the rest of the trades.
Be ready: Being Sam Curran may not always be easy. You are never guaranteed a game. Your role is not defined clearly. It does not matter. When your time comes, give it your all.
Courage: When things are not going your way, keep on trying new things even if it may be risky. Volunteer for the pinch-hitter opener role. Pitch the ball up hoping for some swing. How about a slow cutter with a risk of getting hit?
As one of my good friends said,
If you ain’t dying, you ain’t living.
So take risks once in a while. It is going to be okay. Try new things, but never give up.
Currently we can see the impact these utility players have. India’s two games against Australia exposed a problem – a sixth bowling option. None of India’s batsman bowl and none of their bowlers bat.
Yes – the Pandyas, the Cummins, the Ben Stokes – are all necessary for a team’s success, but having one all-rounder only may not be enough.
This English limited over team is built of giants – Roy, Bairstow, Root, Morgan, Buttler, Archer, Rashid, and Stokes. Their legacy is forever etched in record books and cricketing legend.
Without their star power, England could not have won the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
Yet, the world also needs the Liam Plunketts, the Moeen Alis, the Joe Denlies, and most definitely the Sam Currans. Whatever the team requires of them, they adapt and deliver. With a smile and without a grudge.
He has a long career ahead of him. The stats will improve. We can just sit back and enjoy Sam Curran’s presence—conquering the world one game at a time—calm, courageous, and charismatic.
Umar Gul’s retirement evoked an emotional response from all around the world following his final match at the National T20 Cup. Here is our take on Umar Gul’s most memorable moments, his legacy, and what we can learn from him.
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If you love watching fast bowlers and stumps rattled, stay tuned. Several videos ahead! Watch till the end to listen to Gul in his own words.
Pakistan cricket is known for unearthing fast-bowling talents one after the other, especially left-arm quicks. Pakistan is world cricket’s pace bowling factory. Imran Khan and Sarfaraz Nawaz created a rich legacy.
Over the years, they have produced the intimidating Wasims, Wahabs, and Waqars, the breathtaking Shoaibs and Samis, and the gifted Asifs and Amirs. The list is endless. Recently, with the rise of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah, it never seems to stop.
Umar Gul, the architect of Pakistan’s 2009 T20 World Cup victory, is not even mentioned. That is exactly how Gul’s career panned—under the radar.
My favorite memory of Umar Gul though is from the 2009 T20 World Cup. It was just a great World Cup to watch – Netherlands upsetting England courtesy Stuart Broad, the Dilscoop mesmerizing spectators on the international stage, and a clinical Pakistan team.
Gul’s best performance came at a crucial Super 8 stage, when he picked 5 for 6 against New Zealand, reducing them from 73-4 to 99 all out.
He continued his form as Pakistan’s highest wicket-taker in the 2011 ODI World Cup and was a regular member of the international squad till 2013, when injuries began to halt his career. Unfortunately apart from a brief recall in 2016, Gul’s international career was over at the age of 32.
Gul’s legacy is forever etched in stone with the 2009 World T20 triumph, but his impact in cricket is much more.
He taught the world how to bowl in T20 cricket.
These days, T20 leagues invest in “death-overs specialists” with the likes of Andrew Tye, Jasprit Bumrah, Chris Morris, and Shaheen Afridi, but this would not have been possible without Umar Gul’s contribution. He practically created that spot.
Although death bowling was his focal point, Gul was more than just yorkers.
He had the skills as a proper line and length pace Test bowler but evolved his art with reverse swing, bouncers, and most importantly, change of pace slower deliveries, which was uncommon at that time.
As always, Umar Gul would adapt. New situation, new environment, new teammates. Mentorship has been one of his great characteristics throughout his career.
He partnered with the likes of Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, and Mohammad Irfan to transition to another era. In the dry tracks of UAE, they would find new tricks to the fast bowling trade, bringing life out of these pitches.
He was not the fastest of the Pakistani bowlers, nor could he swing it like Asif, but he made sure to reinvent himself when the time was required. He was a shrewd and thinking cricketer. Always one step ahead of the batsman. Having a variety of skills is one aspect. Utilizing the skill at the right moment and varying it effectively—now that is what makes him great.
Animated on the field and quiet off the field, he did his duty. He changed cricket and inspired millions of budding cricketers around the world, mentoring youngsters in the domestic team even to the last day.
We can all learn from Umar Gul and apply these traits in our daily life as well. Change is the only constant in life, and we should learn to adjust accordingly. If we focus on the process and continue to improve our skills, there is no reason why we cannot compete with the best in the world.
Life will throw several challenges at you. You may get injured, have a bad day at the office, go through emotional turbulence, but do not worry.
Hang in there and just keep swimming as Umar Gul did.
What will I miss? Personally, I just adored Umar Gul’s action. It was fluent, uncomplicated, had a slight stop, but was straight to the point.
He was truly a magician.
Thank you, Umar Gul. Have a happy and healthy retirement.
Umar Gul in his Own Words
The best way to end this journey is Umar Gul in his own words. A wonderful send-off to a champion bloke. Listen below.