The number of days it took both Sir Alastair Cook & Joe Root to break the 10,000 run barrier, incidentally the only two English two cricketers to do so. In comparison, it took the great Sachin Tendulkar 31 years & 326 days to breach that mark.
What a moment. 10,000 runs with the same shot as his 100 at Lord’s. Nasser Hussain, as he always does, chose the best possible words to sum it up,
The Tale of Three Legends—Joe Root, Sachin Tendulkar, and Alastair Cook
By Nitesh Mathur, Broken Cricket Dreams, 06/08/2022
What’s better? Since his debut, it has only taken Root 9 years & 171 days to achieve this landmark. In comparison, Jayawardene-Tendulkar-Gavaskar took about 14-15 years after their debuts and Younis-Chanderpaul about 17-18 years (And yes yes, you’re right. Root took 218 innings, Cook took 229, and England play more Tests than anybody else, but that isanother story).
Joe Root is definitely in the prime of his career. There was a time when Root was going to be uprooted from the Fab 4. With Root inability to convert fifties into hundreds, Babar Azam’s glorious entry, Kane Williamson’s prime, & the god-level cricket Steven Smith & Virat Kohli were producing between 2016-2018, surely Root’s status was being questioned.
Post the pandemic, Smith, Kohli, and Williamson’s needles have barely moved, both in terms of runs and hundreds.
Joe Root, on the other hand, has been on a different level. 21 Tests, 41 innings, 9 hundreds, 4 fifties, 56.23 average since January 2021. And these 9 hundreds include 5 daddy hundreds—228, 218, 186, 180*, and 153. The fact that he did this as England’s Test captain, when they only won 1 out of 17 Tests, in conditions such as Sri Lanka, India, West Indies, and Australia makes his run even more unbelievable.
So naturally the question arises. In the prime of his career, relieved of captaincy pressure, with possibly another 5-10 years ahead of him,can Joe Root break Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 15,921 Test runs?
Root has left the rest of the Fab Four in his tracks 😲
Cook scored his first hundred at at the age of 21. In the next 7 years, he racked up 25 total. In his prime, his record read:
2009: 3 Tons
Tons in overseas Ashes win & subcontinental hundreds, Cook was at the top of the world. Even though he slowed down after 2013, by the time he climbed the 10K runs mountain, he had already amassed 28 Test centuries. And he was still young.
It looked like he was meant to break Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 51 Test hundreds.
But then he didn’t.
He fell short. In fact, very, very short. Not by one, or two, or even 10 hundreds. By 18 hundreds.
Alastair Cook would only score 5 more centuries and retire from international cricket at the age of 33.
In comparison, when Tendulkar was about 31 years & 157 days old, he had 33 centuries already.
However, his form was about to take a dip. Between December 2004 & May 2007, Tendulkar only scored one Test century, a 109 vs Sri Lanka in 2005.
Questions were asked. Retirement calls surrounded the media. He couldn’t seem to go past the nervous nineties in ODI cricket. Tennis elbow injuries, Greg Chappell controversy, 2007 ODI WC horror—you name it, it looked like the end for legend Sachin Tendulkar.
But then Sachin Tendulkar had a second wind (almost as long as other people’s entire career). From 2008-2011, he scored 14 Test centuries. That is 14 hundreds after the age of 35.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Joe Rooooooooooooot needs 5906 more Test runs to equal Tendulkar’s record of 15,921, which is a very long way to go
He’s scored 5912 runs in his last 69 Tests
You could add Trescothick’s entire career to Root’s and it would still be short of Tendulkar’s runs
As Mark Puttick pointed out, Trescothick scored 5825 runs in his entire 76-Test career. Mushfiqur Rahim, Bangladesh’s most prolific Test run-scorer, has scored 5235 runs after 82 Tests and 15 years.
Root needs 5906 more.
He either needs to continue his golden touch for couple more years or needs to have a Tendulkar-esque final phase.
So, Can Joe Root Overtake Sachin Tendulkar’s Test Run Tally?
Cook retired early not because cricket had left him. He retired because he had given his everything to the game and achieved what every aspiring English player would dream of. He might even have been burnt out.
It was just a personal choice. Maybe he just wanted to give back to the roots at Essex. He is still going strong at County Cricket. Currently standing at 72 first class tons and having a stellar season.
Life is nonlinear.
Unlike statistics on a chart, real-life will have its share of twists and turns. There will be bumps on the road. Us armchair critics just jump to conclusions too quickly. No individual can continue to be at the peak of powers infinitely.
And indeed, they did. Over the next hundred years, several of these challenging problems were either completely answered or partially solved. However, some of these problems remain unsolved even after a few centuries and failed attempts by great mathematicians.
At this point, you must be thinking, “Why I am reading four paragraphs of math when I signed up for cricket?”
Don’t worry. Here comes the cricket.
2021 had a fair share of its problems for cricket—The Azeem Rafiq scandals, Tim Paine’s sexting exit, Thailand women losing a spot in the World Cup due to a flawed system, Glenn Maxwell, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Tom Banton taking time off due to mental health, Quinton de Kock’s kneeling issue in the T20 World & then retiring from Test cricket at the age of 29, the dissolution of the ODI Super League, New Zealand & England pulling out of Pakistan, the Afghanistan crisis, The Hundred Vs County Cricket debate, and just a general overdose of the IPL & cricket.
For a full read on these issues, check the following articles out:
Today I propose a list of 15 problems that will keep the cricket community (ICC, administrators, and cricketers themselves) busy for the next decade.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Neither do I have any monetary reward for you. I offer possible solutions—some of them you might like. Others? Not so much. So, then what is the point of all this?
The point is to churn up debate and conversations in the cricket community so eventually some of these solutions reach the upper echelons of the cricket boards and ICC. Comment below on your thoughts and ideas. Who knows, your idea might one day change cricket altogether.
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1. Need for a Global Cricket Calendar and T20 Leagues
The Problem: How can the cricket calendar provide space to the three international formats—Test, ODI, and T20I—as well as the growing T20 leagues?
These days, cricket is here, there, and everywhere. Today, we have the BPL, PSL, IPL, Global T20 Canda, T20 Vitality Blast, The Hundred, CPL, Shpageeza Cricket League, T10 League, SLPL, MSL, Super Smash, and the Big Bash running from January to December.
Cricket will hit its ceiling in the next 5-10 years. With new T20 leagues growing around the world, IPL becoming a 10-team venture (twice a year IPL also proposed), T10 leagues, The Hundred, a ‘Ninety-90 Bash’, & other retired professional leagues adding to the calendar, what is the limit?
And don’t get me wrong. Leagues are not necessarily a bad thing—more opportunities for Associate cricketers, professional life for players who cannot make their international XIs, and more match practice & auditions to make comeback cases, but it does threaten the existence of international cricket as a whole.
Two-Three month reservation for the pinnacle of international cricket (T20/ODI WC, WTC Final), without T20 leagues during this period.
Reinstatement of the Champions League as the center of the T20 yearly calendar.
Enforcement of maximum of 3 leagues per year for a nationally contracted player.
Eventually, cricket may need to adopt the soccer (European football) model.
International games reserved only for ODI World Cup qualification, WTC matches, and some friendlies/warm-ups. As many have suggested, bilateral T20Is should be scrapped totally.
Players contracted by year-long leagues. They take leave to play a couple of international games every now and then until the World Cup, which dominates the summer every couple of years.
Experimental formats like T10 cricket and ‘Ninety-90’ Bash should end. Who knows, we might be playing a Super Over league at this rate.
The Indian Premier League and the BCCI holds a bit of influence over the cricket finances. If they reject any of the calendar limits, that may the end of any negotiations even though all the other cricketing nations might agree.
2. Decisiveness and Pathways on Olympics
The Problem: The ICC on cricket’s inclusion in the Olympics—Yes, No, maybe so?
For too long, cricket has dabbled with the idea of being in the Olympics and are closer than ever in making a decision. The 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games will include a women’s 8-team T20 tournament. USA Cricket hopes for the inclusion of cricket in the 2028 LA Olympics and the 2032 Brisbane Olympics being ICC’s long-term goal.
However, what format will it be? T10? T20? If it is T10, does that mean cricket will have a fourth international format? How will qualification work? At this point, there are way too many questions and zero details on a path forward.
If cricket is serious about being in the Olympics, the administrators need to get their acts together. One or two meetings a year just doesn’t cut it.
It is worth a try regardless of the format. Ideally T20 cricket, starting from the 2028 LA Olympics (building upon USA’s Major League Cricket) would be great for the game.
The format of soccer’s 4 group of 4 is a good template (16 teams in the Olympics instead of 32 in the FIFA World Cup to keep the WC as the pinnacle product). If the T20I WC expands to 16-24 teams (both men/women) in the next decade, the Olympics can start with 8-12 teams with the best 2-3 teams qualifying from each region.
Not every country has cricketing infrastructure. To create a consistent following, cricket at Olympics can only succeed if it is at every iteration. Unless cricket stadiums are built in every nation on earth, the ICC will have some complications in the early years at the Olympics.
Another tricky slope to navigate is the West Indies. Since each nation like Jamaica and Barbados will play the Olympics as its own nation, those teams will be significantly weaker in strength than the West Indies cricket team.
3. Expansion of the Women’s Game and Need for WIPL
The Problem: Women’s cricket is now mainstream, but is the structure in place to take the game forward?
Between 2017- March 2020, women’s cricket enjoyed a sort of golden era. The quality of cricket and broadcast in the 2017 ODI World Cup brought new fans to the game, and a record 86,174 attendance at the MCG for the 2020 WT20 Final proved that women’s cricket was on the rise.
However, the pandemic has exposed several gaps in the women’s game. For almost 12 months, women’s international cricket was largely halted around the world while the men’s IPL happened twice. Several smaller boards like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have not seen much gameplay. Although India have played a few internationals, there does not seem to be a plan for women’s domestic cricket. And a request for the women’s IPL is falling on deaf ears.
Add to that, the crisis faced by Thailand, one of the rising teams in women’s cricket. When omicron abruptly cancelled the qualifying tournament, it was tough to not see them qualify for the ODI World Cup despite being #1 in the group since their ODIs were not given ODI status.
Surely the structure and expansion in women’s cricket needs more thought, structure, and investment.
In order for the multi-format series to become the standard, more Test cricket and 3-day practice matches have to become the norm, which will take time.
4. Planned T20 Exposure for Cricket’s Growth
The Problem: Roadmap and resource management needed for the rapid growth of T20I cricket in emerging markets.
While women’s cricket and the Olympics are avenues to cricket’s global expansion, the ICC is utilizing T20 cricket for the spread of the game. In 2018, T20I status was granted to every cricket team (As of January 2022, 91 men’s teams and 53 women’s teams are in the T20I rankings). Further, a regional qualifier structure was provided for future T20 World Cups, which will be held every two years.
All this is good, but how are the resources going to be divided among these nations? Will they get professional international stadiums, broadcasting rights, DRS, and facilities? Will they be able to host tournaments? (like the earlier ICC Knockout tournaments). Step in the right direction, but a lot of work to do in the decade ahead.
Just like a major Asia Cup tournament, each continent should set up their own major tournament (separate from the regional qualifiers). This will ensure that there is a systematic ranking/room to grow for the newer teams in each continent, and they are not here just to make up the numbers.
If teams ranked at the very bottom continue to lose, they might leave the game altogether. Some sort of incentive needs to be provided to these lower ranked newer cricketing nations.
II. Standard of Cricket
5. Standardization of Pitches in Test Match Cricket
The Problem: How Can We Balance Pitches to Minimize Boring Draws and 2-Day Tests?
In the 2000s, stellar middle orders and flat pitches combined for some high scoring matches and boring draws. Over the last 5-10 years, a great crop of fast bowlers (and spinners in the subcontinent) combined with pitches suited to the home side has made 2-day and 3-day Tests a recurring event.
Keep the pitches suited to home teams with 4-Day Tests (more on this later)
Preparing pitches suited to overseas conditions in domestic cricket (example: More spin tracks – weather permitting – in England’s county circuit) or encouraging/funding spin from an age group level (How India progressively became a better fast bowling nation, England can do that in the long run).
ICC standardize the pitches across the globe.
The beauty of Test cricket is in its variety. If the batters cannot overcome the challenge, so be it. That is life.
6. The Toss
The Problem: Is the toss leading to too many predictable results?
It was clear in the IPL and the 2021 T20 World Cup in the UAE that teams winning the toss and batting second had a higher probability of winning.
The beauty of the toss is in the uncertainty, and when things start to get predictable, innovation becomes the need of the hour.
Tosses impact T20Is and Test cricket more than ODIs. So, one thought is to start experimenting with various ideas (listed below and more) in T20 leagues or domestic 4-day cricket, while leaving ODI cricket the same as it is now.
Each team alternates decision to bat/bowl in a series. (If an odd number, last match is decided by a coin toss…)
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Cricket is already complicated, why make it more complicated?
7. Bat Vs Ball Debate
The Problem: The Eternal Debate—How Can We better balance bat vs ball advantage?
This is the Riemann Hypothesis of cricket. A seemingly intuitive problem that is always up for discussion, has never been solved, and is the unproven underlying assumption that is the basis of strategy for the rest of cricket.
In limited overs cricket, the bat dominates (bigger bats, flat pitches, stronger players, etc.). In Test cricket over the last decade, the ball has dominated.
I have a truly marvelous solution to this, but the margins are too narrow to contain for my answer [Fermat’s Last Theorem].
Just kidding! Here they are:
Abolish wide behind leg side in limited overs. Small margins really do hurt the bowlers.
In Test cricket, one more review to the batting side instead of the bowling side.
In limited overs, one bowler can bowl a couple of overs more than the maximum limit of 10 overs (ODI) or 4 overs (T20I)
As players get physically stronger and technology increases, the balance will always remain one side or another. However, as spinners have shown in the middle overs in a T20 or fast bowlers during the death with the slower balls, adaptation of skill is required, not so much the mechanics of the bat and ball.
III. Survival of Test & ODI Cricket
8. Disparity Between Level of Performance in Test Cricket
The Problem: How can the gap between top and mid-tiered teams be reduced?
The gap between top and mid-tiered Test nations is gradually eroding confidence in Test cricket. Even though some spectacular matches in the last five years have reinvigorated Test cricket, gaps in skill level between the top sides and mid-tiered/bottom ranked teams makes for a boring viewing on the other end of the spectrum.
Social media’s pendulum swings from “Test cricket is the best format” claims to “Is Test cricket dying?” every few months.
Case and point: Men’s Ashes 2021-2022. Except for Jonny Bairstow’s 4th Test, there was absolutely no resistance. There have been several subsequent calls for the 5-Test Ashes to be reduced to a 3 or 4 match affair. If England, who play 10-15 Tests a year, are not properly utilizing resources and are behind the golden standard, how can we expect the likes of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Ireland, and Afghanistan to compete?
Regularized international schedule should dominate bilateral agreements. Australia’s refusal to host Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and now Afghanistan (for other reasons) does not help smaller teams get the experience. The more the Top 4 countries play the mid-tiered teams, the better they will get in the long run.
Prioritizing domestic funding over white ball funding (County cricket vs white ball dominance)
Abolishment of two-Test series (The smaller countries only get to play 2 Tests while the Big 3 and South Africa gets 4-5 matches per series).
Relegation-Promotion system (details outlined below) in three brackets: Bracket A (#1-6), Bracket B (#7-12), and Bracket C (non-Test playing nations)
Money, money, money. Even the World Test Champions like New Zealand cannot afford to host more than two Tests due to finances. Ideally, we would like an equal distribution of Test match cricket, but if there are no finances, there is no cricket.
9. Associate nations, the ODI Super League, and the Expansion of Test Cricket
The Problem: Lack of clarity is hurting the survival of Associate nations, the backbone of global cricket.
The ODI Super League provided Ireland and Netherlands much needed game time against the top eight teams. Ireland actually has done a pretty decent job and Netherlands’ cricketers received much needed stability, but the inexplicable cancellation of the ODI Super League has stumped many. The World Test Championship has flaws, but the ODI Super League was a step in the right direction.
Yes, T20I is the right vehicle for growth in globalization of cricket, but should teams like Ireland be alienated, who have invested in ODI cricket and want to play Test cricket?
The ICC suggested that they may trial teams like Scotland and Netherlands into Test cricket as a temporary Test status. That might be a good move if it actually happens, but here are some other solutions:
Touring Associate and new Test nations before embarking on a 4-5 Test tour (playing ODIs/T20Is vs Scotland/Netherlands & 1-off Test vs Ireland before a series in England, vs Afghanistan before India, vs PNG before NZ & Aus, Namibia/Zimbabwe vs SA). This is happening more and more with Ireland’s progress, but it is only the beginning.
Revival of the Tri-Series? Similar idea as above, but to reduce logistic and travel issues, two full members plus an Associate nation for an ODI tri-series in a common location.
Mandatory 1-2 Associate players per squad per T20 league. Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Tim David, and Sandeep Lamichanne are great templates. These players will be a boon for the franchises, not a burden.
10. 4-Day Tests for Men, 5-Day Tests for Women?
The Problem: Making Test cricket accessible for spectators without jeopardizing the game.
The Decision Review System (DRS) and pink-ball day-night Tests have now been adopted as major innovations in the game which had resistance in the early days. In the age of technology and innovation, cricket has to find ways to re-invent itself and stay relevant every 5-10 years.
One such suggestion is 4-day Tests (plus a 5th day for rain affected games) for men’s cricket, while expanding to 5-day Tests in women’s cricket, especially since they do not play as many Tests.
Just like D/N Tests were tested one Test per series every now and then, similarly one of the Tests can be scheduled as a 4-day game (and vice-versa for women)
Draws. One of the major drivers for 5-matches in women’s Tests are the number of draws. This forces teams to declare early (even when they are trailing) and enforce follow-on more often. If men’s game introduces 4-day Tests, then strategies will similarly begin to change and/or draws will increase.
11. Fixes to the World Test Championship
The Problem: Test matches are now better contextualized, but a lot is still left to be desired in achieving a better system.
We have already provided several solutions for World Test Champions in our earlier articles (shown below), so here is a summary:
Number of Tests Played is uneven: In the first WTC cycle, England played 21 Tests, while West Indies, South Africa, and New Zealand played 11 each. Marquee series like Ashes, Border-Gavaskar, Basil D’Oliveira Trophy, etc. are 4-5 Tests each while SL & NZ only play 2 Tests regularly.
Currently no distinction is made for Home/Away advantage: Bangladesh winning in NZ, West Indies winning in Bangladesh, India winning in Australia, or Australia drawing in England should be worth more than home wins.
All-or-Nothing System:Test matches occur over 5 days or a max-of-15 sessions. One session can have a huge impact on the series. Yet, the points are awarded on an all-or-nothing basis.
No system is every going to be perfect, but at least more of an attempt can be made. One of the other pitfalls is the pandemic. This has severely restricted travels between countries and longer, more straining quarantine rules. Hence, even more uneven number of Tests are begin played.
IV. Other Concerns
12. Mental Health Support & Overkill of Cricket
The Problem: Mental Health Awareness A Necessity in Today’s sport
Non-stop cricket alongside heavy quarantine is changing the commitments of a professional cricketer. Itis no longer feasible to play three international formats, travel around the world, away from family, and still have a sane mental health.
Marcus Trescothick, Glenn Maxwell, and Ben Stokes are some of the many high-profile players who have taken time off the game to focus on their health. They have paved a way for many others in the future to follow. The real question is, does the cricket fraternity have the support each player needs and deserves?
Support Groups/Staff, Paid Leave
Separate teams for separate formats (Maximum of two formats per player)
Mental health is still looked as taboo in many cultures. Even though awareness is increasing, some players may still keep things to themselves, which is detrimental.
In addition to mental health, physical health is also a concern as more research is done on concussions in general. Concussion substitutes were a great innovation to the game, but it took the death of Phillip Hughes for the radical change. Let us make sure to be proactive before any such incidents. Injury prevention and player health should be duly monitored.
13. Spot Fixing and Associate Nations
The Problem: Match-Fixing for the Next Decade
Brendan Taylor’s story illustrates that even in the year 2022, match fixing & spot-fixing is still an issue cricket needs to be careful against. After the spot fixing that emerged from Pakistan’s tour of England in 2010 and the growth of T20 leagues, there is a lot more education and maturity in ICC’s anti-corruption unit.
However, teams like Zimbabwe and Associate nations, whose players do not earn a survivable income or cash flow from leagues, are easy targets for corruptors (as seen in the UAE). So the nature of match fixing might have changed since the 1990s, but it is still a problem that threatens the core fabric of the sport in one way or another.
The structure of the ICC anti-corruption unit and education before every major tournament shows that cricket has already matured in most of this regard. The real responsibility now lies on the players for self-reporting such approaches.
Healthy compensation for Associate players can also prevent such instances.
In the age of technology, new forms of corruption might appear (cyberattacks, ransomwares, NFTs?) ICC needs to be proactive and take actions earlier.
The Problem: ICC and cricket boards’ philosophical stand on the Afghanistan women’s team and the status of the men’s team.
Post the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in September, cricket’s stakeholders have been sending mixed messages. Australia rescinded their invitation to Afghanistan for a Test match due to a lack of a women’s team/Taliban’s stance on women. However, requirement for a women’s team was waived off when Afghanistan became a Full member four years ago.
The ICC allowed Afghanistan in the 2021 T20 World Cup at UAE and many Afghani players are contracted around the world despite the drama. On the other hand, Zimbabwe was not allowed to qualify for the 2019 ODI World Cup due to crisis in the Zimbabwean government.
Why are players/ sports’ teams penalized for government interference? Why is different approach taken against different countries? Who sets the precedent?
Afghanistan is a cricket-loving country, and we should not stop its growth despite political tensions. They have now qualified for their 2nd U-19 semi-finals in the last three attempts. Let the men’s team continue to blossom while promoting cricket in age levels for women’s cricket if situation allows.
Each country might have a different political relationship with Afghanistan, which may mean a conflict of interest. As a byproduct, the relationship between other cricket boards can get strained.
15. Player Behavior
Problem: Similar Player Behavorial Issues, Different Consequences
As players gain more power over administrators due to financial security and unions, there have been some side-effects. Players have been acting up a lot lately.
Shakib Al Hasan’s antics (not much backlash), Ollie Robinson’s tweets (socially alienated), Alex Hales & Joe Clarke (not selected in the national side), Sri Lanka’s players in England (suspended for six months), Steven Smith, David Warner, & Cameron Bancroft’s sandpaper gate ball tampering scandal (banned by Cricket Australia for 1 year), Netherlands’ ball tampering (4 matches ICC), Quinton de Kock defying teammates (kneeling and not playing) and Virat Kohli shouting at the stumps (no consequence).
Digging up old tweets should be removed as a cultural practice.
For major offences, a uniform code of conduct that applies to every player regardless of the cricket board they are playing under.
An impartial body assigned to monitor and judge player behavior for uniform convictions
Each circumstance is different. Uniform offences might not be ideal. On the other hand, ICC vs national boards hierarchy will become muddled if ICC centralizes power.
This is not the end. More avenues and ideas to explore for sure. Please bring in your comments. Would love to hear YOUR opinion. Thanks everyone for reading ❤ Anyway, time to go the duel or swim across the shores of France…
*Thank You Credit: In conversation with my friend, Vandit. Thanks for listening to my ideas and engaging in meaningful discussion.
A simple word that carries immense burden. What defines greatness in sports? Statistical brilliance, nostalgia, longevity? In cricketing terms, 99.94, memories like Brett Lee vs Sachin Tendulkar, 100 Tests, or 15 years+ career?
Legacies are largely depended on the final days in the international arena. Retirement has always been a tricky issue in cricket.
Sourav Ganguly’s Ian Chappell saga tarnished his otherwise positive legacy. A poor 2007 Cricket World Cup ended dreams for Brian Lara & Inzamam ul-Haq. Simon Jones’ career ended before it could start due to injuries.
Some overstay and risk going out on a low. Others like German soccer captain Philipp Lahm retired internationally at the age of just 30 after winning the FIFA World Cup in 2014.
The Lost Generation
Today we dive deep into the careers of the lost generation of 2005—Alastair Cook, AB De Villiers, Michael Clarke, and Hashim Amla, all of them would retire prematurely.
With the triple retirement of Dale Steyn, Brendon Taylor, and Lasith Malinga, the legendary class of 2004-06 is coming to a close. Only Broad-Anderson & Ross Taylor remain from the greats of this era.
Sandwiched between the 90s golden generations of Sangakkara-Jayawardene-Muralitharan, Tendulkar-Laxman-Ganguly-Dravid, Kallis-Pollock-Boucher-Ntini, Inzamam-Yousuf, Ponting led Australia, & the Fab 4 (Kane Williamson, Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Steve Smith), there was the class of 2004 & 2005.
Why did these cricketers retire so soon? How does the future look like? Read till the end for our in-deptj analysis & final thoughts.
11 Cricketers Who Retired Too Early
While legends of the past played 12-15 years, the cricketers in this list only had about 9-12 years of international cricket. The fact that they followed the golden generation lead to slightly later debuts and hence, even shorter careers.
One of the clear indications of the early retirement for the batters is the statistics. Most did not cross 10,000, their averages fell below 50, and the centuries hovered between 25-27 (although at one stage it seemed each of these players would break them all).
Anderson’s long career seems like he is on another level (which he is) but in all reality, at one stage, all of these players would have careers as long as Jimmy Anderson.
The players in this list were not dropped. They retired on their own terms or because of other circumstances. Hence, we exclude players like Ian Bell, Virender Sehwag, Umar Gul, Suresh Raina, and Gautam Gambhir who were available for selection but were unfortunately dropped from the team plans later in their career.
Retiring on a high is every cricketer’s dream. Captaining Australia to a victory at home in front of the MCG crowd must have been a surreal experience. A few months later, the Ashes would be his final appearance. One of the bests #4 batters of all-time with a godly conversion rate in Tests. The 2012-13 season would always be remembered as Clarke’s year, the only batter to score 4 double centuries in a year.
At one point in time, he was touted to overtake Sachin Tendulkar as the highest run-scorer and century maker having scored 5000 runs at 26. Will always be remembered for the 2010-11 Ashes series down under. However, loss of form and inconsistency creeped in. Tougher playing conditions, 159 Tests in a row, and the KP saga probably got to him. Century in his first and last Tests against India showed that he still had it in him. Still the best opener in England?
Due to his late debut, it was inevitable that Strauss would not have an extremely long career, but England fans learned how great Andrew Strauss was after his retirement, for both his captaincy & batting. Since the Cook-Strauss partnership ended, England could not find a stable partner for Cook (and Cook’s effectiveness also decreased). KP himself said in an interview that the text-messaging scandal on the eve of Strauss’s 100th Test was one of his biggest mistakes, which tarnished Strauss’ last match. Later became ECB’s Director of cricket and subsequently received knighthood for his service to English cricket.
See Strauss above. Jokes aside, KP’s career had always been hampered by controversies. Although he had to leave South Africa and debuted relatively late, he quickly established himself as one of the greatest in his generation. Key contributor to the 2005 Ashes, 2012 India series, and 2010 T20 World Cup victories, he was a key component of driving English cricket forward. Although he was England’s highest scorerin the Mitchell Johnson 2015 series, he was a casualty of the 5-0 defeat. Poor relationship with Strauss & coach Andy Flower did not help as the management decided that KP’s career is over.
KP might have been controversial off the field, but there is no doubt he changed cricket for the better. Fast forward 15 years, everybody has an inner KP with the switch hits & aggressive mindset. Paved the way for English cricketers to join the IPL & other T20 leagues, thereby moving England one step closer to their eventual 2019 World Cup winning campaign.
T20Is: 39 Matches, 51 wickets, 16.84 average, 3/13 best
T20s: 80 Matches, 98 wickets, 18.88 average, 3/13 best
Cricketers Who Retired Trivia
Debut: January 22, 2000 (ODI), December 10-14, 2008 (Test)
Last Match: December 12-16, 2013 (Test)
Age Debuted: 29(Test), 20 (ODI)
Age Retired: 34
Why Did He Retire?
Statistically, Swann does not make the best bowlers of all-time list, but what he did in his 5-year Test career was continued the art of off-spin. After T20 cricket & ODI Powerplay rule changes, leg spinners flourished in the 2010s. Except for Daniel Vettori, finger spin was a dying art. Swann took off-spin forward and became a cog of the famed 2010-11 English lineup. Late Test debut, an elbow injury, and Johnson 2013 ensured that he retired mid-series (after the 3rd Test).
T20Is: 64 Matches, 85 wickets, 17.83 average, 4/19 best
T20s: 195 Matches, 271 wickets, 17.36 average, 4/14 best
Cricketers Who Retired Trivia
Debut: July 1, 2008 (ODI)
Last Match: April 23, 2015 (T20I)
Age Debuted: 31
Age Retired: 37
Why Did He Retire?
Another one who debuted late, but made an immediate impact. From the cricketers who retired too early, Saeed Ajmal’s ending was probably the saddest. During Pakistan’s toughest days, Saeed Ajmal & Umar Gul took Pakistan to great heights, especially in T20 cricket. However it was his action that was his downfall. Unlike Mohammad Hafeez & Sunil Narine, Ajmal’s remodeled action was not effective enough without the doosra. Will definitely go down as a Pakistani great.
T20Is: 44 Matches, 47 wickets, 25.34 average, 4/17 best
T20s: 190 Matches, 207 wickets, 25.29 average, 4/17 best
Cricketers Who Retired Trivia
Debut: December 25-29, 2006 (Test)
Last Match: March 29-April 2, 2018 (Test)
Age Debuted: 22
Age Retired: 33
Current Age: 36
Plays with Brisbane Heat in the BBL; Was at Surrey from 2018-2020
Why Did He Retire?
When Morne Morkel left international cricket after that Australia series for the Kolpak deal in England (with Surrey), it signaled the beginning of the end of the great 2008-2015 South Africa generation. From 2015-2019, each one slowly retired, and it was painful to watch South Africa collapse to new lows. What was not painful, however, was Morne Mornel’s bowling. High arm action, pace & bounce, & most importantly, consistent line & length. Dale Steyn would not have been as successful had he not had Morne on the other end as the ideal foil. Morkel, in his own right, will go down as a South African great. With 309 wickets at age 33, who knows, he could have gone past Steyn himself. Now a resident of Australia and plays in the BBL as a local cricketer.
Fastest to 10, 15, 16,17, 18, 20, 27 centuries & 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000, and 7000 ODI runs, he was the only contemporary of Virat Kohli who could challenge him. South Africa’s fall from grace was confirmed in the 2019 Cricket World Cup, and it was especially painful to watch Amla being hit in the head by Jofra Archer and retiring hurt. He would retire at the end of the tournament. Sublime cricketer, wonderful human being, he still architects blockathons on the County Circuit. You just help but wonder if South Africa should have persisted a year or so more for his form to come back.
Will he? Won’t he? Speculation about AB De Villiers’ retirement has been as spicy as Hollywood gossip. It all began with the ghost of 2015 semi-finals loss, which he captained. He would then get the Test captaincy job, a dream for a long time. However, workload management & administrative struggles became a hassle. Picking & choosing on a series-by-series basis followed by an indefinite break was a sign of what was to come. He came back in brilliant home with Test series against India and Australia.
However a video retirement a year before the ODI World Cup took everyone by surprise. Since then, he has been in multiple conversations about coming for the 2019 ODI World Cup or 2021 T20 World Cup, but those conversations have not gone too far. He can still be seen smashing it out of the park in the IPL. He is still fit, takes mind boggling catches, and plays match changing innings even after no game practice for a year.Although ABD & Amla played 14 years, they could have been Tendulkar-esque with a career of 17-21 years in another era.
The best batter of the generation and the face of “Cricketers Who Retired Too Early.”
Given captaincy at a young age, Smith began the rebuilding of a squad that would take South AFrica to #1 Test rankings. One of the best openers of this era, his courage & leadership came to the fore. Batting with a broken hand to save a Test will in fans’ memories forever. Now the director of cricket for South Africa.
Plays for RCB in the IPL, SKNP in CPL, and the West Indies
*subject to change. He is selected in West Indies’ 2021 T20 World Cup squad
Surprised? Well, you should be.
Chris Gayle is the antithesis to the 2005 generated. Debuted in 1999, and he is still playing at the age of 42. 100 Test matches, a triple century, an ODI double century, 10000 ODI runs, 14000+ T20 runs (with 22 100s!), he is a legend. So how did he survive so long even though he can barely run?
The answer is enough breaks. While the 2005 generation succumbed to continuous burnout, Gayle was in-and-out of the international side, played T20 leagues around the world, and gave up first class/Test cricket in 2014 to prolong his career. A couple of World Cup wins also helps keeping the fire going.
2004-07 Generation: Ross Taylor (New Zealand), Brendon Taylor (Zimbabwe), Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad (England), Dale Steyn (South Africa)
The Surviving Outliers
The main point to notice here is that those who played continuous cricket from 2005-2015 retired too soon.
However, there are plenty of cricketers who did not get a chance early on or were in-and-out of their national sides, but are still available for selection today. These players include Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, and the 2004 U-19 Cricket World Cup class of Shikhar Dhawan, Fawad Alam, Mahmudullah Riyadh, Dinesh Karthik, Ambati Rayudu, Tim Paine, Moises Henriques, William Porterfield, Kevin O’Brien, Wahab Riaz, who are still playing competitively and are available for international selection.
Since they did not get a chance earlier or play for lower-ranked teams, they are making the most of it now when opportunities finally came their way.
Hunger for success have caused these batch of cricketers to elongate their careers. To prove themselves as long as they are fit. Or to be a part of that elusive World Cup winning team.
Why Did The 2005 Generation Fall So Quickly?
If we analyze these 10 cricketers who retired too early a bit more closer, we notice they mostly feature from England, South Africa, or Australia.
All of these teams went through a traumatic transition period. The 2013-15 period was especially stressful for England. While Mitchell Johnson dismantled the entire 2013 Test generation, forcing retirements of Trott, Pietersen, & Swann, the sacking of Cook in ODIs before 2015 World Cup would usher a new era in English cricket.
For South Africa, Grant Elliot’s semi-final six broke the gem of that South African team. AB De Villiers, Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla, & Vernon Philander were never the same again.
Finally, although Australia did not have it that rough, they have not really gotten back to the Warne-McGrath days. The Clarke era was the short transition between the longer lasting, Ponting & Steve Smith eras.
Frequency of World Cups
Before the 2007 T20 World Cup, world championships only happened once every 4 years. A decade earlier, we only had the 2003/2007 ODI World Cup, 2007 T20 World Cup, and 2002/2006 Champions Trophy.
Teams were built on the premises of four-year cycles. With England & Australia, the Test Teams were formed with the next Ashes cycle in mind. Then followed 2009 (CT), 2010 (T20 WC), 2011 (CWC), 2012 (T20 WC), 2013 (CT), 2014 (T20 WC), 2015 (CWC), 2016 (T20 WC), 2017 (CT), 2019 (CWC), 2021 (World Test Championship).
Frequent trophies meant teams did not have to carry players for 4 years. An in-form player could be drafted while seasoned cricketers could be dropped with the upcoming ICC trophy in mind. Hence teams started to experiment more and started taking bold calls.
Case and point 2013 Champions Trophy—India dropped Sehwag, promoted Rohit Sharma, and went with an in-form Dhawan (seems like a history repeat itself moment with Dhawan in the 2021 T20 WC team).
These cricketers who retired too early were raised on the backs of Test & ODI cricket. Almost everyone from the 90s era played both formats if they were good enough. With the entrance of T20 cricket, cricket began to be played all year long instead of season to season.
If you add captaincy to the 3 formats, that takes pressure & mental exhaustion to another level.
This still does not explain why Cook & Amla retired. They had given up captaincy towards the end, did not play all formats, and did not have new players vying for their spots either.
The obvious answer to this is form. Both Cook & Amla suffered drastic loss of forms, but so did openers worldwide.
Cook himself concluded that batting in England became tougher towards the end of his career. We can see from the Burns-Sibley partnership that it has not gotten better any since. It was not necesesarily that they were worse players, just that the conditions had become more difficult.
Kohli Shows The Way Forward
Three format players like KP and ABD prospered for a while, but it caught up with their health & form.
A decade later, it is clear that separate teams are now being picked for the 3 vastly different formats. Mental health conversations are in place. Fitness, physiotherapy, and analytics have jumped to another level altogether. Rest & rotation have been employed by certain teams to prolong the careers of cricketers.
This means that the current generation of the Fab 5 & Buttler-Stokes-Cummins-Rabada-Starc-Hazlewood-Bumrah have a better chance for longer careers and go back to the 15-year norms of the 90s. Who knows the COVID break might even have re-energized some to extend their careers.
However balance is key. Virat Kohli has already lead the way and given up IPL/T20I captaincy to manage workload and focus on other formats. If this generation of players have to survive, they might have to give up at least one format, release captaincy pressure, take mental health and paternity breaks, and keep up their fitness.
Greatness Achieved Nevertheless
Although Amla, Smith, Sehwag, Clarke, de Villiers stopped agonizingly close without reaching the coveted 10000 run-mark, it does not take away from the genius of these men.
Numbers are not everything. Although their tenure was short, their impact was not. They changed cricket for the better, and that is all that matters.
There are some players who will always give a sense that they left too early. Fans are left asking, ‘What If they had stayed on for a couple of years?’, ‘Maybe one more World Cup?’
We should just be grateful enough we witnessed some of the greatest cricketers of all time.
As acclaimed twentieth century writer Khalil Gibran once remarked, “Exaggeration is truth that has lost its temper.”
India’s improbable victory in the 4th Test sent social media into frenzy. There were claims of it being the ‘greatest Test team’ going around or the ‘best Indian Test team.’ Although there is subtle merit to these claims, I argue that this is just an over exaggeration of the ground reality.
How Good Are Team India?
There is no doubt that the Indian cricket team has flourished in the 21st century. With a thriving cricketing culture, robust recruitment setup throughout the country, monetary power in the hands of the BCCI with the advent of the IPL, and a prospering India A system, India has the greatest depth and resources available.
The rise of Mohammed Siraj, Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel, Suryakumar Yadav, and Ishan Khan across formats in less than six months attests to this claim.
India came back from 0-1 to seal the Border-Gavaskar series 2-1. Stories galore and the legend of this series will carry in the minds of fans forever. Similarly, a defeat in the third Test against England did not faze India. In the 4th Test, a 99-run deficit was overcome via valiant century by Rohit Sharma and memorable contributions in both innings by Shardul Thakur.
To give you an idea how far India have come along—This is India’s 4th victory in Australia & England since December (and 8th in Australia, England, South Africa since 2018). In the decade before, India’s only moments of glory in England & Australia were Headingly 2002, Adelaide 2003, England series 2007, and Perth 2008 (coincidentally Rahul Dravid contributing with 148, 233 & 72*, captain, and 93). So this 2-1 series victory (almost) should hold well with the Indian fans, especially after the suffering endured in the 2010s.
This Indian team is good. Really good. They have the spirit to come back from any circumstance, and they just never give up. The attitude instilled by Ravi Shastri-Virat Kohli is evident in the body language of each and every player.
However, is this team the best? I do not think so.
Collapse A Day Does Not Keep The Doctor Away
Team India is brilliant at comebacks, but why is there a need of comebacks in the first place?
The 2000s Australia team set the benchmark for Test greatness. Did you ever hear them coming from dire circumstances? Well, not much because they were so dominant, a comeback was not even necessary.
The same is true for the current World Test Championship winner, the New Zealand cricket team. When they win, they win emphatically.
If India are to instill their greatness in cricketing folklore, they must replicate their home dominance away as well.
Current Batting Side Does Not Fire In Unison
KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, and Ajinkya Rahane are all good batters individually, but they have rarely fired in unison.
When the top order bats at its best, the middle order collapses. When Pujara-Pant come together, the rest of the batters have already gone to the pavilion. Kohli is not back at his best yet and Rahane seems to have fallen off the charts altogether.
Even in the horrendous tours of 2011 and 2014, I do not remember performances like 36/9 or 78/10, let alone two. The batting collapses occur too frequently to be regarded as a modern great. What made the Sehwag-Dravid-Sachin-Laxman-Ganguly era great was their consistent overseas batting performances without having the caliber of fast bowlers at their disposals in the nets to practice with.
Now India finally has the bowling attack to take 20 wickets consistently, but a batting line up that is not even close.
Greatest Indian Bowling Attack
The reason India is succeeding away from home can be attributed to two factors: (1) comparatively lower standard of opposition, and (2) fast bowling unit.
Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur provide regular breakthroughs while Jadeja and Ashwin can play both as wicket-taking options and chief controller depending on the conditions.
Since the South Africa tour of 2018, Indian bowlers have taken all 20 wickets by pace on numerous occasions. Injury replacements are readily available as well.
So is India Good, Bad, or Just Okay?
The bowling attack? The best in their nation’s history. Their batting? Eh. Not so hot.
India might have one of the best line ups on paper but are definitely not the best Test team going around. Or at least just not performing to their full potential yet. The flaws in India’s team performance combined with miraculous comebacks and recency bias actually amplify the degree of their quality. India are so bad sometimes that it brings out the best in the team. Still a long way to go achieve dominance.
In other words, India are so bad that they are actually good. Think about it.
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.
We bring to you the list of best Test matches over the past four years. Thrilling finishes galore! Who said Test matches are boring?
by Nitesh Mathur, 08/27/2021
West Indies’ 1-wicket victory against Pakistan and India’s comeback at Lord’s have added another couple of great matches in our memory banks. We have seen some exhilarating Test cricket in the past couple of years.
If there was ever any doubt on the quality of Test cricket, here are 18 matches that have revived Test cricket in the past 4 years.
Match Summary: Pakistan: 376 & 174/8 declared; West Indies: 247 & 202
Player of the Match: Roston Chase
After 95 overs of resistance, with only 7 balls to go for a valiant draw, Shannon Gabriel heaves Yasir Shah and gets bowled. Roston Chase stranded on 101* (239) after batting for an epic 366 minutes. Strategic stroke or brain fade from Gabriel?
In their first innings, Australia had collapsed from 161-1 to 202-10. In the second innings, they had 462 runs to chase or 140 overs to bat. And 140 overs they batted. The man of the hour was Usman Khawaja – 85 (175) & 141 (302), batting for a total of 766 minutes (around 13 hours) to give Australia one of their most savored draws.
“It was assumed that Australia would lose that Test match. What Australia was looking for…was a test of character” – Amazon Prime The Test
This was Australia’s first true moral victory since Steve Smith & David Warner were banned. Usman Khawaja had never truly solidified his place in the Australian XI, but this innings ensured his career would always be remembered due to this legendary knock.
Match Summary: South Africa: 235 & 259; Sri Lanka: 191 & 304/9
Player of the Match: Kusal Perera
In a mammoth chase of 304, Sri Lanka were struggling at 110/5. What followed was a knock for the ages. Kusal Perera hit a miraculous 153* (200) with 12 sixes & 5 fours. The last wicket partnership between Perera & Vishwa Fernando was 78*, with only 6* (27) coming from Fernando’s bat.
“He’s done it! He absolutely does it. One of the greatest see from a Sri Lankan outside Sri Lanka…What a historical day at Durban.” Watch the winning moment here, a contender for the greatest Test match innings of all time.
Sri Lanka go on to win the series 2-0. First time anAsian team won a Test series in South Africa.
Match Summary: Australia: 179 & 246; England: 67 & 362/9
Player of the Match: Ben Stokes
Despite being a wonderful series to watch all around, the thunder was stolen by Ben Stokes’ 135*, Jack Leach’s glasses, Nathan Lyon’s run out opportunity, and Tim Paine’s missed DRS review. A 76* (62) partnership for the final wicket. Oohs & Aahs. Reverse sweeps, scoops, and hoicks. Just a great day to be a cricket fan. One of the greatest innings of all time.
“Cut away. Cut away for 4. What an innings. What a player. Take a bow Ben Stokes. The Ashes well and truly alive because of one cricketer & that cricketer is Benjamin Stokes.” (Nasser Hussain) Entire Day 5 minute highlights
This series had so many moments. Stuart Broad 23 wickets & dismissed Warner 7 times. Steve Smith’s legendary masterclass was breathtaking. 774 runs, 3 tons, 3 fifties, best of 211, 110.57 average. Jofra Archer’s Test debut, Smith’s concussion, and Marnus Labuschagne’s entrance as cricket’s first concussion substitute—353 runs, 4 fifties at 51.00. Not a bad start, I say. Ideal beginning for the World Test Championship, a 2-2 Ashes series.
Match Summary: England: 204 & 313; Sri Lanka: 318 & 200/6
Player of the Match: Shannon Gabriel
It was a Test match that went all the way to session 3 of Day 5, which became a common theme for Test matches post the COVID break. After Shannon Gabriel’s 9-fer & #1 all-round Jason Holder had given West Indies the advantage, they characteristically lost it on the final day. The Windies had collapsed for 27/3 in a chase of 200. Then an inspirational 95 by Jermaine Blackwood 2.0 brought WI back with the supporting cast of a hobbling John Campbell & the engine room—Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, and Jason Holder.
Commentary/Winning Moment (None other than than Ian Bishop)
“Victory for the West Indies. A most significant moment for Jason Holder and his team. Great credit to their skill, their commitment. The West Indian people and world credit owes them a great debt…” Commentary Video
The coronavirus had hit and ravaged the world. Worldwide lockdown was in-effect and sports had closed its doors for months. Thanks to the West Indies & England cricket boards, players, the support staff, & essential works, cricket made a comeback via bio-bubbles.
Match Summary: New Zealand: 431 & 180/5 declared; Pakistan: 318 & 200/6
Player of the Match: Kane Williamson
With a chase of 373 at hand in tough New Zealand conditions, Pakistan were 4/2 at tea on Day 4.One of those one-sided home victories for New Zealand again? Not this time. Not with Fawad Alam. With support from the ever dependable trio Azhar Ali, Mohammad Rizwan, and Faheed Ashraf, Alam scored 102over 6 and a half hours. Yet a Pakistan-esque collapsed followed after surviving 123.3 overs. Pakistan lost with only 4.4 overs to go. What a jumping catch by Santner as well for the last wicke.t. The drama.
“[Catch it] Oh he’s done it. He’s pulled a hander! Mitchell Santner has done it! Mitchell Santner has finished the game for New Zealand. Look at the scenes!” Commentary Video
Last match of the decade. Turning point for Test cricket. Brilliant rearguard effort despite the loss. And Fawad Alam. What a story. Dropped after 3 Tests despite scoring a 168 on debut. Criticized for scoring hard, ugly runs with a weird stance. Left out for a decade. . Grinded in domestic cricket. Runs after runs. Till he could be ignored no more. Has now scored 4 hundreds since his comeback. Patience is, indeed, the key to success.
India had won the 2018 series 2-1 on the back of Pujara’s toil – 521 (1258). Could they repeat the magic in 2021 with Warner & Smith?
It began with the 36 All-Out at Adelaide. Spectacular bowling performance from Australia. Then Rahane’s century & calm captaincy rejuvenated India at Melbourne. Show of resilience and immense mental strength followed from Vihari-Ashwin after the Pujara-Pant show to secure a draw in Sydney. Finally the young brigade breached the Gabba Fortress. Shubman Gill, Shardul Thakur, Washington Sundar, Mohammad Siraj, and Rishabh Pant the stars.
“Pujara, to a younger generation is just a curiosity. As the game moves more and more towards T20, which is the modern savior of our game, the word resilience starts to go out because there is no time for resilience. ” – Harsha Bhogle on Pujara in Amazon Prime’s The Test
The 2018 victory was the first instance an Asian team has won a Test series in Australia. The 2021 series? Arguably the best Test series since Ashes 2005—This series had everything—bowling excellence, centuries, youngsters, experience, banter, sledging, draws, collapses, and chases. Even with a so-called injured ‘third string,’ squad, whenever India were down, they came back with new hope & stars.
Match Summary: Sri Lanka: 135 & 359; England: 421 & 76/3
Player of the Match: Joe Root
The Joe Root Vs Lasith Embuldeniya series. On paper, does not look too close, but the 1st Test was actually engrossing to watch. In chase of 74, England were 14/3 with Joe Root run out (the only way he can get out these days). Jonny Bairstow & Dan Lawrence took England home but the tension was high. 4 innings, 446 runs for Root, 15 wickets for Embuldeniya. Individual brilliance.
“Massive, massive. This is massive. England in a spot of bother.” (After Root’s dismissal) Commentary Video
Start of Root’s magical year; English fan stranded in Galle cheers from the fort; England won the series 2-0 to extend their overseas winning streak to 5 after they had won 3-1 in South Africa earlier. They would win another in Chennai before Axar Patel decimated England’s subcontinental dreams. (England had also won the 2018 tour of Sri Lanka 3-0 in this same timeframe).
Match Summary: Bangladesh: 430 & 223/8 declared; West Indies: 259 & 395/7
Player of the Match: Kyle Mayers
Imagine that you are not sending your 1st XI to Bangladesh, a spin-heavy nation that has had an impeccable record in the past 5 years. No expectations before hand.Bangladesh would have been happy with their effort with centuries from Mehidy Hasan Miraz & Mominul Haque. They even declared in the second innings.
A successful chase of 395 runs followed in 127.3 overs with twodebutants, Kyle Mayers (40 & 210*) & Nkrumah Bonner (86)sealing it for the West Indies with a remarkable partnership of 216 runs. Fourth innings match-winning double century on debut in the subcontinent. Wow.
Commentary/Winning Moment (Ian Bishop Again)
“A win to warm the hearts of every West Indian wherever you are in the world! New heroes have emerged from the ashes..” Commentary Video
West Indies won the series 2-0 in Bangladesh with a depleted squad. The greatest chase of all-time?
Match Summary: India: 217 & 170; New Zealand: 249 & 140/2
Player of the Match: Kyle Jamieson
Under difficult batting conditions and rain all around, both teams fought it out till the very end. The WTC Final was expected to be a boring draw two rains and bad light. Instead, it became a thriller that went deep into Day 6, final session. With a chase of 139, Latham-Conway had departed to spin trial by R Ashwin. Reversed DRS decision, maidens, and a dropped catch later. At 44/2, anything could have happened the way Ashwin was bowling. When the time came, the experienced duo Kane Williamson & Ross Taylor came together, soaked in the pressure, and after took New Zealand home safely.
Match Summary: Pakistan: 217 & 203; West Indies: 253 & 168/9
Player of the Match: Jayden Seales
168 target. West Indies collapse to 16/3. After a classic 55 by Jermaine Blackwood, West Indies slip to 114/7. Pakistan needed 3 wickets. West Indies 54 runs. Then Kemar Roach came to the party and had to the take the responsibility of ‘batting with the tail.‘. Roach’s 30* and a valiant 17-run partnership between the mentor-protege pair, Roach-Jayden Seales guided West Indies to a memorable 1-wicket victory.
Match Summary: India: 217 & 203; England: 253 & 168/9
Player of the Match: KL Rahul
Day 5, All Results possible. England Favorites. India, not known for their tailender run-machines, unleash Mohammad Shami (56*) & Jasprit Bumrah (34*). 89* partnership as India declared with 2 sessions to go. Then, the pacers fire in unison as India wreck England for 120.
“Unbelievable performance from India. They were up against it. England were favorites coming into Day 5. Kohli an his men have turned it all around.” Commentary Video
Victory at Lord’s. Another display of fighting it out and not giving up for Team India. Australia tour was not a fluke. This Indian team is on the rise.
Match Summary:India 345 & 234/7 declared; New Zealand 296 & 165/9
Player of the Match: Shreyas Iyer
By Tea on Day 5, the main batters for New Zealand—Latham, Williamson, and Taylor had all departed. Somerville’s 36 (125) delayed what seemed inevitable for India. Little did India know that they would run into Test debutant Rachin (Rahul + Sachin) Ravindra—18* (91) & Ajaz Patel 2* (29) to hold out for a memorable draw.Add bad light to the drama as well.
“For a long period of time, New Zealand have struggled to find wins or draws in this country. There is a lot of respect between these two sides. Lot of respect between the skippers.” Commentary Video
Match Summary:New Zealand 328 & 169; Bangladesh 458 & 42/2
Player of the Match: Ebadot Hossain
After Bangladesh took lead in the first innings, but Will Young-Ross Taylor had taken NZ to 136/2. In the next hour, 136/3, 136/4, 136/5, 154/6, 160/7, 160/8, 161/9, 169/10. The hour that changed it all feat Ebadot Hossain.
“There it is! Finds the gap and Bangladesh have finally conquered the World Test Champions. And have their first ever Test victory over New Zealand, home or away. It has taken 16 attempts against New Zealand but historic ground has now been broken.” Commentary Video
The greatest comeback of all time? World Test Champions, undefeated at home for a few years, against a team not known for winning overseas. The best part of all? Bangladesh dominated the entire Test and new heroes emerging—Mahmudul Hasan Joy, Mominul Haque, Najmul Hossain Shanto, Liton Das, Mehdiy Hasan Miraz, Ebadot Hossain. No Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, & Mahmudullah, and Mushfiqur Rahim only scoring 12 & 5.
Match Summary:Australia 416/8 declared & 265/6 declared; England 294 & 270/9
Player of the Match: Usman Khawaja
England 3-0 down in the Ashes series. Very likely the series could have become 5-0. First innings, Australia scored 400+, courtesy Khawaja’s comeback century. England came out with a positive attitude, with Jonny Bairstow recording England’s first ton of the series. Khawaja followed with another ton, which set the Test beautifully for Day 5, fifth session. Last batter to go, Labuschagne and Steve Smith bowling leggies in tandem. Against Stuart Broad & jimmy Anderson. Mouthwatering stuff.
“Last ball…He’s done it! He’s survived it. England have survived it. They’ve batted out the day. They’ve batted a hundred and two overs.
Last shining moment for the Broad-Anderson duo? In terms of Test cricket, this week (starting on January 43rd, 2022) was the peak. NZ vs Bangladesh, Ashes 4th Test, and Ind vs SA 2nd Test, all classic thrillers.
Match Summary:India 202 & 266;South Africa 229 & 243/3
Player of the Match: Dean Elgar
India had won the first Test of the series comfortably. This was India’s best chances to conquer South Africa. Successful overseas victories in Australia and England, an unparalleled depth, and a South Africa team at their lowest point. In a low scoring series, 202 & 266 were decent scores. Day 4, 240 monumental target for SA against a bowling line up of Bumrah-Shami-Thakur-Siraj-Ashwin, and what happens? Elgar takes body blows, does not hesitate, and makes a glorious 96*. No captain Kohli. India succumbs to defeat by 7 wickets.
“That’s it! History has been made at the Wanderers. and South Africa have fought back brilliantly! Take a bow, Dean Elgar….Fantastic effort, leading from the front. He’s worn a few on the body but hasn’t bothered him. Shown character and desire, grit & determination to get his team over the line. And set up the series beautifully.” Commentary Video
A win against India at Wanderers at last. First 200+ chase for SA in a decade. After losing the first Test of a series, this was truly a comeback of the ages. India missed their golden chance due to some tough cricket from the Proteas. Third Test, captain Kohli came back. Rishabh Pant scored 100*, but Keegan Petersen’s 72 & 82 meant that SA chased 212/3 yet again.
Match Summary:Australia 337/9 declared & 216/7 declared; England 297 & 245/9 declared
Player of the Match: Heather Knight
Heather Knight’s Test, but Australia had the upper hand. After they declared for 216/7 in the 2nd innings, England took on the challenge for the chase of 257. At 218/3 with Nat Sciver & Sophia Dunkley, it seemed that England might win this. But Alana King, Beth Mooney’s catch, Sutherland’s bouncers, and a run out ensured England’s collapse. Last ball, full toss, England 245/9. The narrowest of draws.
“And it’s a full toss. It is a drawww! And it is one of the very best Test matches we have seen in women’s Ashes.
In Women’s Test cricket, this was a friendly reminder that Test cricket can flourish if given the chance and plenty of opportunities, both at the domestic and international level. With focus on the 4-day vs 5-day debate, this Test came at hte right time.
Why Are We Seeing Close Test Matches So Frequently?
For an away team to win a Test match, it takes an immense amount of effort and equal amount of fightback from the home team. Hence, winning an away Test usually means going deep into the 4th of 5th Day, which makes for an interesting viewing. On the other hand, home team in friendly bowling conditions mean Test matches can end within 3-4 days (even 2 days).
More away victories or draws means more close Test matches.
What do you remember about Test cricket in the 2010s? Mitchell Johnson 2013, the advent of the Day-Night Test, Smith-Warner saga, South Africa’s blockathon in Delhi, and excellence from the South African team, Dale Steyn, Anderson-Broad, Boult-Southee, Starc-Hazlewood-Lyon-Cummins, Jadeja-Ashwin, Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Steve Smith, and Kane Williamson.
Above all, though, I remember disproportionate margins by which home teams won. India losing in England 0-4 (with RP Singh flying from Miami due to excessive injury list) & Australia 0-4 (2011). India came back to England with 1-3 (2014), and 1-4 (2018). Their record in South Africa and New Zealand, remains disastrous till today. England and Australia were either swept apart or struggled to make a mark in India or Bangladesh. Meanwhile, Pakistan had made UAE their fortress under Misbah-ul-Haq.
Post the 2010-12 England generation (think Alastair Cook Ashes 2010 & England victory 2-1 in India), except for South Africa, no other team seemed competitive overseas. Only Faf du Plessis’ Adelaide debut & England’s defiance via Matt Prior against New Zealand (2013) stretched to the end of Day 5.
From the list above, we can see that the tide is finally turning. Even in England’s disaster tour of India earlier this year (1-3), they won the first Test in Chennai.
Rise of Away Wins, Sporting Declarations, and Pakistan/West Indies
So why have we seen a resurgence of overseas victory?
It can be attributed to 4 factors – (1) Increase depth in cricket teams in general, (2) sporting declarations (#1, #2, #5, #8, #13, #15, #17), (3) captains like Virat Kohli focusing their resources and energy on Test cricket, (4) the rise of the West Indies/Pakistan.
One might argue that West Indies still have a dismal Test record. However, we can see that they made it in this list 3 times. They have definitely become a competitive force under Jason Holder although consistency is now needed. ‘Second tier Test’ teams like West Indies, Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa and Sri Lanka punching above their weights and winning overseas matches adds to the excitement (A Relegation-Promotion System in the World Test Championship might help out).
Anyway, here is to more great Test matches. Yes, live audience in Test cricket is decreasing and overkill of cricket/new formats might threaten Test Cricket, but as long as the cricket is good, Test matches will remain alive.
“Start by doing what’s necessary. Then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible,” said Francis of Assisi about 800 years ago.
India women did just that, holding England to an improbable draw.
Women’s Tests A Rarity
Due to an increased fan following in women’s cricket since the 2017 ODI World Cup, recent emphasis has been on limited overs cricket, expansion of the game via T20 World Cup, and a potential game changer in Women’s Hundred.
Since resources have been spent in marketing the limited overs game, women’s Test cricket has disappeared in the background.
England play only one Test match every couple of years in the Ashes against Australia. Indian women had it even worse—they were playing their first test after 7 years and only their third in 15 years.
We did not know how it will pan out. Will India struggle with the lack of match practice? Will they remain unbeaten in Tests in England? How would teams cope with a used pitch?
Electing to bat first, England posted a solid 396/9 declared courtesy their senior players: Beaumont’s 66, captain Heather Knight’s 95, Nat Sciver’s 42, and debutant’s Sophie Dunkley’s 74.
Openers Smriti Mandhana & Shafali Verma would form a record 167-partnership, before India collapsed for 231. England enforced the follow-on with India 165 runs still behind & 135 overs still left in the game.
Rana-Bhatia’s Performance of the Ages
In the second innings, they started by doing the necessary. The top order repeated its fight with contributions from Verma, Raut, and Sharma before they collapsed from 171-2 to 199-7 in 73.3 overs. What’s more, India’s last recognized batter, Harmanpreet Kaur departed. With 50 overs still to go, little did anyone expect that India would survive.
Then they did what was possible. Stitch out partnerships. Play ball-by-ball. Stall the time. An hour later, Shikha Pandey departed after a fighting 18 (50).
What followed was a performance of a lifetime, a magnificent rearguard effort between Taniya Bhatia & Sneh Rana—104* (185) partnership. Suddenly, India were doing the impossible.
Rana scored 80* (154) & Bhatia provided ample support with 44* (88) to deny England a routine victory.
Patience, grit, determination on show. Bravo India women!
Debutants Dare to Dream
The experienced duo, Mithali Raj & Harmanpreet Kaur, scored a paltry 18 runs in 4 innings. To achieve the impossible, India’s youngsters were thrown in the deep end, similar to the Border-Gavaskar series in men’s cricket.
Not only did the newer generation star, Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Shafali Verma, Sneh Rana, and Taniya Bhatia were actually making their Test debuts for the India women team. Sophia Dunkley, whose 74* revived England from 251-6 to 396/9 declared, was debuting for England.
Shafali became the youngest women (17 years & 139 days) cricketer and second overall after Sachin Tendulkar to score fifties in both innings—96 & 63.
Promoted from #7 in the 1st innings to #3 in the 2nd, Sharma brought India back in the game with mature knocks of 29* & 54 to go along with 3/65.
Rana’s 4/131 & 80* Bhatia’s 44* saves India.
Vastrakar contributed with 1/53.
Ecclestone Bowls Herself To the Ground
The English bowlers were in the field for two and a half days!
Sophie Ecclestone took the bulk of the responsibilities, bowling 26 overs (out of 81.5) in the first innings and 38 (out of 121 overs) in the second. She ended up figures of 4-88 & 4-118.
Kudos to her for giving it her best shot. Can take some rest now. Already a T20 star, the 22-year old has the potential to be an all-time England great.
Time For 5-Day Tests In Women’s Cricket?
At the end of the 4th day, the captains shook hands with 12 overs to go. India were 179 runs ahead at 344/8.
Imagine a potential day 5—England’s target around 200 runs with 80 overs to go. All 4 results possible. Mouth-watering scenario, isn’t it? Well it isn’t entirely possible when you only have a 4-day Test.
Captain Heather Knight commented that the lack of 5th day “robbed of that finish,” and they would definitely be open for 5-day Tests. Mithali Raj had a more practical suggestion, “It’s a good idea to have a five-day Test but we actually have to start Test matches regularly.”
Why not combine both? Teams that traditionally play consistent Test cricket (Australia & England) should be allowed to experiment with 5-day Tests and pink-ball Tests. On the other hand, teams like India should not be searching for Test match opportunities every seven or eight years. Why not have one mandatory 4-day Test per bilateral series for teams like India, South Africa, and New Zealand? This way, more seasoned cricketers will get Test match experience and cricket boards will get the chance to focus on the marketing aspect of Women’s Test cricket.
Who knows, maybe a Women’s World Test Championship is just what is needed to provide context.
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England Vs New Zealand 2021 Test Series Review – Short but good nevertheless.
Devon Conway & Will Young eased into Test cricket, New Zealand tried their options for the World Test Championship Final, and England lost some options as they gear up for the India series & the must awaited Ashes later this season.
Tim Southee – 7 wickets (1 match only) (best innings – 6/43, best match – 7/80, 11.42 average)
England Vs New Zealand 2021 Series Stats
England’s batting continues to go down hill after the 1st test against India. They have now lost 4 and drawn 1 in the past five Tests (2 at home, 4 away). All the hopes and dreams after away series wins in South Africa and Sri Lanka are crashing down quickly.
The Batting: England’s Batting Averages Just Not Good Enough
One of the highlights of Kimber’s analysis was Rory Burns has been a stable cog in this English lineup despite the poor numbers. He scored a brilliant ton and almost carried the bat in this series, which increased his Test average to 33.23 with 3 hundreds and 9 fifties. Not the best stats after 25 Tests, but the Sibley-Rory partnership has done a decent job in the past couple of years. Well, not quite Strauss-Cook, but the standards have been so low recently that a Burns century should be rightly celebrated.
Zak Crawley’s scores in this series—2 & 2, 0 & 17. Not good enough for a #3 batter at home. I hope England persist with him but he needs to meet them halfway, nothing of note since that 267.
Ollie Pope looks like Ian Bell, bats like Ian Bell, but I hope he starts converting like Ian Bell. Beautiful 20s and 30s can only get you so far—think James Vince (22 & 20*, 19 & 23 this series).
The batting averages of England’s main batters are far from impressive. Joe Root’s overall average is great, but has been struggling at home for quite a while now.
Rory Burns (33.23), Dom Sibley (30.78), Zak Crawley (29.33), Joe Root (48.68), Ollie Pope (31.50), Jos Buttler (34.53), Ben Stokes (37.04).
Commentator Nasser Hussain did not mince any words in the post-series analysis, urging their batters to get back to basics and avoid funny techniques. The current England batters have the mindset that:
“Everyone else that has played the game in the history of the game. Viv Richards you were wrong. Everyone is wrong, we are right.”
The senior fast bowlers were the only positives of the series. Mark Wood impressed…with the bat. He was among the wickets and consistently bowled his heart out as usual but his 41 & 29 in the 2nd Test showed England that the pitch does not contain any demons.
The old Stuart Broad showed up. In the 2nd Test, it seems that one of those spells was just around the corner. One of the bright lights in the series. Definitely got a couple more years left in him.
Jimmy Anderson was not as sharp this series, with just 3 wickets and averaging 68.66. Surpassed Alastair Cook as the most capped Test player for England-162 Tests. Take a bow.
The Debutants Star
In every series review, I highlight a couple of standout performers of the series. Guess what? In EVERY New Zealand series over the last year, Devon Conway has made the series headlines. T20I debut? Conquered. ODI debut? Check. Test debut at Lord’s? Double century and almost carries the bat. What else is there to say? 76.50 Test average, 75.00 ODI average, 59.12 T20I average. 1-200, 1-100, 4-50s in just 18 innings. Brilliant.
Will Young is continuing his good touch. Scored his maiden T20I fifty against Bangladesh recently and was picked in the 2nd Test after Williamson’s injury on the basis of a couple of centuries in County Cricket. Missed his century by 18 runs, but has finally found his feet in international cricket. He his here to stay.
Matt Henry, Ajaz Patel, and Neil Wagner all impressed with whatever chances they got.
Henry picked 3/78 & 3/36 to bag the player of the match in the 2nd Test
Ajaz Patel’s control and guile were impressive with figures of 2/34 & 2/25.
Neil Wagner bowled line and length more than his usual bouncers. Not unplayable but impactful for sure. Should edge Kyle Jamieson/Matt Henry for the WTC Final spot.
Senior Pros Provide Solid Support
Tim Southee is gearing up to the WTC Final with a superb series. After having re-invented himself in T20Is this year, he has found his swing, line, & length again.
Ross Taylor, one of New Zealand’s greatest, justified that tagline with a 80 in the 2nd Test. The beauty of that innings was he was nowhere close to his best. Stuart Broad was beating his edge right and left, but he survived and capitalized later on. In contrast, England’s batting collapsed to 76-7 and none of the batters had the will to fight it out like Taylor did.
Unfortunately for BJ Watling, he suffered a minor back injury on the eve of the 2nd Test and missed out. Hope he is ready for his swansong in the World Test Championship final.
In addition to Rory Burns’ 81 in the 2nd Test, the only criticism for New Zealand I could find would be the lack of conversion for three batters (Conway 80, Young 82, Taylor 80).
Devon Conway & Will Young
Mark Wood, the batsman
Matt Henry & Ajaz Patel
Broken Cricket Dream
Ollie Robinson, Zak Crawley
England Vs New Zealand 2021 Series Awards
Where Do They Go From Here?
New Zealand will be in the World Test Championship Final starting tomorrow.
Apart from the various leagues in the next few months which will keep the New Zealand players busy, the next international fixture is scheduled between 29th January-8th February 2022 for 3 ODIs & a T20I.
Here we are with part II in our series, Make Test Cricket Great Again: Problems with Test Cricket.
Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
This is exactly our goal. The long-term ambition of this series of articles is to generate a whole list of problems associated with Test cricket, propose respective solutions(both idealistic & practical), bring other people in during the process, and maybe at the end, gather enough momentum to gain the attention of administrators & the ICC.
Today, we bring in our friends from Twitter who will share their concerns with Test cricket & the World Test Championship.
The more opinions we have, the better. We can only move forward with a rich exchange of ideas between the fans, commentators, local administrators, experts, & former players rather than just the meeting board room of the Big 3.
The Work Done So Far
We did a similar exercise during the early days of the World Test Championship, but we wish to build upon this model. Here are some of our past proposals to improve the WTC.
Problems: Imbalance of the Big 3 (Australia, England, India) and the bias of ‘marquee’ series like the 5-match Ashes.
Solution: Merge the FTP (Future Tour Programme) & the WTC, and create a system where each team plays a 5-4-3 match series or 4-4-4 Test match series during a cycle. “Instead of scrapping the Ashes, we will keep traditional rivalries intact and encourage new ones.” Overall, 24 games against 9 opponents in a 2.5 year WTC cycle.
Problems: (1) Points fluctuate based on number of games in a series (60 points – 2 Tests, 40 – 3 Tests, 24 – 5 Tests), (2) No points accommodated for Home & Away Advantage, and (3) All-Or-Nothing Points System for a 5 day-15 session Test match.
Solution: We combine the ODI Super League system (consistent base point system per series), provide a mechanism for home versus away (away wins & draws worth more), and distribute additional points across sessions to incorporate ebb & flow (2 points – session won, 1 point – even/wash out).
We implement our system from above and compare it with the WTC Table (as of August 30, 2020)
The Work Planned Ahead
The issue with my initial set of articles was the underlying assumption that each team will play an equal number of matches against each other. In a post-COVID world, matches are not guaranteed, and it seems certain nations are prioritizing games against higher ranked teams and calling off series against lower-ranked ones.
Hence, we plan to do practical investigations in our future articles:
Revenue each Test playing nation generates: How much money does each cricket board and player earn every Test series per country? Why does New Zealand lose money to host a Test? How does the revenue compare to T20 leagues and the death of the tri-series?
What does it take to host a Test match? We can analyze what goes during the match but what goes behind the scenes? We will research and examine key components: The major players, administrators, ground staff, and more.
Equity vs Equality: Innovations that can help further bridge the gap between the different teams given the current financial status and level of each team.
The Pink Ball Test: Does More Harm Than Good? Day-night Test matches ending in 2-3 days cannot generate more crowd/interest than a balanced Test match held for 5 days during the day. We will analyze the key differences between the red ball & pink ball, practice matches in domestic tournaments, and if this idea is worth sustaining?
Your Opinion Matters: Problems With Test Cricket
In Part I of the series, we asked our friends on Twitter how they would improve Test cricket. Some ideas that I brainstormed to get the conversation started were as follows:
Getting rid of DRS umpires call (on impact)
Improving/ Standardizing pitches (Chennai 2x pitch received way too much backlash)
Promoting more money from T20 leagues to help out domestic cricketers
Having a relegation-promotion system for the WTC
What Do People Think?
Now it is the people’s turn. Here is what they had to say. These are interesting Twitter accounts, blogs, & podcasts in their own right. Feel free to check them out (links next to the name).
Every team should play against each other. That will make the tournament lengthy but it will make it perfect and no teams can be said to have an easier pool or tougher pool. Conduct finals once in 4-5 years. Every Test playing nation should play against each other. It will make the WTC more enthralling contest.
“I just hate the comments that this team got ‘easier’ away tours than others. Or easier home games. WTC is a mighty big championship and in something big like this, you do not want any comments which should call it unfair.”
Brilliant entries from Twitter! Major theme was to create a balance in the number of Test matches played between each country during a particular cycle. Some innovative solutions for the WTC included 2 groups semi-finals format, bonus points against higher ranked teams, & a 3-match final. For Test cricket in general—mandatory neutral umpires, DRS improvement, & updating rain-protocols were some interesting proposals.
Last time, I started with “I have been meaning to write this article for months now, but for some reason have not been able to.”
I now know why. This is not a one day project. Or a one week project. Or even a one person project. This will take input from several individuals, research & conversations, back & forth exchanges, and a lot of time. But, as they say:
“Rome was not built in day. It was built brick by brick.”
One step at a time.
Make Test Cricket Great Again and Restore the Soul of This Wonderful Sport.
Pakistan Vs South Africa 2021 Series Review—a historical series. South Africa’s first visit to the nation after more than a decade.
The return of Aiden Markram and Hasan Ali, the absence of Mohammad Hafeez, lots of Mohammad Rizwan, and curtains to Faf Du Plessis’ Test career. We look at the highs & lows, broken dreams, emerging players, and World T20I Watch.
Mohammad Rizwan – 197 runs (1 – 100, 1 – 50, best of 104*, average 98.5, 145.92 SR)
David Miller – 116 runs (1 – 50, best of 85*, average 116, 156.75 SR)
Usman Qadir – 4 wickets (best of 2/21, 6.90 economy)
Tabraiz Shamsi – 6 wickets (best of 4/25, 5.08 economy)
T20I Series Stats
The energizer is back with Pakistan. Hasan Ali’s domestic resurgence has translated directly into international performances. 5/54 & 5/60 match winning 10-fer. Skiddy action, the passion, and the celebration.
In the last 5 first class matches, Fawad Alam has scores of 139 (vs NZ A), 102, 109, 45. Consistency and the 109 at home. Destined.
It is the season of Faheem Ashraf-Mohammad Rizwan partnership. After a streak of match-saving consecutive overseas 50s for Rizwan, he finally converted to a ton with 115* in Rawalpandi. Similarly, following his 91 in New Zealand, Ashraf followed up with 64 and 78* in Pakistan.
Rizwan strikes again. Followed up his Test century with a 104*, 51, and 42 in the T20Is. Brilliant. Just brilliant. And if you thought that was consistent enough, now has scores of 71 and 41 for Karachi Kings in the PSL.
Let us talk about the ones missing in action (at least offline), shall we? Mohammad Hafeez and Sarfaraz Ahmed. The best Pakistan T20I batsman over the past year, Mohammad Hafeez opted out of the international series due to T10 league & clashes with the quarantine dates for the South Africa series. Yet, he was active on Twitter and had a few exchanges with former captain and current substitute, Sarfaraz. Hopefully, it is just a one-time thing and Pakistan cricket can move on.
It seems that Aiden Markram debuted ages ago. After his brilliant start to Test cricket in 2017, it seemed that Markram was in an eternal downward spiral. Still only 26, this overseas tour of Pakistan may well be a watershed rejuvenation moment for Markram. Long career ahead.
When one door opens, another closes. While Markram excelled, Quinton de Kock had a horrific series with the bat. 4 innings – 46 runs. Now, he is also released as the Test captain and has taken a mental health break from South Africa’s domestic tournament.
Speaking of closed doors, Faf Du Plessis. The sun has finally set on a career marked with tenacity, grit, leadership, and hope. A Test career that started a bit late due to the great South African generation, a debut stonewalling to remember at Adelaide, a few blockathons here and there, a lot of Australia and India, captaincy records, and an iconic 199 to cap it off. Hats off Faf. Be sure to read our tribute to Faf below.
KILLER MILLER IS BACK!!!! Look at some of the hits here. 85* (45) with 7 sixes albeit in a losing cause. Almost half a decade since this type of innings. Good signs for the Proteas looking forward to the T20I World Cup.
Moving to the bowling side, Dwaine Pretorius slowly inking his name in the T20I XI. A 5 wicket haul including a brilliant yorker. Scalps of Babar Azam and in-form Mohammad Rizwan. Not bad.
Tabraiz Shamsi has been the unsung mainstay of South African bowling recently. The fast bowling unit bar Rabada (and now, Nortje) seems to be a revolving door, but the absence of Imran Tahir has not been felt due to Shamsi. Highest wicket taker in the T20I series with a miserly economy.
We like to spice things up with our own awards for the series. Here they are:
Hasan Ali 2.0, Fawad Alam 3.0, and Rizwan-Ashraf partnership
Left Arm Spinners
Return of Aiden Markram
Broken Cricket Dream
Mohammad Hafeez-Sarfaraz Ahmed Twitter Exchanges
Test retirement of Faf Du Plessis
Pakistan Vs South Africa 2021 Review: The Awards
Who would have been your Emerging Player? Surprise Player? Broken Cricket Dream? Let us know below WITH COMMENTS! Also please share and subscribe below!\
These two teams will be back in action in April with Pakistan returning the favor with 3 ODIs and 4 T20Is, completing a postponed series from last year.
South Africa are still in a transition zone. The longer they stay here, the worse it gets. It is good to see the younger generation of players stand up, but hope it all meshes by the time the World T20 Cup hits later this year.
Pakistan are one to watch for the T20 World Cup. The PSL is being held at the right time, enough time for young stars to appear and get some international games under their belt.
World T20 Watch
Leading up to the World Cup, we are picking a 15 player squad after each series.
For reference, here was our earlier WT20 watch for Pakistan’s squad in our Pak Vs NZ series review. Some new faces have come into play, while some players have dropped off the list.
Babar Azam (C), 2. Mohammad Rizwan (WK), 3. Haider Ali, 4. Mohammad Hafeez, 5. Shadab Khan, 6.. Imad Wasim, 7. Faheem Ashraf, 8. Hasan Ali, 9. Haris Rauf, 10. Shaheen Shah Afridi, 11. Usman Qadir
Squad: 12. Naseem Shah, 13. Mohammad Nawaz/Zafar Gohar/Zahid Mahmood, 14. Sarfaraz Ahmed (WK)/Sharjeel Khan, 15. Iftikhar Ahmed/Shoaib Malik
Other Reserves in Contention: Imam-Ul-Haq/Fakhar Zaman (opener), Mohammad Hasnain/Mohammad Musa/Aamer Yamin (fast bowler), Khusdil Shah/Hussain Talat/Asif Ali (lower order finisher)
Wildcard: Sohail Tanvir
Probably curtains for Wahab Riaz & possible Mohammad Amir comeback.
Quinton de Kock* (WK), 2. Janneman Malan, 3. Faf du Plessis, 4. Rassie Van der Dussen, 5. Heinrich Klassen (C), 6. David Miller, 7. George Linde, 8. Chris Morris, 9. Kagiso Rabada, 10. Anrich Nortje, 11. Tabraiz Shamsi