Those who didn’t give up

August 16, 2020

A look at players who had to wait for a long time before getting another chance to play Test cricket

A decade is a lot of time in any cricketer’s career; while some outstanding ones may have a career that lasts over 20 years, some don’t last that long. And then there are those who have to wait for ‘that long’ to make a comeback to the Test side, despite performing well at the domestic circuit. Fawad Alam managed to do that for Pakistan, but he is not the first player to do so, and surely not the last. His recall after more than 10 years, however, will give Test discards hope that not all is lost, and they might be next in line for a recall. Let’s find out who those cricketers were, and how they fared when they made it back.

John Traicos (South Africa/Zimbabwe)

Missed Span: 22 years, 222 days

Off-spinner John Traicos didn’t miss Test cricket for over 22 years because of his performance, but because of Apartheid that kept South Africa away from Test cricket for a long time. Born in 1947, he represented South Africa in three Tests before they were banned from international cricket. He continued to play first class cricket in Zimbabwe (created in 1980) and was able to make a comeback to Tests when Zimbabwe were granted Test status in 1992. He played four Tests for them and is regarded one of the oldest players to make a comeback, at the age of 45 to the five-day format.

Younis Ahmed (Pakistan)

Missed Span: 17 years, 111 days

Some termed him a batsman who was way ahead of his times, but Younis Ahmed’s career was marred with controversies. Had he not toured South Africa in 1973, he might have been a regular member of the Pakistan team, yet he chose to defy the rules and was banned for his participation in the DH Robins XI tour to South Africa. He had to wait for 17 years to represent Pakistan again and despite making a comeback to the national side in 1987 and scoring 40 and 34 not out in the Ahmedabad Test and opening the innings in the famous Kolkata ODI, he was discarded after the tour!

Lala Amarnath (India)

Missed Span: 12 years, 129 days

Some missed Test cricket because of bans, some missed it because of switching allegiance but Lala Amarnath missed Test cricket because of war. Yes, before the Second World War, he played three Tests for India and was the first Indian to score a ton in Tests. However, he was unceremoniously sent back from the 1936 tour due to a tiff with the “selected” captain and thus missed more matches than his teammates due to the War. Little did Amarnath know that it would take him 12 years to represent his country again, but when he did he did it in style. He played 24 Tests for India, gave his country Surinder and Mohinder Amarnath and remained a legend till his death in 2000 at the age of 88.

Nawab of Pataudi (England/India)

Missed Span: 12 years, 10 days

He made his Test debut for England in an Ashes series in 1934, scored a century on Test debut and then refused to engage in the bodyline tactics because Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi was a gentleman and wanted to play the game fair and square. His career suffered and he played just three Tests for England, and returned to lead India just before independence, 12 years later. He was just 36 when his second innings with the game began but health issues prevented him from being a part of the sport on a permanent basis. He passed away in 1952 at the age of 42, but his legacy continued with his son Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi who led India and became known as Tiger Mak.

Gareth Batty (England)

Missed Span: 11 years, 137 days

Nobody has missed more Test matches between two appearances than Gareth Batty – he missed 142 Tests during the 11 years he didn’t represent England in Tests. The off-spinner couldn’t make it permanently into Tests because at first Ashley Giles was the leading English spinner, and later Graeme Swann replaced him. When it was Samit Patel’s chance to take over, he was declared unfit and Batty was recalled, first in limited overs and later in Tests. He was dropped for his average performance in 2005 against Bangladesh and it was the same team against which he was recalled in 2016. His inability to take five wickets in an innings in any of his nine Test matches, inability to score runs and the emergence of Moeen Ali cost him his place.

Gubby Allen (England)

Missed Span: 10 years, 345 days

Sir George ‘Gubby’ Allen was one of the few English cricketers who survived after refusing to bowl ‘bodyline’ in the infamous series. He went on to lead England at the highest level but when he lost the captaincy to Wally Hammond, he refused to participate in what was England’s last series before the WWII. He made a return to the Tests after nearly 11 years, against the West Indies. He didn’t perform as well as expected and retired after the series, but is remembered for his contribution to the game, most notably asking MCC to ban negative bowling in all forms of the game.

Fawad Alam (Pakistan)

Missed Span: 10 years, 259 days

And then there is Fawad Alam. No matter how he performs in the ongoing Test between Pakistan and England the left-handed batsman must be commended for his resilience that kept him in contention for a place in the Test side. When he last played Test cricket, many of the current generation’s legends weren’t even Test cricketers, and had he continued to represent Pakistan, who knows how many runs he would have amassed till now. He missed 88 Tests during his third and fourth appearance but one hopes that he is able to make up for the lost time and prove to his detractors that their decision to keep him out was not correct.


Omair Alavi ([email protected]) is a freelance broadcast journalist

Those who didn’t give up