It is so often the case when a player is said to be extremely talented, that he can overtake even the all-time greats of the game. However, in the process to achieve that legacy, something goes wrong down the line. And it makes the player believe that he is a failure. People would think he hasn’t delivered to his potential. Consequently, it’s almost time to bid goodbye to cricket for the player or hang around courtesy the belief that your captain or the selectors have in you.
When I thought about this, the first cricketer who I remember fits into the bill, is none other than Vinod Kambli. Kambli and his best friend, Sachin Tendulkar put up the highest partnership of 664 runs in a school match in 1988 of all-time, until it was broken in 2006 in Hyderabad.
Ever since then, many believed that Kambli was far more talented than Tendulkar. The comparisons began to grow after Kambli played his first ODI for India in 1991, two years after Tendulkar made his international debut. He had an amazing, almost a Bradmansque start to his career. He hit 4 centuries in his first 7 Tests for India. He also was at par with Tendulkar in ODIS as Tendulkar didn’t establish himself in the format, like the player he is today.
However, he lost his way soon. The ‘law of averages’ caught up with him. His weakness against the short ball was noticed by many teams, who used it in great effect. He was undisciplined and inconsistent which resulted in him being kicked out of the Indian team many a times.
He ended his Test career in 1995 only and ODI career in 2000. And Tendulkar has had a glorious 20-year long career, and till today he has dominated all bowling attacks in the world and given his best for India when it matters the most. So in the light of Mumbai cricket and Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli was a huge hype at the start of his career but could never live up to the expectations of the till-date unforgiving Indian fans.
Secondly, in the Indian sub-continent, another player who I can dwell upon is Mohammad Ashraful. The Bangladeshi batsman became a household name right after his debut Test. At just a tender age of 16, against a powerful Sri Lankan attack, Ashraful defied all the odds and scored 114 runs off 212 balls, which might have lost Bangladesh the match, but it did give the country a future to live for. However, as expected, Ashraful did not live up to the hopes that he had created with that knock.
His lean patch continued for another 3-4 years until he hit back with a cracking 158 against India at Chittagong. Ashraful then had a kind of a golden run for the next six months considering that he was not even 21. He scored a memorable century against Australia in England in 2005, creating an upset as Bangladesh won by 5 wickets.
Although Bangladesh did not make it into the finals of that triseries in England, yet it was widely believed that if Ashraful was in top form, the country could win some more matches against top teams. But then again, Ashraful lost his steam as he was dropped from the side during the ICC Champions Trophy in India. And then all of a sudden, after a good 2007 World Cup, Ashraful was selected as captain of his country at the age of 22! But again, it didn’t make a huge difference as his batting suffered still and his captaincy wasn’t up to the mark.
As a result, he was even dropped as captain from the 2009 World T-20 onwards. Currently, his place in the side is under scrutiny and I believe it is due to his experience of 10 years of international cricket that captain Shakib al Hasan and coach Jamie Siddons are persisting with him. If he doesn’t return to his best, and Bangladesh find an ideal, young batting star, it could be curtains to Ashraful, who has under-performed right throughout his career.
Bangladesh is developing as a cricketing nation, but had Ashraful been able to play knowing how much is he capable of, Bangladesh could have by now atleast been in the top 8 in the rankings of ODI cricket, if not Tests.
JP Duminy is another contemporary player that I can think of. Duminy was first spotted in 2004 where he made his ODI debut against Sri Lanka in Colombo. However, a strong batting line-up prevented Duminy to retain his place in the side after that series. Though, there was some hope for him.
Ashwell Prince got injured ahead of the tour of Australia in 2008. Duminy was sent in as replacement. And he took full advantage of this opportunity by scoring an important half-century, remaining unbeaten to steer South Africa to the victory post chasing a mammoth total of 414 on a fast track at Perth in the second innings. He then scored a match-winning 166 in the next Test at Melbourne.
A brilliant Test series was followed by impressive performances in the ODIS and T-20s against Australia in Australia as well as in South Africa, in the return series. This helped him earn a $950000 contract with the Mumbai Indians for a period of two years, making him one of the most expensive players in the IPL ever. However, there was nothing much to celebrate about from here on.
He didn’t live up to his value in the IPL 2 and IPL 3. He struggled in the home series against England in 2009 and in India in 2010. And currently, on the tour of West Indies, he isn’t favoured in the starting XI by captain Graeme Smith. So JP Duminy has found it tough going after an amazing tour of Australia, when he made his debut. But it is expected that he makes a good comeback and help South Africa become No.1 in all three formats of the game. Otherwise, the team is ready to give its batting reserves a crack at the international level, which could hasten the end of his career.
In the West Indies, the one player who I believe is a huge hype is Kieron Pollard. Pollard got known across the world as a dangerous all-rounder following a match-winning 51 runs of just 18 balls against New South Wales in the 2009 T-20 Champions League. This paved the way for a stint in the IPL 2010 with the Mumbai Indians, being the tournament’s most expensive player ever, if media reports are to be believed.
Pollard also signed a contract with South Australia, for the KFC Big Bash last season. However, statistics show that after the Champions League, Pollard has struggled to make it big for the West Indies side. He has scored 359 runs in 13 innings at an average of just 27.61, in one-day cricket, even though he has batted mostly either at 6 or 7 in the batting order. His condition in T-20s is worse when it comes to play for his country.
He has made 104 runs only in 10 innings. Even in the IPL, barring the last 3 games of the Mumbai Indians, Pollard certainly didn’t live up to the expectations of many as the most expensive player as his value was less whenever Mumbai won. And it was worse when they lost.
For South Australia as well, Pollard didn’t make a major contribution, but somehow they won the championship. Kieron Pollard is still sought-after due to his all-round abilities, which are crucial in the shorter formats of the game. Yet, if he doesn’t mature in time, like the other cricketers in the article, he too could face the axe by various teams which could make him face the dead end of his career.
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