This is a very arguable issue, not because of the subjective nature that it possesses but also for the unpredictable and ever evolving nature of the game. Often we come across players promising a lot with some sparkling performances at the nascent stages of their careers to eventually disappear from the horizon for once and for ever. Lets analyse self destruction of some of the most promising players who achieved far less than what they could have because they failed to evolve or adjust their temperaments or the tussles with the administration. Part I of THE FADED AND JADED GEMS OF CRICKET features three such gems.
No one can forget the baseball stance and home-run standard hitting from the willow that “ZULU” held. His hitting was by no means reckless swing of the bat , rather was clean and calculated. For someone who started his career at no. 11 and primarily as a bowler he came long way to show the glimpses of what amazed the world cricket for a brief period. He made his debut against India in 1996/97 and captured 8 wickets in the second innings to announce his arrival at the world arena.
He instilled fear amongst pace bowlers especially to perhaps the levels that Vivian Richards did in the one-day version of the game. The high point of his career is without a shadow of doubt the 1999 world cup in England where he was the man of the tournament and took South Africa closest that they have been to the cup that has eluded them for unfair reasons , though his mix-up with Allan Donald in their last encounter at the millennium’s last carnival in cricket should still be haunting the rainbow nation, but it’s trivial to put shadows over his accomplishments and finesse.
When you look at his career beyond the epoch he was troubled by a bad knee and an eye disorder that hampered his ability to see the white ball clearly under the floodlights, but he kept floating. The match-fixing fiasco did have questions being raised at a dropped catch against India and a lot more mental trauma and anxiety. The final blow came when his spat with the then newly appointed captain Greame Smith became public and his “difficult” nature was highlighted. He continued in the domestic circuit in England for another four years before disappearing in wilderness. But who could ever forget that stance or the pull shot out of the ground of a raw and fierce Shoaib Akhtar or that pulling of T-Shirt over the shoulders or the military-disciplined bowling action of his or the shear joy he brought to the spectators round the globe. One wonders if his case could have been taken care of in a better way by the erstwhile United Cricket Board of South Africa.
*Hughes leading a rebel tour.
Leading a side plagued by the deflection of the major stars to the World Series Cricket, Hughes did a wonderful job and held his ground. Its reasonable to believe that even Greg Chapel wouldn’t have done better with a depleted side as Australia was then. It was certainly not his fault if Ian Botham did what he did in 1981. When the “big-boys” of the world series cricket returned to the fold, he was not supported by his own teammates and there were factions within the Baggy-Green bearers for the very first time for there were legends under the young and not so accomplished player. What followed was another first for Australian cricket- A tearful resignation. He then led rebel tours to the banned South Africa for full fledged tours but he was truly a “solitary reaper” as far as the Aussies are concerned.
For the record and just for the record, Kambli still average 54.20 in test cricket with a shade under 2500 runs a record which any rookie stats guy would be proud in presenting. He had a lot of charisma and flamboyance both in his persona and strokeplay. Known more perhaps because of his association with Sachin Tendulkar now-a-days but he performed better than tendulkar , at-least in the Test match arena in the early nineties. So what caused his career into a nosedive? For once we have one-day cricket to blame. Though Kambli was very successful in Test match arena , he had patchy performances in the One-day version of the game which was the upcoming and “big” thing then , with the entire nation including the selection committee having an eagle’s eye over the shorter version the skew was obvious.
But still someone who had two double-centuries and two centuries in his first seven test matches and someone who overpowered Sachin Tendulkar in a 664 run stand in junior cricket and someone who smashed the great Shane Warne for 22 runs in an over and again someone who averaged in mid-fifties deserved better….And the rumours of casteism from the BCCI have not allayed as of yet. But it’s sad to note that India remembers him for the tears he shed at the 1996 world cup semi-final and for reality shows and not for his cricket. Agreed short pitch balls and dismissal at gully and his indiscipline were issues worth mentioning but his play would have outplayed them.