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Opinion

A Test team of players who never played any Tests

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Roar Guru
7th August, 2020
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A few weeks ago I wrote an article for The Roar where I formed a strong Test team of 12 players picking up exactly one player from each full member nations of ICC.

I am going to do the same again here, except that here none of the players have ever played an official Test match for their country. All of them probably had the talents to become Test match players, but luck wasn’t in their favour.

Players like Mahadevan Sathasivam (Sri Lanka) and Arthur Fisher (New Zealand) had ended their playing career well before their respective countries were granted Test status. Some promising careers failed to progress properly due to political reasons. And, of course, there were many excellent cricketers who were denied proper recognition due to the availability of excessive talents in their country during their playing time.

So, here is my team.

John Langridge (England)
With a history of organised first-class cricket of at least 125 years, and with the high number of first-class teams, England has a long list of candidates for this team. From about a dozen probable, I have selected the Sussex opener, who played first-class cricket with distinction on either side of WWII.

He was a consistent run getter for Sussex, eventually ending his first-class career with 76 hundreds. He was also a useful medium-pace bowler and a brilliant slip fielder. Sadly, England cricket was filled with highly capable top-order batsmen in the 1930s. When he was finally selected for the scheduled tour to India in the 1939-40 series, the winds of war blew away his international prospects.

After retiring as a player in 1955, he became a highly respected umpire, officiating in seven Tests and eight ODIs.

Raqibul Hasan (Bangladesh)
He came very close to playing Test cricket. He was the 12th man in a Test match, not for Bangladesh – but for Pakistan.

Raqibul, a short opening batsman, was born in 1953 at Dacca, then part of East Pakistan. Throughout the 1950s, the East Pakistan cricket was dominated by the Urdu-speaking non-Bengalis; most of them came to Dacca from India following the partition of 1947.

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The local cricketers, however, started to establish themselves in the 1960s. Raqibul was the 12th man for Pakistan at Dacca against NZ in November 1969. Then in February 1971, he played for the Pakistan team against a touring International XI led by Micky Stewart of England. Although he failed in both innings, scoring one on each occasion, he was expected to make the Pakistan team for the England tour in the summer.

But the political situation of East Pakistan changed his prospects. As East Pakistan declared their independence on March 26, emerging as a new nation of Bangladesh, Raqibul – like millions of other Bengalis – had to flee to Calcutta, India, to save his life. He returned in December to learn that a number of his family members had been killed.

Also, Haleem Chowdhury, his regular opening partner for East Pakistan, had also died. Haleem Chowdhury is now known commonly as Shahid Jewel. There is a Shahid Jewel stand at the Mirpur Stadium.

Raqibul was devastated. But he recovered and played a leading role in establishing the cricketing structure of the newborn country. And in 1986, in the second Asia Cup in Sri Lanka, he made his ODI debut, ironically against Pakistan. In his two ODIs for Bangladesh he scored a total of 17 runs. He also represented the Tigers in three ICC trophy tournaments.

Mahadevan Sathasivam (Sri Lanka)
Sir Garry Sobers described him as “the greatest batsman ever on earth”, while Sir Frank Worrell called him “the best batsman he had ever seen”. After these eulogies statistical details become irrelevant.

Still, for the record, he averaged almost 42 with the bat in his short first-class career of 11 matches. Born in 1915, his playing days were long before Sri Lanka was granted Test match status in 1982.

He made his Ceylon debut in 1945 and was made the captain in 1948. He also captained the Singapore and Malaysia national cricket teams.

It was a straight fight between Satha and his great rival Fredrick De Saram for the Lankan place in my team, and in the end it was the comments of the great West Indian players that tilted the decision in Satha’s favour.

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Both Sathavisam and De Saram are folk heroes of Lankan cricket, but they can be described as tragic heroes as well. Both of them suffered personal tragedies in their lives.

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(Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Raees Mohammad (Pakistan)
Raees was the only one of the five Mohammad brothers not to represent Pakistan. Interestingly, their mother always considered him to be the most stylish when it came to batting, and surely her neutrality regarding this is unquestionable.

Again, he came very close. On January 1, 1955, Pakistan played their first ever home Test match, against India at the newly built Dacca stadium. The previous evening, Hafiz Karder, the Pakistan captain, told Raees go to bed early, which suggested that he would play in the Test. But, in the morning, everyone found out that Maqsood Ahmed had flown in from Lahore to take Raees’ place.

Raees remained in the fringes, but never made it. On one occasion, his case was rejected by a selector shouting, “How many Mohammads do you want in one team?”.

In February 1984, I saw two of his sons Asif and Shahed play at Dacca, representing the PIA team, led by their uncle Mushtaq.

Jamie Siddons (Australia)
Just like England, Australia has a long list of probable candidates. And in the end, Shane Warne’s high respect for Siddons’ talents played a part in his selection in my team.

In a long first-class career between 1984 to 2000 with Victoria and South Australia, Siddons scored more than 10,000 runs at an average of almost 45. But he came into the picture in the wrong time.

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Initially, he had to fight with Dean Jones and the Waughs for a middle-order berth. He was in outstanding form in 1992-93 with SA, but the selectors went for younger talents like Damien Martyn and Justin Langer.

So, Siddons ended up playing just one ODI for Australia. But he has achieved considerable success as a coach in the international level.

Kevin Curran (Zimbabwe)
All-rounder Curran was a vital member of the Zimbabwe team that won only one of their six fixtures in the 1983 World Cup, but impressed everyone with their overall cricket. In the historic win against Australia, he played a good support role to his skipper. In fact, the 70-run sixth-wicket stand between Duncan Fletcher and Curran started the Zimbabwe recovery, which eventually led to the famous victory. With the ball he took 1-38 from nine overs. He had the big scalp of Allan Border.

Then he produced a fine all-round show against India at Turnbridge Wells, scoring 73 with the bat and taking 3-65. But his efforts were overshadowed by the brilliance of the Indian captain.

The importance of Curran to the Zimbabwe team became apparent to me during the 1987 World Cup. He wasn’t remotely close to being fully fit during the event on the subcontinent – but the demand from his team meant that he played in five of the six matches.

By that time of course, he had joined Gloucestershire in county cricket. He also had a spell with the Northants. It was Mike Proctor who had suggested Curran as his successor at Grace Road.

Zimbabwe earned their Test status in 1992, but Curran was at the time close to completing his criteria to qualify as an England player and didn’t want to jeopardise the situation. However, later he served Zimbabwe cricket in a coaching facility.

He comes from a true cricketing family. His father, Kevin Curran Senior, played first-class cricket for Rhodesia. And his sons are now serving English cricket well.

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Franklyn Stephenson (West Indies)
In the final match of the 1988 county season, Stephenson, the Barbados-born Notts all-rounder, took 11 wickets with his right-arm fast bowling and scored centuries in both innings against Yorkshire. In the process he completed his season double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets, the first player to do so since Sir Richard Hadlee in 1984. Overall, Stephenson represented six different first-class teams from different parts of the world, starting with Tasmania in Australia.

Overall his first-class record shows more than 8000 runs averaging 28 runs per innings, and almost 800 wickets at 24 apiece.

But he never played for the West Indies. His prospects were badly dented when he toured South Africa in the early 1980s with the rebel West Indies team. Though the ban was lifted in 1989, he never got a call from the Windies’ national selectors.

Abdul Aziz Durani (Afghanistan) (wicketkeeper)
Abdul Aziz, the father of Indian Test cricketer Salim, is generally regarded as the first Afghan cricketer. He was born in 1905, and with no organised cricket in Afghanistan, he had to travel to India to play in the Ranji Trophy. And eventually, he settled in British India.

I must add that though he was born in Afghanistan, his family background was in Sindh in British India. At one stage during the 19th century a part of the family moved to Afghanistan to seek better business fortunes. So, settling back in India wasn’t such a big problem for his family. Also, he got support from the ruling Jadeja family of Nawanagar.

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A wicketkeeper and a right-hand bat, he made his first-class debut playing for Sindh in 1932. But he reached his peak while playing for Nawanagar (Jamnagar) during the 1936-38 period. With his new team, Aziz won the Ranji Trophy in 1936-37. He also represented the Indian team in two unofficial Tests against an Australian team led by Jack Ryder in the 1935-36 season.

Despite his success as a first-class cricketer, he is best known for his coaching success. After the partition of India he moved to Karachi, although his family stayed in Jamnagar. Master Aziz became a famous and a successful cricket coach in Karachi. His most famous pupil was Hanif Mohammad.

Arthur Fisher (New Zealand)
Fisher was a left-arm pace bowler and a useful lower-order right-hand bat. He made his Kiwi debut in the late 19th century. While many of the early top Kiwi cricketers were born in England or in Australia, Fisher was truly a Kiwi product; he was born in Nelson, on the South Island.

In 1896-97, he took 9-50 in the first innings against a touring Queensland team. The Aussies were impressed, and he was offered a trial with the Australian Test team in 1897-98. But the hard wickets of Melbourne didn’t suit him.

But he remained a menace for all the batsmen in NZ conditions, and in his overall first-class career he took almost 200 wickets at an impressive average of 16.38.

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(Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Vince Van der Bijl (South Africa)
South Africa’s isolation lasted for more than two decades starting from the early 1970s, and that resulted in a number of very strong candidates for my team. I considered both Clive Rice and Garth Le Roux, but eventually opted for this tall fast bowler from Cape Town.

He was selected to tour Australia in 1971-72, but the tour was cancelled. After enjoying great success with Natal for over a decade, he joined the country side Middlesex in 1980 and played a big part in them winning the title that season.

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His first-class record is most impressive: 767 wickets at 16.54 each. A classic case of what might have been.

Rajinder Goel (India)
It was a coin toss between Goel and his contemporary Padmakar Shivalkar. Both were left-arm spinners who took loads of wicket in India’s domestic cricket, both represented India in unofficial Tests, but neither became a Test cricketer mainly due to the presence of Bishan Bedi.

In the end, Goel got my vote because he came the closer. At Bangalore in 1974, with Bedi suspended due to disciplinary reasons, Goel was all set to make his debut against Clive Lloyd’s West Indies. But a last-minute change on the morning of the Test saw off spinner Venkat replace him, and India went in to the Test with two off spinners.

Goel never got a chance again. In a long Ranji Trophy career with Southern Punjab, Delhi and Haryana, Goel took 637 wickets, still a tournament record by some distance. His overall first-class bowling average of 18.58 is most impressive. Goel died on 21 June, 2020.

Dermott Monteith (Ireland) (12th man)
Here is another left-arm orthodox spinner who was just happy to go along with his job without caring much about recognition.

Still, he enjoys a legend status in Irish cricket for his regular presence in the national team for almost two decades starting from 1965.

He was almost 40 when he got a call from Middlesex in 1981, the London county signed him as a back-up for John Emburey and Phil Edmonds who were expected to feature regularly in the Ashes series, and Monteith did a more than adequate job whenever he was given the chance.

In the previous winter, he had toured Bangladesh with the MCC team. And the series saw a fascinating battle between him and the Bangladesh top-order batsmen. At Chittagong, in the first unofficial Test, the local boys got the better of him. On a flat track, Raqibul scored 78 not out and was denied a hundred by the infamous weather of Chittagong. But then on the slow-turning tracks of Rajshahi and Dacca, we saw the best of the Irish spinner.

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After retiring as a player, Monteith continued to serve Ireland cricket as a selector and as an administrator.