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Andrew Zesers: Promising Australia seamer whose career was beset by injuries

A group photograph of the 1987 World Cup winning squad of Australia. Andrew Zesers is standing third from right © Getty Images
A group photograph of the 1987 World Cup winning squad of Australia. Andrew Zesers is standing third from right © Getty Images

Andrew Zesers, born on March 11, 1967, is a former Australian medium-fast bowler. Zesers’s rise through the ranks was prominent and quick. He became the youngest Australian to take 100 First-Class wickets. He also part of the Australian squad that won the 1987 World Cup. But he retired at the age of 23 due to persistent shoulder injuries. Shrikant Shankar profiles his career.

Andris Karlis Zesers aka Andrew Zesers was born in Medindie, South Australia. He is the son of a Latvian-born construction worker. Zesers played for South Australia in his domestic career. He only played two One-Day Internationals (ODIs) for Australia. He had a very short career spanning just about six years. He retired early due to injury problems. But in that short career, Zesers achieved some great milestones.

Zesers was a right-arm medium-fast bowler. He batted right-handed. He began his First-Class career in 1984 with South Australia. He made his debut at the age of only 17 against Tasmania at the Adelaide Oval in November. Zesers took his first five-wicket haul in his very first season against Victoria in Adelaide. He followed first innings figures of five for 51 with a tenacious 85 off 218 deliveries with nine fours batting at No 9. That helped South Australia win the match by an innings and 94 runs. That remained his highest First-Class score.

He took 14 wickets in five matches in his first season. He then played 12 matches in his second season and took 40 wickets. Zesers took one five-wicket haul in his second season. His six for 73 came in a drawn game against Victoria at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in January 1986. Zesers played 11 matches in his third season and picked up 47 wickets. In the last match for South Australia that season, Zesers achieved a unique feat. He became the youngest Australian to get 100 First-Class wickets. He picked up two wickets in the first innings against Tasmania at the Adelaide Oval in March 1987. In the second innings he picked up three wickets. Bruce Cruse was his 100th wicket.

His impressive performances got him selected in the Australian squad led by Allan Border for the 1987 World Cup. The tournament was played in India and Pakistan. Zesers made his debut against India in New Delhi on October 22 in a Group A match. Border chose to field. Half-centuries from Sunil Gavaskar, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Dilip Vengsarkar and Mohammad Azharuddin helped India pile on a competitive 289 runs for six wickets in their 50 overs. Zesers went wicket-less and gave away 37 runs in nine overs. Despite a good start, Australia were bowled out for 233 runs in 49 overs. Zesers was unbeaten on two at No 10. India won by 56 runs.

Zesers then played against New Zealand at Chandigarh on October 27 in another Group A match. Border again won the toss, but elected to bat first. Geoff Marsh’s century and Dean Jones’s half-century helped Australia to 251 for eight in 50 overs. Zesers came in at No 10 and was unbeaten on eight. New Zealand started well in their run-chase. They were 127 for two when Zesers picked up his only wicket in international cricket. He caught and bowled John Wright for 61. The Kiwis came close, but were eventually bowled out for 234 as the Aussies won by 17 runs. Zesers was expensive conceding 37 runs in only six overs.

He was dropped for Australia’s next match against Zimbabwe. Australia then played the semi-final against Pakistan at Lahore and won by 18 runs. Australia then beat England by a narrow margin of seven runs at Eden Gardens in Kolkata to lift their first World Cup title. It was a great moment for Zesers just to be part of that historic triumph. But he never played again for Australia. Persistent shoulder injuries cut short his First-Class career as well. He picked up only 41 wickets in his next three seasons combined.

Zesers retired at the age of only 23 years. He played in 45 First-Class matches and picked up 142 wickets at an average of 30.44. He got four five-wicket hauls with a best of seven for 67 against Victoria in February 1987. Zesers played only 15 List A matches and picked up 10 wickets. He later took to coaching after his playing days. His career started off with great promise, but was hampered due to injuries. But even in that short period, Zesers achieved two great milestones. One was being the youngest Australia to 100 First-Class wickets and the second being a World Cup winner for Australia.

(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)

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