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Andy Whittall: The man who made his Test debut without playing domestic cricket at home

Andy Whittall took seven wickets in 10 Tests at 105.14 © Getty Images
Andy Whittall took seven wickets in 10 Tests at 105.14. He also took 45 wickets in 63 ODIs at 50.02 © Getty Images

Andrew Richard Whittall, born on March 19, 1973, was the cousin of Zimbabwean all-rounder Guy Whittall. While studying at Trinity College, Cambridge, Whittall played started playing for the university side and eventually got a call to play for Zimbabwe. Sudatta Mukherjee looks at the short career of off-spinner, who made his Test debut before playing any domestic cricket at home in Zimbabwe.

 

While studying at Trinity College, Cambridge, Guy Whittall’s cousin, Andy Whittall, the off-spinner got a chance to play for the university side. In the year 1993, Whittall played his first match for Cambridge University. He picked up three wickets and scored two runs. The next two seasons, he continued playing First-Class matches for Cambridge University.

In 1993, he scored 80 runs and 19 wickets from 10 matches; his highest score was 40 and best bowling figure was three for 79 against Sussex. Same year, in a miscellaneous match, Whittall picked up seven wickets in a match against Combined Services, while playing for Cambridge. That was his best performance that year.

 Next year, in 1994, he scored 193 runs and picked up 11 wickets from nine matches. His batting improved, but bowling didn’t click for him. In a match against Oxford University, while leading the team, he scored 40 in the first innings and unbeaten 91. When all the Cambridge batsmen were being disturbed by Richard Yeabsley, who picked up 10 wickets in the match, it was Whittall, who fought back. Whittall’s fight back helped Cambridge draw the match.

In 1994, Whittall played his first List A match in England. Playing for the Combined Universities against Lancashire in the preliminary round of the Benson and Hedges Cup, Whittall couldn’t get a chance to bat and only managed to pick up one wicket. His side, eventually, was knocked out of the tournament.

The season 1995-96 was a crucial one in Whittall’s career. It is this season, which could have helped him to get a call at national side. Whittall scored 312 runs and picked up 39 wickets from 15 First-Class matches. In a First-Class match against Nottinghamshire, he delivered which can be called as his best all-round performance in that particular season. Playing at home, Cambridge lost the toss and had to field first.

Despite Tim Robinson and Chris Cairns scoring  hundreds, Whittall managed to pick up four wickets in the first innings. Cairns came back during Cambridge’s innings and picked up three wickets. Helping him on the other side was Andy Afford, who also picked up three wickets. Cambridge were all out for 91. Nottinghamshire’s opener Mathew Dowman next romped and scored another 100 for the side. Cambridge needed 246 to win. In the second innings, the Cambridge batsmen failed again. However, Whittall and wicketkeeper-batsman Malcolm Birks’ unbeaten partnership forced the match to end in a draw. Whittall scored an unbeaten 81.

In 1996, Whittall got a call from the selectors. He was selected for the Singer World Series in Sri Lanka. Along with the team, Whittall travelled to Sri Lanka and thus became the first player in the history of cricket to represent the country in a foreign land before playing domestic cricket at home.

The team participating in the Singer World Series were Australia, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and India. It was only in the fifth match of the series that Whittall got the break against Sri Lanka. However, Zimbabwe faltered big time in the match. Whittall didn’t get a chance to bat in the match but ran out Asanka Gurusinha and took the prized wicket of the dangerous Arjuna Ranatunga.

Few days later, Whittall made his Test debut against Sri Lanka. In a match that was totally one-sided, Whittall scored 12 runs. The next Test was indistinguishable. Sri Lanka were pertinacious and Zimbabwe looked like debilitated side and Whittall couldn’t do much.

Unable to stand up to the expectations at a time when Zimbabwe had good all-rounders in the form of Guy Whittall and Paul Strang, Andy Whittall was dropped from the Test side. However, he was recalled to side in 1998, when he played seven Test matches, before finally being removed. His highest Test score was 17 and best bowling figure was three for 73 against Sri Lanka in 1998 at Kandy.

The off-spinner, albeit, continued playing One-Day Internationals (ODIs). He didn’t do much with the bat and was primarily the fourth or fifth bowler in the side. In four years, he played 63 ODIs and picked up 45 wickets. He had below par bowling average of 50.02 and batting average of 7.63.

His single standalone performance was against Kenta in the President’s Cup in 1997. Zimbabwe won the match 82 runs and Whittall was awarded the man of the match for picking of the top three wickets of the Kenyan side.

He played until 2000.

After his short cricketing career, he decided to move on and seek a career in sports management. Currently, he teaches mathematics and coaches the cricket team of the Tonbridge School in Kent, England.

(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricketCountry. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog and produces weekly posts on new food joints at Whopping Weekends. She played Table Tennis for University of Calcutta. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English serial on her laptop. Her Twitter id is @blackrosegal)

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