Would Padmakar Shivalkar be considered among the best left-arm spinners of his day? Wouldn’t it make sense to rank Vince van der Bijl ahead of Rodney Hogg as a fast bowler, although the former never played Test cricket? Arunabha Sengupta lists 20 cricketers who were the best of their day, but never got to play at the highest level.
When Shane Warne released his selection of 100 best cricketers he had played with, it raised a fair number of eyebrows.
It was when one went down the list that people started voicing their reservations. Darren Lehmann, with a very few Test matches under his belt, was slotted at No 31, while the great Kapil Dev could make it only at 43. Darren Berry, with not a single Test cap came at No 80, while Sourav Ganguly with 113 could just about squeeze in at No 96.
When asked, Warne explained that it was based on the cricketers he had watched. At the First- class level, both Lehmann and Berry were great cricketers, although their Test opportunities had been respectively limited and non-existent.
Which raises a very pertinent question. When we tabulate the greatest of the day, be it batsmen, fast bowlers, wicket-keepers or spinners, is it sufficient to analyse just the Test playing names? Are there some greats who never managed to play on the big stage because of unfortunate circumstances? It would have been hard to break into the great West Indian side of the 70s and 80s even if one was better than anything the rest of the world had seen. Besides, what about the South Africans of the apartheid era?
Would Padmakar Shivalkar have been chosen as one of the best left-arm spinners of his day? Clive Rice as the best all-rounder?
Given below is a list of 20 splendid cricketers who never played Test cricket, but stand head and shoulders above some very good ones of any era.
1. Charles Kortright – The fastest bowler of all time. According to some anecdotes, in a club match at Wallingford, he bowled a ball which reared up and passed over the boundary without bouncing again – perhaps the only six byes in cricket history! William Gunn confessed that the ball with which Kortright bowled him in the Gentlemen-Players match at Lord's was a yard faster than any other of his experience. And once, after WG Grace had batted on and on, using his personal magnetism to keep the quivering umpire from giving him out, Kortright had knocked two of his stumps down and said, “Surely you are not leaving, doctor, there’s one stump still standing.”
In 170 First-class matches, he dismissed 489 batsmen at 21.05 apiece. He was also good enough to score two hundreds with the bat.
2. Bart King – By some distance the greatest cricketer produced by United States of America, King was also a great character. His reputation outside America was largely built by his three tours of England with The Philadelphians in 1897, 1903 and 1908. He bowled very fast in his early days, and developed the ability to swing the ball late from leg. Eyewitnesses such as Pelham Warner, CB Fry and HV Horden ranked him amongst the greatest of bowlers.
In all First-class matches he scalped 415 wickets at 15.67, while also scoring over 2000 runs.
3. Claude Tozer was a precocious New South Wales schoolboy cricketer who would have played many more matches had it not been for the demands of medical school. His prime was spent during the First World War, after which he returned home to become a General Practitioner. He also began to make his mark in First-class cricket. However, on December 21, 1920 he was shot and killed by his deranged mistress.
The one season after the Great War that he played saw him score 514 runs at 46.72, with one hundred and five fifties in seven matches.
4. Emrys Davies – “I suppose that among his generation there was no more popular cricketer than Emrys,” wrote EW Swanton. His career spanned 31 years for Glamorgan with his benefit held in 1938.
Swanton added, “The phrase 'Nature's gentleman' could have have been invented for Emrys.” A slow left-arm orthodox spinner as well as a capable left-handed batsman, he took 903 wickets at 29.30, while also scoring 26,564 runs at 27.90 with 32 centuries.
5. Edgar Oldroyd of Yorkshire was known in some quarters as being 'the best sticky-wicket batsman in the world'. Playing with quite elegant poise against awkward bowling, whenever the bowler erred, he would execute off-drives of superb style and timing. Men of much less distinction have been picked for England. From 1910-1931, he scored 15,925 runs with 36 centuries at 35.15, a rather decent average in that era.
6. Jack Newman was a splendid medium-fast bowling all-rounder, the mainstay of the Hampshire side. In 1909, against Monty Noble’s Australians, he captured a hat-trick for his county. From 1906-1930, he scored 15,364 runs at 21.57 while taking 2054 wickets at 25.02.
7. Thomas Wass bowled Nottinghamshire to the county championship in 1907, and was the mainstay of the side with his fast medium bowling and occasional leg breaks. A constant feature for a long time in Trent Bridge with his characteristic run-up and incisive deliveries, he took 1666 wickets at 20.47.
8. Mahadevan Sathasivam was a superb batsman hailing Ceylon long before the island had gained Test status. Gary Sobers called him "the greatest batsman ever on earth," while Frank Worrell said that he was "the best batsman he had ever seen." Known as an artist at the wicket, he was perhaps the only man to captain three national teams – Ceylon, Malaysia and Singapore. His life was marred by a morbid court case related to the murder of his wife. In the limited number of First-class matches he played, he scored a double hundred with an average over 40.
9. Peter Sainsbury was another slow-left arm bowler of quality who could also bat well enough to hit seven hundreds for Hampshire. Unfortunately for him, his 22-year career coincided with the heydays of Tony Lock and Derek Underwood. Nevertheless, he managed 1,316 wickets at 24.14 while scoring a creditable 20,176 runs at a healthy 26.86.
10. Padmakar Shivalkar – A sublime left arm spinner, Shivalkar’s career overlapped that of Bishan Bedi in a cruel juxtaposition of joy and sorrow. While the legendary batsmen of Bombay learnt their skills against balls turning away from the bat by playing Shivalkar in the nets, the man himself never got through to the national team. However, 589 wickets at 19.69 does indicate he was right up there with Bedi, Underwood and Iqbal Qasim as one of the best left arm spinner of his time.
11. Rajinder Goel – Yet another left-arm spinner to be unlucky enough to have played during the time of the spin quartet, Goel broke every bowling record in Indian domestic cricket. In a 27-year career for Haryana and North Zone, he ended with an unprecedented 750 wickets at 18.58.
12. Clive Rice – A fantastic all-rounder who was easily at par with Imran Khan, Ian Botham, Kapil Dev and Richard Hadlee, Rice unfortunately never managed to play a Test match due to the isolation of South Africa. When the country returned the international scene he was already 42. And though he led the side in the historic One-Day International series marking their re-entry, the nation looked for younger blood and by the time Test matches came about he was no longer in the scheme of things. For Transvaal and Nottinghamshire, however, his figures were fantastic. He scored 26,331 runs at 40.95, with some of the most savage cutting ever seen in the game. He also captured 930 wickets at 22.49 with his seamers –sometimes bowled with genuine pace.
13. Vince van der Bijl – Perhaps the best fast bowler not to have played Test cricket. Chosen for the cancelled Australian tour of 1971-72, he bowled with amazing stamina and accuracy, gaining distressing bounce by hurling them down from his 6 feet 7 and a half inch. Of a deceptive, amiable appearance, he was described by John Arlott as looking like Lord Longford "only not nearly as forgiving". For Middlesex, Natal and Transvaal, he captured 767 wickets at a mind-boggling average of 16.54.
14. Ken McEwan – A batsman of great promise, McEwan was another South African to miss out because of the apartheid related boycott. A slightly built man with exceptional sense of timing, he played First-Class cricket in England, Australia and South Africa, scoring 26628 runs at an average of 41.73.
15. Garth Le Roux was yet another great South African whom the world never got to see. A big, powerful fast bowler, his entire career coincided with the wilderness of his country in the sporting arena. He showed a glimpse of what might have been during the rebel tours, emerging as one the many fiery little-used weapons in the country’s arsenal. For Sussex and Western Province, he played for over a decade, picking up 838 wickets at 21.24, at a fantastic strike rate of 47. He was also a good enough batsman to average in the mid-20s.
16. Franklyn Stephenson was a victim of being born in an era dominated by Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding and Colin Croft. He also did not help his cause by touring South Africa in the early 1980s. Tall, strapping, and sporting a beard and sunny smile, Stephenson mixed fiery pace and swing with a moon-ball slower delivery that frequently crashed into the base of the stumps while bewildered batsmen ducked for cover. He was also a decent batsman, with as many as 12 First-Class centuries. Playing in England, Australia, South Africa and his native West Indies, he ended with 792 wickets at 24.26. He is now a successful golfer.
17. Jamie Siddons – Perhaps the greatest Australian First-Class cricketer never to win a Test cap, Siddons appeared in just one ODI scoring 32 against Pakistan at Lahore. Associated more with the national team as a coach, he played in the domestic arena for 16 seasons, scoring 11587 runs at 44.91.
18. Darren Berry – Moving to Victoria in 1990, Berry kept wickets with efficiency laced with brilliance, especially to a young leg spinner who turned the ball a long, long way. It is little wonder that he earned enormous respect from his state-mate Shane Warne. Berry could not elbow his way into the Australian side ahead of Ian Healy and Adam Gilchrist, but nevertheless ended with 552 catches and 51 stumpings, as well as four First-Class centuries.
19. David Hussey – It looks increasingly likely that David Hussey will go down as the greatest modern batsman not to have played Test cricket. While brother Michael did manage the Test cap at an advanced age, the younger Hussey has become a familiar face with his aggressive batting in the overs-limit formats. But, while a Test cap may elude him, he has excellent credentials for the longest version, having amassed over 12000 runs in First-class cricket at over 54, and at an extremely healthy 70 plus strike rate.
20. Ryan ten Doeschate – One can’t control the destiny of birth, but had he been eligible to play Test cricket, he could have walked into any side. As if an average of 67 with a strike rate of 87.70 in ODIs is not enough, he also has 55 wickets at 24.12. In Essex, he generates pulsating excitement with his huge hitting, skiddy bowling and winning smile. But, it is not all crash and bang. In First-class cricket, this Dutchman has nearly 6,000 runs at 47.15, with 18 centuries and a highest of 259, along with his 173 wickets.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix