Mohammad Shahzad, Ijaz Ahmed, Steven Smith, ‘Young Jack’ Hearne, Asif Iqbal, Imran Khan, John R Reid, Bob Taylor, Andy Roberts, RP Singh Jr, James Anderson © Getty Images
Top row: Mohammad Shahzad, Ijaz Ahmed, Steven Smith, ‘Young Jack’ Hearne, Asif Iqbal. Bottom row: Imran Khan, John R Reid, Bob Taylor, Andy Roberts, RP Singh Jr, James Anderson © Getty Images

You have to feel for Imran Khan — no, not the one they call King Khan, but the other one of that name. Tradition probably demands he be referred to as Imran Khan Jr, as is the norm when namesakes grace the sport. To make things worse, a third Imran Khan had popped up in 2015 before vanishing into obscurity. He may not make a comeback, but you can never tell with Pakistan. At least the parents of Imraan Khan — who played a Test for South Africa against Australia in 2008-09 — added that extra A to their son’s name. Imran Jr’s parents were not as considerate, as an outcome of which he will have to bear the tag of “the other Imran Khan” unless he outdoes his illustrious predecessor in stature.

But this is not something restricted to the two Imran Khans. There are more, especially inter-family ones. For example, William Gilbert Grace used the same three words to christen his elder son; the fact that WG Grace Jr played cricket (alongside his father as well) did not help. Henry Edgar, the second son, stayed away from the sport, perhaps out of anger (he married a woman whose surname was Slaughter). Charles Butler Grace, the third, got away too, despite playing the sport.

Victor Trumper named his son Victor as well. Perhaps out of vengeance, Victor Trumper Jr named his son Victor; history remembers the latter as Victor Trumper III.

And then, there is the case of the Hardstaff family. Joseph ‘Joe’ Hardstaff of Nottinghamshire played 5 Tests, umpired in 21, and named his son Joseph. The son, Joe Hardstaff Jr, played 23 Tests, and the moment he rose in stature they added ‘Sr’ after his father’s name. Carrying on some obscure family tradition, Joe Jr named his son Joseph as well: with ‘Sr’ and ‘Jr’ both being taken, the son ended up without a suffix. Despite being the third of that name they refer to him as Joe Hardstaff. In other words, Joe Hardstaff Sr’s son was called Joe Hardstaff Jr, whose son was only Joe Hardstaff. Go figure.

Let us, however, keep these family complications out of the equation. Let us also ignore cases where nicknames have played a role in transforming cricketers into namesakes. For example, Charles Albert George Russell and Robert Charles Russell both acquired the nickname ‘Jack’. Let us not consider them.

Robin Singh and Robin Singh Jr miss out as well, since Robin Singh was actually Rabindra Ramanarayan Singh. There will be no Willie Watson for the same reason: while one of the greatest double-internationals to have played cricket was Willie, New Zealand’s ‘Wibbly’ was actually William Watson.

It is a well-known fact that Syed Zaheer Abbas Kirmani is known by his middle names. We will not include him or the man usually known as Syed Kirmani either. While still on the topic, let us not be too fussy about full names — though we will ignore the two JP Duminys (Jacobus Petrus and the more famous Jean-Paul).

The names also need to be spelled exactly the same way. Sydney and Sidney Barnes are disqualified as a result, as are Clare and Claire Taylor. For the same reason, Abdul Razzaq and Abdur Razzak, Abdul Qadir and Abdul Kadir, Junaid Siddique (Bangladesh) and Junaid Siddiqui (Canada), and Zeeshan Siddiqi (Canada) and Zeeshan Siddiqui (Oman) all miss out.

Let us also leave out cricketers who have not played at international level. Both people in the pair need to have played at least one Test, ODI, or T20I.

And family, we will also leave out cricketers named after other cricketers in the family. I know the Hardstaff clan will not be too happy about this.

Let us get going, then. For every pair (or group), let us retain the biggest name.

1. Mohammad Shahzad

Shahzad may be agriculturally ugly with bat, but you cannot doubt those spectacular numbers (a strike rate of 137 in T20Is, for example). By far the most prolific Afghan batsman at international level, Shahzad will also double as reserve wicketkeeper, if needed.

His namesake is from UAE. The two men have actually played in the same match on several times, albeit for different teams.

2. Ijaz Ahmed

Despite his queer stance, Ijaz Ahmed could be brutal on his day, as the Indians found out in an ODI in Karachi. Ijaz averaged over 45 against both Australia and England, and scored 6 of his 12 Test hundreds against Australia.

Ijaz Ahmed Jr had a relatively smaller career. The two Ijaz Ahmeds played together at international level twice, much to the dismay of the scorers.

3. Steven Smith

Less than a decade back the world had known only one of those names: Steven Barry Smith of New South Wales batsman scored 41 runs from 3 Tests in the mid-1980s and was quickly forgotten. He has pushed further into obscurity with the growth of Steven Peter Devereux Smith; his numbers are, after all, good enough for him to be rated after only Don Bradman these days.

4. ‘Young Jack’ Hearne

This was the most difficult choice of them all. John Thomas (‘JT’ Hearne) of Middlesex played 12 Tests for his 49 wickets at 22 — excellent numbers, no doubt. His tally of 3,061 First-Class wickets is behind only those of Wilfred Rhodes, Tich Freeman, and Charlie Parker. Surely he is a shoo-in?

His rival, John William ‘Young Jack’ Hearne, also of Middlesex, was a batting all-rounder. As we will see, the team does not need a world-class bowler, but a batsman who bowled. Not only did ‘Young Jack’ take 1,839 wickets (at 24.42), but also got 37,252 runs (at 40.98). He is one of only five men to have done the 35,000-run, 1,500-wicket double at First-Class level.

5. Asif Iqbal

Asif is one of those men who had better numbers (3,575 runs at 38.33, 53 wickets at 28.33 from 58 Tests) than people typically think. Eight of his 11 Test hundreds came overseas. And if you think he was merely a change bowler, here is a statistic: of the 54 times he has bowled in Test cricket, he has either taken the new ball or come on first-change 41 times.

Asif Iqbal Jr hailed from Bahawalpur. His only international match till date has been an ODI for UAE against Hong Kong.

6. Imran Khan (c)

This article had started with Imran and his two namesakes, both of whom have played for Pakistan as well. There is not much point writing about Imran, since there is little I can add after some of the greatest scribes across the world. Yes, Imran will lead the side.

7. John Reid (vc)

It is unfortunate that John Richard Reid had to be pushed to No. 7. He scored most his runs at Nos. 4 and 5, you see. Reid’s batting centred around solid technique and tremendous power, while he could bowl off-cutters, vicious bouncers, and even spin. He was also an excellent fielder. He kept wickets. He led New Zealand to their first three Test wins. Along with Bert Sutcliffe, Reid was the man who transformed them from a group of talented individuals to a formidable side. As if that was not enough, he was also part of the first known cricket match at the South Pole.

Make no mistake: John Fulton Reid, also of New Zealand, averaged 46.28 with bat. He crossed fifty eight times and converted 6 of them to hundreds. He did not thrive in Australia, but more than made up with an excellent 47.50 in the subcontinent. Indeed, it was a tough call to leave him out.

8. Bob Taylor (wk)

To put it simply, Robert William Taylor has the most First-Class dismissals (1,619) in history. What was more, he achieved this while playing for Derbyshire — never one of the greater counties. We would certainly have heard more of him had there been no Alan Knott. He was past 36 when he found a regular spot, and even then he finished with 174 dismissals at the highest level. They called him the Rolls Royce of wicketkeepers, so soundlessly he absorbed them in those gauntlets…

Robert Meadows Lombe ‘Rob’ Taylor played for Scotland in the 2015 World Cup and the 2016 World T20, but without much success.

9. Andy Roberts

With two bouncers (fast and deadlier, and faster and deadlier), Andy Roberts led the lethal West Indian attack of the 1970s till Michael Holding and others came along. On the field nobody saw him smile and few saw him talk, which added to the intimidating appearance of the man. Facing Anderson Montgomery Everton Roberts was not something batsmen looked forward to.

Andrew Duncan Glenn Roberts of New Zealand had the misfortune of not only being a namesake, but also a contemporary of the great man. Nevertheless, he played 7 Tests and an ODI.

10. Rudra Pratap Singh

The Rudra Pratap Singhs are worthy of making it to OMG! 10 amazing coincidences in cricket, you won’t believe what No. 7 is!

Only 13 left-arm seamers have opened bowling for India in international cricket. Only two of them are from Uttar Pradesh. Both of them are called Rudra Pratap Singh.

We will select the latter and more recent one, the one from Rae Bareilly who started with promise but faded out as the 2010s arrived. RP Singh Sr, for the uninitiated, played 2 ODIs in the 1980s. On debut he opened bowling with Kapil Dev — with whom he shares birthday. He loved coincidences.

11. James Anderson

James Michael Anderson bowled his first ball in international cricket in 2002. A century before that, in 1902, James Henry ‘Biddy’ Anderson played his only Test. He captained South Africa in that. He also played 3 Rugby Union Tests for South Africa (they called him Prince of South African three-quarters), but that will not be of much relevance here.

Squad: Mohammad Shahzad, Ijaz Ahmed, Steven Smith, ‘Young Jack’ Hearne, Asif Iqbal, Imran Khan (c), John R Reid, Bob Taylor (wk), Andy Roberts, RP Singh Jr, James Anderson.

Two other men will travel with the team:

Enamul Haque, who turned an international umpire in 2012; Enamul Haque Jr, still active in First-Class cricket, had also played for Bangladesh. Keeping up with Bangladeshi traditions of the past decade, both were left-arm spinners.

Rameez Raja will don the microphone. There was a Rameez Raja who played 2 ODIs in 2011, against Zimbabwe.