Cricket has long enjoyed massive following and with the advent of social networking and micro-blogging sites, the popularity and following of cricketers has reached to a completely different level altogether. These days the fans keep a tab of every small thing happening in their favourite cricketers lives both on and off the field. While they are aware of their favourite player s skills, i.e. whether he is a brilliant bowler, batsman or a fielder, they are largely unaware of their skills outside cricket. For example, things like a cricketer s hobbies and educational qualification remain lesser-known. Fans hardly know how educated their favourite stars are.

On Friday, when the second Test between Bangladesh and England went underway, 24-year-old all-rounder Zafar Ansari made his Test debut for the visitors. While avid followers of the game know that he is a left-arm spinner and a handy batsman, very few are aware that he has a double first from Cambridge University in politics and sociology. Besides, as of last year, he was writing a 40,000-word dissertation on the Deacons of Defence, a little known group involved in the Civil Rights struggle in America. This information on Ansari prompts us to take a look back at some of the most educated people who have graced the wonderful game of cricket. Chinmay Jawalekar takes us through their profiles here:

1. WG Grace: The father of cricket, WG Grace was a general physician who practiced quite regularly despite his busy cricketing schedule. As is well-known, he was referred to as The Doctor almost as much as he was known by his real name and once even saved an opposition player s life during a match. Cricket s first poster-boy, Grace played a mammoth 870 First-Class games including 22 Tests.

WG Grace    Getty Images
WG Grace Getty Images

2. Dr Ali Bacher: A man known for his administrative acumen and astute leadership skills, Bacher played 12 Tests for South Africa. He too was a doctor, and practised medicine till 1979.

3. Monty Noble: Noble, regarded by many as the greatest all-rounder in the history of Australian cricket, played 42 Tests between 1898 and 1909 besides a career in banking. But as he became busy with cricket, he had to let go of his bank job. He was also a qualified dentist and in the later years, a lecturer on cricket, a job that helped him gain wide popularity in Australia.

4. Mike Brearley: Former England captain Mike Brearley is perhaps the most scholarly mind to have pursued the game of cricket. Brearley, who played 42 Tests and 25 ODIs for England, had a first in Classics and a 2:1 in Moral Sciences at Cambridge. Following retirement, he has pursued a career as a writer and psychoanalyst, also serving as President of the British Psychoanalytical Society for the period 2008 10.

Mike Brearley    Getty Images
Mike Brearley Getty Images

5. EAS Prasanna: When BCCI Secretary M Chinnaswamy had tried to convince the father of EAS Prasanna to let his son become a part of the West 1961-62 Indies tour, Prasanna Sr allowed him on one condition his son would have to go through an engineering test. His father passed away soon after he returned home. To keep his promise, Prasanna obtained a degree from National Institute of Engineering and got a 300-rupees job at ITI. He resumed his career only after a hiatus of almost 5 years.

6. Anil Kumble: Former Test captain and the current head coach of Team India, Anil Kumble graduated with a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rashtreeya Vidyalaya College of Engineering (RVCE). Kumble, who holds the record of most Test wickets by an Indian bowler, is one of the most well educated cricketers around and also a recipient of one of India s highest civilian honours the Padma Shri.

7. Javagal Srinath: Former Indian bowler and currently an ICC Match Referee, Srinath holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Instrumentation Technology from Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering (SJCE), Mysuru. The only Indian fast bowler to have taken more than 300 wickets in ODIs, Srinath is one of the most respected cricketers around and also a recipient of the prestigious Arjuna Award in 1999.

8. Rahul Dravid: Former Indian captain and one of the all-time greatest batsmen, Dravid has a Graduate Degree in Commerce from St Joseph s College of Commerce in Bangalore. The Wall , as he is fondly known as, Dravid was named in the Indian team when he was pursuing his MBA in St Joseph s College of Business Administration. It is his perhaps his education that makes him the gentleman that he is.

9. Kumar Sangakkara: The greatest batsman to ever come out of the island nation, Sangakkara too is one of the most educated players. He completed his schooling from Trinity College, an elite private boys school situated in Kandy. He was the Head Boy of school and was also awarded the highest honour of Trinity College, the Ryde Gold Medal, for the best all-round student. He later pursued a degree in the Arts stream in 1996 and enrolled for a degree in Law at the University of Colombo, but was unable to finish it due to his cricket commitments.

Kumar Sangakkara    AFP
Kumar Sangakkara AFP

10. Imran Khan: Pakistan s World Cup winning captain in 1992 and undoubtedly the greatest ever cricketer to come out of the nation, Imran received privileged education. He was educated at Aitchison College in Lahore and the Royal Grammar School Worcester in England, where he learned his cricket. In the year 1972, he got himself enrolled in Keble College, Oxford where he studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics, graduating with honours degree in 1975.

11. Geoff Lawson: One of the fastest ever bowlers to play cricket, former Australian cricketer-turned-coach Geoff Lawson was an optometrist by profession. He played 46 Tests and scalped 180 wickets at 30.56 with 11 fifers.

12. Chris Harris: A gritty all-rounder, who served the New Zealand cricket team for most part of the 1990s and early part of 21st century s first decade, Harris is also a qualified doctor. The slow-bowling all-rounder, who though played only 23 Tests but was a regular with the ODI side (he was the first New Zealand bowler to reach the 200-wicket mark), was also a medical representative.

13. Ravichandran Ashwin: Moving to the current lot of cricketers, ace Indian off-spinner Ashwin is one of the most educated brains in cricket. He holds a Bachelors degree in Information Technology from the reputed SSN College of Engineering in Chennai. He completed his schooling from Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan (PSBB) and St Bede s, both the institutions having a reputation for providing quality education. After his graduation, he even worked with Cognizant Technology Solutions, a reputed IT company, before turning focus to cricket.

Ravichandran Ashwin    Getty Images
Ravichandran Ashwin Getty Images

14. Misbah-ul-Haq: Current Pakistan captain in Tests, Misbah is an MBA from the Lahore University of Management and Technology. No wonder he has been exceptional in leading the most mercurial side in world cricket with distinction.

15. Murali Vijay: India s current Test opener Vijay too is a highly educated guy. He has a Post Graduate Degree in Economics from the renowned SRM University.

Notable mentions: Former Indian players Amay Khurasiya and Aavishkar Salvi also boast of exceptional academic qualifications. Khurasiya, a left-handed batsman who was a part of the Indian team for the 1999 World Cup (and a quizmasters favourite for being the first man to score two 99s in a First-Class match), has the rare distinction of clearing the highly-regarded IAS before being picked to play for India.

Mumbai and India pacer Salvi, on the other hand, was perhaps one of the most educated cricketers in his playing days. He had a Post Doctorate degree in Astrophysics, a rarity in this field. Salvi, whose bowling style was modelled on Glenn McGrath s, played 4 ODIs for India.

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is a senior writer with CricketCountry. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed here @CricfreakTweets)