Cricket is a game full of uncertainties. One can expect bizarre things to happen when he follows the sport. There can be last-minute thrillers, a wicket-keeper may roll his arms for an over or two in order to get a breakthrough, a lower order batsman could hit the ball out of the park or a part-time bowler may get a hat-trick or even a 5 wicket haul.
In some of the most unanticipated cases, a cricketer who had started his career as a bowler became a successful batsman and vice-versa. Many of these cricketers became somewhat weak in their primary skill due to one reason or the other and hence, started improving their other skill. In some rare cases, the player became a master of their ‘secondary skill’ and became well-known throughout the world for the ability which they didn’t possess during the initial stages of their career.
Here we present a list of 5 such players:
1. Steve Smith
Steve Smith. (Photo by Andy Kearns/Getty Images)
Steve Smith’s journey in international cricket has been on a roller-coaster ride since his debut. Originally drafted into the squad because of his leg break, he found himself batting at No. 3 for the Aussies a few years later. He made his debut for the Australian side in all the three formats in the year 2010. However, his selection to the Australian side raised a lot of eyebrows as he was still a raw talent having an experience of playing domestic cricket only for a couple of years.
He drew a lot of comparisons with Shane Warne earlier in his career. He was used as a leg-spinner who could bat at No. 7 or 8 in the batting line-up. However, the Ashes series in England in 2013 marked a turnaround in Smith’s career. He established himself as a proper batsman in that series. His unorthodox batting technique confused the opposition and worked wonders for the Australian team.
Smith has scored 6485 runs in 119 innings’ from 65 test matches at a magnificent average of 62.96 which includes 25 centuries and 2 double hundreds. The pinnacle of his career came in 2015 when he became the highest-ranked test batsman. In the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, he became the first batsman to score 5 fifty plus innings’ in consecutive matches. As a batsman, Smith has cemented his place in the ‘Fab four’ of the modern generation which includes his contemporaries Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson and Joe Root.
2. Cameron White
Cameron White. (Photo Source: PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images)
Just like his native counterpart, Cameron White started his career as a leg spinner. As Brad Hogg retired from International cricket, he was touted to be the best leg spinner in the country. He made his Test debut versus India in Bangalore and picked up Sachin Tendulkar as his first test victim. However, due to poor form, he was not considered for Tests after 2008.
White established himself as a batsman during Australia’s tour of England in 2009. He smashed his maiden ODI century in Southampton Thereafter; he went from strength to strength and became a mainstay in Australia’s batting line-up. He was also appointed as Australia’s T20 captain after Michael Clarke’s retirement from the format. However, he was soon dropped from the team as his form declined and he was succeeded by George Bailey.
In 91 ODIs, white has scored 2072 runs at an average of 33.97 with two tons while in the bowling department he could scalp only 12 wickets. He was rarely used as a bowler throughout his career and his name got archived in the chronicles of cricketing history as an explosive batsman.
3. Sanath Jaysuriya
Sanath Jayasuriya. (Photo Source: Stu Forster /Allsport)
The left-handed batsman from Sri Lanka is one of the greatest cricketers produced by the Island nation. The rise in his reputation as a feared batsman was one of the major reasons Sri Lanka became an immensely successful cricket team. However, the opening batsman from Sri Lanka had also originally started as a left-arm spinner. For the first five years of his career, he was considered as a bowler who could swing around the willow a bit.
However, later on, the graph of his career took the opposite direction as he rose above ranks and from a middle-order batsman; he was promoted to the opening position. Jayasuriya went on to become only the second batsman to score 13,000 runs in ODIs after Sachin Tendulkar.
He was named as the Most Valuable player in the 1996 ICC Cricket World Cup. He has scored 13,340 runs in 445 ODIs at an average of 32.13 and an impressive strike rate of 91.22. His 323 ODI wickets also speak volumes about his bowling capabilities. Sanath Jayasuriya is the classic example of a player who became a successful batsman after starting out as a bowler.
4. Shoaib Malik
Shoaib Malik. (Photo Source: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
The 37-year-old Pakistani cricketer recently hung up his boots in ODIs after a disastrous World Cup campaign. Throughout the 20 years of his career, Shoaib Malik had made a name for himself as a reliable middle-order batsman. However, at the age of 17 years, he made his International debut against West Indies as an off-spinner. He had a bowling action similar to Saqlain Mushtaq and could even bowl the ‘doosra’.
His bowling action came under suspicion during 2004 (which was cleared a few months later), however, the team persisted with him because of his batting talent. He made a Test hundred against New Zealand as an opener. The peculiar thing about Malik is his mind-boggling flexibility. He has done well as an opener, No. 3 batsman, middle-order batsman and even as a finisher.
He has scored 7534 runs in 287 ODIs at an average of 34.56 and has scalped 158 wickets. Malik came to be recognised as a better batsman than a bowler as his career progressed; so much so that he was not even considered as a proper bowling option in the later stages of his career.
5. Shahid Afridi
Shahid Afridi. (Photo by David Munden/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)
Shahid Afridi’s case is an unusual one and quite different from the others mentioned above. He was drafted into Pakistan’s squad as a 16-year-old due to his quickish leg-break. However, in just his second ODI, he smashed a 37 ball hundred against Sri Lanka which became the fastest ODI century- a record he retained for 17 years until Corey Andersen scored a 36 ball hundred in 2014.
Afridi had a strange batting style. He used to go after the bowlers from the very beginning no matter what the situation was. He was often criticised for his lack of temperament. However, he has made a name for himself as one of the best all-rounders produced by his country. As a bowler, he had an ability to rush through the overs. He could bowl quick leg-breaks along with the occasional googlies. His best bowling figures came against West Indies when he sent 7 of their batsmen back to the pavilion whilst conceding only 12 runs.
Despite his bowling capabilities, his popularity in the cricketing world was solely because of his aggressive and entertaining batting. In 398 ODIs, he has managed to score 8064 runs at a strike rate of 117.01. Interestingly, 5022 of these runs have come in the form of boundaries. The batting prowess of Afridi knows no bounds and his statistics are a proper indication of the fact.
~Written by Sanjam Singh Arora
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