Often in Test cricket, the players with an intimidating style of play end up grabbing the limelight. They get a lot of appreciation from pundits as well as their teammates. A chunk of the focus remains on them as they keep decimating oppositions with sheer disdain.
The fact these names top the charts in the rankings help them make a name for themselves and grow in stature in the sport. But there are cricketers, who aren’t as popular as their counterparts. Nevertheless, when it comes to utility, they are good enough to be trusted without any inhibition.
They are mostly happy playing under the shadows of the big names and never complain about not getting enough attention. Meanwhile, it’s an absolute delight to see them weaving magic with sheer grace and elegance.
In the article, let’s take a look at five underrated cricketers in Test cricket
Dimuth Karunaratne- Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka have been inconsistent in Tests in the batting department ever since the retirement of Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakkara and other stalwarts. But one man, who has provided stability in that aspect is Dimuth Karunaratne.
The southpaw shows a calm demeanor, both as the skipper and batsman owing to which the Islanders have beaten the likes of South Africa and New Zealand in 2019. Back in August, the Colombo-born was the leading run-scorer versus the Black Caps with 247 runs at an average of 61.75.
His 122 in the second innings of the Galle Test helped Lanka chase down 268, the highest run-chase at the venue. Karunaratne was appointed as the stand-in skipper back in February, replacing Dinesh Chandimal and it’s likely that he will stay as the captain after how he has done of late.
Chris Woakes doesn’t crank up the pace like Jofra Archer, neither can he generate prodigious movement like veteran James Anderson off the pitch. Yet, the Warwickshire-born is a utility player as he silently chips in on a consistent basis, despite not being intimidating to the naked eye.
In 31 Tests since 2013, the 30-year-old has 88 wickets with three five-wicket hauls and one ten-fer to his name. His best Test figures of 6/17 came versus Ireland in July at the Lord’s. He relishes playing at the Home of Cricket, having picked up 27 wickets in 10 innings.
His other six-fer came against Pakistan back in 2016. At the very venue, Woakes averages a stunning 61.20, having scored 306 runs. He also has a knock of 137* versus India at the Lord’s. His overall Test average is 27.92 with four fifties.
Asad Shafiq is short in stature, but there’s no half-measure when he’s plying his trade with the bat. The Karachi-born bats in Pakistan’s middle-order and has delivered innumerable times, pulling the team out of precarious positions. In 69 Tests, Shafiq has 4,323 runs at 38.94, numbers which can’t be dismissed out of sight.
In his first two Test innings, Shafiq got 61 and 83 and ever since, he hasn’t looked back. Earlier this year, Shafiq scored 88 and 65 against South Africa in Cape Town and Johannesburg respectively, displaying his potential to stave off quality attacks in trying conditions.
Back in December 2016, he almost pulled off a miraculous run-chase for Pakistan in the Day-Night Test in Brisbane. He scored 137 off 207 balls and nearly helped his team chase down 490. His side lost by a mere 40 runs.
In the last couple of years, India bowling in Tests has mostly been about the venom of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, coupled with the guile of Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Amidst their domination, Ishant Sharma’s role holds prime importance without a shred of a doubt.
The Delhi-born is currently the third in the list of most wickets by an Indian pacer in Tests after Kapil Dev and Zaheer Khan. In 94 Tests, the tall and lanky seamer has 280 wickets and is only 31 wickets shy of Zaheer’s tally. At 31, Ishant still has a fair amount of cricket left in him, provided he stays fit.
In 2007, he made Ricky Ponting dance like a cat on a hot tin roof and is one of the major reasons why India are on top of the ICC’s Test Team Rankings. Ishant also has the ability to reverse swing the red cherry and that makes him a deadly prospect.
Over the last year or so, Tom Latham has become an integral part of the New Zealand setup, especially in Test cricket. The Christchurch-born has 3,347 runs in 45 Tests at an average of 44.03. However, the average jumps to 120.57 in his last six games in the format.
During this while, he amassed a stunning 844 runs with four centuries. He started with a superlative 264* versus Sri Lanka in Wellington. In the same month, December 2018, the 27-year-old racked up 176 in Christchurch. Latham followed it up with a 161 against Bangladesh in Hamilton.
But the knock of 154 that he churned out in Colombo versus Lanka stands bearing in mind the spin-friendly conditions was commendable. It came with the Kiwis straining to draw level in the two-match series. The inning eventually helped his team win by an inning and 65 runs.
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