There is a lot of talk about how Steve Smith transformed himself from a leg-spinner to a world-class batsman. He started out as a No. 7/8 but over the years, his bowling reduced and his bat picked up the pace. Hence, today he is the world’s best batsman, at least in Test cricket. Thus, we often hear such cases where players started out as bowlers but eventually found success with the bat.
However, we don’t often talk about the vice-versa condition. There have been a lot of players who gave up their dreams with the bat only to realize their maximum potential with the ball. They have created huge impact with the ball in hand at the highest level.
Here we bring to you five such players who started their careers as batsmen but became bowlers:
1. Ravichandran Ashwin
Ravichandran Ashwin is one of the most prominent faces in Indian cricket at the moment. It’s been almost a decade since he made his international debut. He got a chance to play for India on the back of some consistent performances in the IPL and domestic cricket.
However, the Tamil Nadu off-spinner first started out as a batsman. In fact, he has opened the batting in professional cricket quite a few times. He opened the batting in Under-17 cricket before he turned out as an off-spinner for Tamil Nadu.
The move paid rich dividends as Ashwin is one of the most successful bowlers in Indian cricket in this decade. He was India’s premier spinner across formats for a long time before being ousted from the shorter formats. Ashwin is still a very big part of India’s red-ball setup and hence, will look to continue to make a significant impact every time he plays.
2. Ravindra Jadeja
Ravichandran Ashwin’s partner-in-crime Ravindra Jadeja also started out as a top-order batsman. In fact, he is one of the only few batsmen who has scored three triple tons in Ranji Trophy cricket. He is a pretty underrated customer with the bat.
However, his bowling never took a backseat. It was always on the rise and hence, it was on the back of his bowling that he made a mark even in international cricket. He never really got a chance to bat in the top six in any of the formats. Thus, he was reduced to being a bowler who can bat.
At the moment, he usually bats at No. 8 for the Indian team in both Tests and ODIs. His accurate left-arm spin is rated very highly and Jadeja has become a crucial member in all formats of the game.
Ajit Agarkar has achieved something that even Sachin Tendulkar hasn’t with the bat. The former Indian fast bowler has etched his name on the honours board at Lord’s after he scored a century in 2002. In fact, that was his only fifty-plus score in Test cricket.
Agarkar was first recognised as a batsman in age-group cricket. In fact, through the Under-15, 16 and 19, the Mumbai-born scored a lot of runs. There seemed another Tendulkar in the making. However, it didn’t pan out that way as he turned out to be a bowler.
He made his ODI and Test debut in 1998 and was a prominent member of the Indian team through the early 2000s. The right-arm pacer did well as he picked up 349 wickets in international cricket. However, Agarkar didn’t really fulfil his promise with the bat lower down the order.
Shardul Thakur has been in and around the Indian team for a few years now. In fact, he’s played a handful of games as well and has done consistently well for India ‘A’ too. Over the last few years, he’s done well in the IPL and in domestic cricket as well.
He made his international debut in Sri Lanka in 2017. There was a lot of controversy around his jersey number as he donned the legendary Sachin Tendulkar’s No. 10. Hence, he had to immediately change it. Thakur made his T20I and Test debut in 2018. However, his Test debut lasted just 10 balls as suffered a groin injury. Since then, he’s been doing well in domestic cricket.
However, it is a very little-known fact that Thakur wanted to be a batsman. In fact, he started his career as a batsman itself. In school cricket, the Mumbai-born has also hit six sixes in an over. However, as he grew, he slowly turned into a proper bowler.
For more than a decade, James Franklin played a crucial role in the balance of the New Zealand side, especially in white-ball cricket. The left-hander was an effective customer with the ball and could give it a tonk with the bat.
Franklin played 179 international games for New Zealand. Test cricket was the most productive format for the left-arm pacer with the ball. In fact, he is one of the only two New Zealanders to take a Test hat-trick. The all-rounder last played international cricket in 2013.
He started out his career as a batsman. However, Franklin slowly turned to the ball and by the time he made his international debut, he became a handy lower-order batsman. But he made the transition back to the middle order and became an enforcer in limited-overs cricket.
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