Cricket is a team game. ‘No individual is bigger than the team itself’ is one of the most cliched things you would have heard from former cricketers, pundits, and coaches. But, in the past, we have seen numerous instances where individuals have proceeded to put their interests ahead of the team’s cause.
And, sometimes in the midst of achieving personal success, cricketers – even the greatest of them- go overboard; their reputation is smeared and the best interests of the team are compromised. So, we decided to make a list of the best possible XI of selfish cricketers that might possibly compete on a cricket field.
The names in this list include several legends of the game, who at some point may have played innings or resorted to tactics that led to them being hurled with the accusation of putting their personal interest ahead of the team.
Here’s the list of the best possible XI of the most selfish cricketers
1. Geoffrey Boycott
Who better than good ol’ Geoffrey Boycott to spearhead the Most selfish cricketer’s XI. The former English opener was an epitome of patience. He placed a very high value on his wicket, just that he sometimes took it too seriously, for anyone’s liking.
The prime instance of it was his mind-numbing, painstaking 246 not-out on a placid Headingley track against a sub-par Indian attack in the summer of 1967. Boycott, who had come into the match on the back of the atrocious form, decided to stonewall back into form. He scored a painstaking 106 even as spectators trudged manfully against drooping eyelids. His strike-rate on the second day increased to 61.1 on the second day as he scored a further 140 runs to accumulate 246 runs out of England’s total of 550.
His more adventurous approach on the second day proved that Boycott could play shots and score quickly when he wanted to and for his legion of haters, the Headingley innings captured the very essence of the man: A selfish man for whom personal performances held more gravity than the team.
England won the Test but Boycott was dropped from the very next game for batting ‘selfishly’. A few years later, a similar thing happened during a Test match in Christchurch where Boycott refused to change his style of play despite knowing pretty well that England needed quick runs to set-up a match-winning lead and have enough time t0 bowl out New Zealand.
What happened next: Vice-captain Bob Willis promoted Ian Botham to No.4 and sent him with a specific instruction: to “go and run the bugger [Boycott] out”; something Botham duly did before allegedly saying to a befuddled Boycott: “I’ve run you out, you ****”
2. Sunil Gavaskar
“The entire party is upset about it. Our national pride is too important to be thrown away like this.” These were the scathing words of Team India’s manager Ramchand in the immediate aftermath of ‘Little Master’ Sunil Gavaskar’s mind-numbing 174-ball 36 in the opening game of the inaugural Cricket World Cup in 1975 between India and England.
Imagine the scene: a bustling Lord’s gobsmacked at the prospect of one side shellacking 334 in 60 overs, and then equally shocked at one of the great batsmen in the world blocking his way to an eye-soaring 174-ball 36, another 60 overs later.
It was a dichotomy of the highest proportion. No one to this day really knows the motives of Gavaskar playing such a knock when India needed to chase down the total of 334 in 60 overs but when the ‘Little Master’ in his defense said that the wicket was too slow, his claims were immediately shot down by the critics, given the fact that England had just hammered 334 on that same track.
Team India’s manager Ramchand was pretty scathing in his remarks in which he said, “It was the most disgraceful and selfish performance I have ever seen… his excuse [to me] was, the wicket was too slow to play shots but that was a stupid thing to say after England had scored 334.”
Many rumors abounded at the time, the most popular being that Gavaskar was unhappy with the team selection and the management’s decision to ditch their strategy of relying on spinners [who had been mauled in the summer of 1974].
Gavaskar was constantly alleged during his playing days for playing too slowly and also for personal records. Years later Gavaskar revealed that he had actually been caught behind off the second ball of that infamous innings, and admitted he wished he had walked.
3. Jacques Kallis
With 13289 Test runs and 292 wickets across 166 five-day games, Jacques Kallis is one of the greatest-ever all-rounders this beautiful game has ever seen. But the all-rounder too was constantly hurled with allegations of being a minnow-basher and someone who played to boost his personal numbers.
Kallis was often accused of scoring unnecessarily slow despite having grounded the bowling attack to the dust, and as Telford Vice’s says, “the main reason for the unflattering smears stem from some bouts of unnecessarily slow scoring and for seemingly choosing to not dominate attacks he has already ground into the dust.”
Former Aussie opener Keith Stackpole was more scathing with his criticism, describing Kallis as a “selfish cricketer”. “He doesn’t rate against players such as Gary Sobers, Imran Khan, Keith Miller, Adam Gilchrist, Richard Hadlee, Kapil Dev, and Ian Botham,” he was quoted as saying by the Herald Sun.
“You watch him bat and you are left with the feeling he bats for his average. And you ask yourself, ‘Would I have wanted to play with him?’. The answer is no because he plays for himself,” he added.
4. Brian Lara
One of the most gifted stroke players to have ever played the game, Brian Charles Lara makes it to this list at the No.4 spot. And, he makes it because of the innings that he saw him claim the numero-uno spot as far as the record for the highest individual run-getter in Test cricket is concerned- Yep! That 400 against England in 2004.
Now, don’t get me wrong! That innings by Lara was a masterclass in every facet of play: strokeplay, patience, perseverance, and temperament. But, let us understand the context in which it came. It was the fourth Test match of the series. England had won the opening three games and Brian Lara [who hadn’t crossed 50 before that innings] was in tremendous pressure as captain. It was a dead-rubber, alright but the pride of West Indies could have been restored to some extent, had the home side won the last Test.
Coming back to Lara’s innings, the left-hander scored his first 300 runs in 404 balls. The West Indies had finished the second day at 5-595 in 157 overs. They finished with 757 in 202 overs, as their run-rate dipped from 4 per over to three-an-over on the third day, with Lara taking a further 178 balls to score his next 100 runs.
That left West Indies with just over two days to bowl England twice, and even though they knocked over the tourists relatively cheaply in the first innings, Michael Vaughan’s hundred helped England escape with a draw. Lara was hurled with allegations that he put his personal records ahead of the team’s cause with the fans questioning the timing of declaration.
5. Steve Waugh
Steven Waugh was an enigma. He was a complete 3D package. He was gutsy. He was tough as nails. He was a tactically astute leader, but he was also someone who was often accused of being selfish for a variety of reasons. One of the prime accusations that often used to be hurled at Waugh was his penchant to beef up his batting average and of failing to protect the tailenders thus increasing his large number of not-outs.
Australian teams have had this culture where the young upcoming players would bat at No.5 or 6 and the senior players would bat at N0.3 until the latter was prepared to be moved up the order in order to allow the next generation of batsmen to occupy the spot in the lower-middle-order, something Waugh was often accused of refusing to follow.
Waugh was also infamous for throwing his batting partners under the bus. The former Aussie captain was involved in a whopping 77 run-outs in his 288 innings where he got his partner out 50 times in ODIs- even beating the likes of Inzamam-ul-Haq and Wasim Akram.
Ian Chappell was pretty scathing in his remarks during one of his commentary stints where he had labeled Waugh as a ‘selfish’ cricketer- “I think he’s been a selfish cricketer. I’ve always felt that the things you do as a player leading up to getting the captaincy do have an effect [on] how players perceive you. I’ve had the feeling that a selfish player when he becomes captain . . . gets a little less out of his players than someone who is not selfish.”
6. Hansie Cronje
Hansie Cronje has to be in the list of for not only choosing his selfish monetary gains ahead of the reputation of his country and this beautiful game but also luring young cricketers like Henry Williams into underperforming.
Cronje, referred to as one of the greatest captains that South African cricket has ever produced had his reputation ripped to tatters when it came to light that his love for the hard-cash and leather jackets may have trumped his unrelenting passion and penchant for the game. The former South African captain was caught when Delhi Police while trying to tap the calls of the under-world tapped one of the calls of Hansie Cronje and a bookmaker.
Cronje, who initially refuted all the claims, finally accepted his misdemeanors in front of the Kings Commission- a unit formed by the South African Cricket Board. Cronje was banned for life for bringing the game into disrepute. But, unfortunately, his life ended just three years later in a tragic plane crash in 2003.
7. Shahid Afridi
If you want someone to bat for your life, make sure it’s not Shahid Afridi. Because, the guy can’t even bat for his life, let alone yours! Afridi, popularly known as ‘Boom Boom’ was an all-or-nothing batsman where the intersection of talent and temperament was on most days, a null set.
Afridi played over 400 International matches for Pakistan where he led them to victories with his precocious leg-spin, battled with his alter-ego, every time he walked out to bat. He never cared about the match-situation and swung his bat as if there was no tomorrow.
That said, Afridi used his all-or-nothing moniker to develop a cult status in Pakistan and reap fiscal rewards in the shape of numerous promotional opportunities.
8. MS Dhoni (C & WK)
Now, I know seeing this name on this list will surely make you go mad! But, just hold on and listen to me. There is no doubt that MS Dhoni is one of the icons of world cricket. He is one of the greatest white-ball captains and the only leader to win each of the three ICC trophies.
He is also one of the greatest finishers that white-ball cricket has ever seen. He averages more than 100 in successful run-chases but in the past, Dhoni has also played quite a few such innings that have proceeded to raise eyebrows about his approach. He was booed out of Lord’s during a 2018 ODI against England for his painstaking 59-ball 37 when India was chasing 323 to win.
Things got even worse a year later during a league-stage encounter against the same opponent where Dhoni [42* off 31 balls] was criticized by former cricketers including Nasser Hussain and Sourav Ganguly for not even trying to go for the run-chase.
Dhoni’s penchant for taking the run-chase to the very last ball where he would deny strike to his partner and take it upon himself to get the job done, but that approach, on numerous occasions, led to India losing the game. The most pertinent example of it was the one-off T20I against England in 2014. With India needing 5 runs off 2 balls, Dhoni denied Rayudu a single off the penultimate delivery in order to seal the deal all by himself before eventually failing to achieve the same.
9. Andre Russell
Ever since the Indian Premier League took over the cricketing world, leading to the proliferation of franchise-based Twenty20 tournaments, the cricketing landscape has been divided between two parts: club or country. West Indies have been the most affected side from the proliferation of these franchise-based league with senior cricketers opting for the lucrative contracts over grinding it out for the national side.
And, the torch-bearer of that brigade is none other than Andre Russell. Andre Russell is one of the most sought after properties in these franchise-based tournaments. Russell is their poster boy. As the West Indies were battling it out against India in December 2019, the swashbuckling right-handed all-rounder was plying his trade in the Bangabandhu Bangladesh Premier League [BPL].
Apparently, he was injured at the time of squad selection for the Indian series, as he was during the home series against India back in August. He turned out for Vancouver Knights in Global Canada T20 and then in the Caribbean Premier League, later that month.
10. Richard Hadlee
One of the top-4 all-rounders of the erstwhile era alongside Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, and Imran Khan, and arguably the greatest-ever New Zealand cricketer, Sir Richard Hadlee will spearhead the bowling attack.
Hadlee presided over the most successful phase of New Zealand cricket which he spearheaded by scoring over 3,000 runs and claiming 431 wickets in just 86 Tests. But, the champion all-rounder too faced his fair share of accusations of selfishness.
In the early 80s, Hadlee shortened his run-up against the common modus-operandi of any fast bowler of his times where having a long run-up was a norm. Hadlee suffered criticism and was labeled ‘selfish’ by his own countrymen. He was also believed to have upset a lot of his teammates for using records and statistics as his prime motivational tool.
In 1985 when Hadlee was awarded a car for being the International Cricketer of the Year during the Australian summer, the money was uniformly distributed, the all-rounder preferred to keep the cash equivalent himself.
11. Shoaib Akhtar
Shoaib Akhtar was breathtakingly fast. When on the song, he was an irresistible force and sight to behold. But, Shoaib was equally difficult to manage due to his off the field shenanigans.
Akhtar, who is widely revered as the Rawalpindi Express, was often accused of faking injuries or pulling out of a fixture due to either a rift with his captain or the team management. One such instance when this thing came to light was during the third Test of the India-Pakistan series in Rawalpindi back in 2004 when Akhtar did not take the field on the third day after he complained of issues with his rib-cage. In the absence of Shoaib, Dravid grounded the hapless Pakistan bowling attack to the dust, racking up his career-best score of 270.
Matters came to a head when Shoaib, seemingly unfazed by the ‘injury’ tonked the Indian attack to all corners of the ground, raising questions around the veracity of his claims of being injured on the previous day. Rumors abound that Shoaib had had a fallout with captain Inzamam-ul-Haq regarding the field placements, something which Akhtar repeatedly refuted.
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