Cricket has been a gentleman’s game for close to 150 years now since the first-ever Test match between Australia and England was played. In this time, we have seen many players who have inscribed their names in history books and in the hearts of millions of people.
Generation after generation, the sport has created stalwarts and giant ambassadors from various countries. However, there remains to be a sea of players who have always fly under the radar, with their performances overshadowed by other more talked about personality’s exploits.
However, without these players’ contribution and their relentless selflessness to the team’s cause, cricket would’ve been a different game than what it is today. Here’s a look at the most underrated XI of international cricket.
1. Tamim Iqbal
Tamim Iqbal. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)
The exponential growth of Bangladesh cricket has been talked about a lot since Tamim Iqbal’s debut in 2007, and very rare players have had as big a hand in their growth as this Bangladesh opener. His scores of 53 and 84 on his Test debut in 2008 against a very disciplined Kiwi attack, doesn’t hold much significance as the Asian team was clinically defeated in a three-day drubbing.
While Bangladesh now has a side with several fine players, including Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, and Mustafizur Rahman, at the time of Iqbal’s debut, many of Bangladesh’s players were struggling to fulfill their potential.
In those times, he would be Bangladesh’s most consistent player at the top, providing his team with solid foundations for the likes of Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim to feast on a bowling attack that was weared out and had suffered a dent in their morale long before the middle order batsmen had made their way to the crease, in the hands of Tamim Iqbal.
Iqbal perhaps does not possess quite the same level of talent as the likes of Al Hasan, Rahim, and Rahman, which may explain why he does not receive the same level of admiration of some of his fellow countrymen. But he has made the most of his talent, and subsequently has more Test runs than Shakib and Rahim, despite having debuted after them.
2. Mark Waugh
Mark Waugh, 1988. (Photo by Guy William Wilmott/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)
Nicknamed “Afghan” because he was overshadowed by his brother Steve Waugh and became the “Forgotten Waugh”, Mark Edward Waugh is one of the most charismatic and gifted stroke makers to have ever played the game. He had the ability to drive, pull, flick, cut and loft the ball, having all the shots in the book, executing them with consummate ease.
Apart from his batting, Waugh was a decent off-spinner and a spectacular slip fielder. Regarded as one of the best of all time in the slip cordon, holding on to so many of Warne’s and McGrath’s scalps, he held the record for taking the highest number of catches as a fielder in Test matches till India’s Rahul Dravid broke it.
Having scored over 8,029 Test runs and 8500 runs in ODIs, Mark Waugh is one of the most underrated batsmen in the Aussie line-up that had the likes of Matthew Hayden, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist overshadowing him throughout his career. But his contributions in all ways must not go without being remembered that set up so many wins for the Aussies in their golden period where they won literally everything.
3. Rahul Dravid
Rahul Dravid. (Photo credit should read Alessandro Abbonizio/AFP/Getty Images)
One of the most underrated players in the Indian cricket team when Sachin Tendulkar was at his peak, Rahul Dravid’s innumerable savior acts for India with the bat in the toughest of conditions around the world have not grabbed enough eyeballs.
Sachin Tendulkar’s extraordinary batting skills overshadowed an otherwise ‘most dependable’ batsman of the then era. Due to the overwhelming media attention entirely on Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid was left out of the glamour and the hype that surrounded the maestro.
Dravid’s easy-go-nature and simplicity were unmatched in the team, he quietly scored more than 13000 runs in Test matches and almost 11000 runs in ODIs. He was not only the underrated batsman but also fielder who holds the record of having the most number of catches in Test cricket.
4. Shivnarine Chanderpaul
Shivnarine Chanderpaul. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
Speaking of underrated cricketers, one cannot find a better name than Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Chanderpaul, who has been the mainstay of West Indies’ batting line-up for almost two decades, after making his debut in 1994. In 164 Test matches, the Caribbean player mustered 11,867 runs, belonging to the elite club of players maintaining their average above 50 throughout their prolonged career.
His tally of 41 tons and 125 half-centuries speaks volumes of his caliber at the international level. As Indian great Sachin Tendulkar prepared for his 200th and farewell Test, Shivnarine Chanderpaul also quietly went about gearing up for what was his 150th Test when the two sides faced off at the Wankhede Stadium in November 2013.
If this doesn’t say much about how this batting great’s career achievements were overshadowed and gone unnoticed by everything and everyone else around his disciplined stay at the top, we don’t know what else will. For all his services to the Caribbean team, he was subjected to needless pressure by the administration and eventually bid goodbye to international cricket in January 2016 without getting a farewell match.
5. Stephen Fleming
Stephen Fleming of New Zealand. (Photo by Marty Melville/Getty Images)
Former New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming is the greatest ever player to have led the Blackcaps in International cricket. He is well known for his shrewd captaincy skills than as a batsman. Fleming was made the captain for the New Zealand side when he was just 23 years old and he repaid the faith the board had in him.
In a few years during his tenure, he became one of the most successful captains of New Zealand. He reads the game well and has a good tactic as a skipper. He is one of the most underrated captains the world has ever seen.
Many cricket experts now describe him as simply the “best captain in world cricket” and “one of the two true leaders in the cricketing world”. His ability to understand the game and strategic deployments simply made him exceptional, but he was away from the limelight during his time in cricket.
6. Fawad Alam
Fawad Alam. (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images)
Fawad Alam grabbed everyone’s attention with his awe-inspiring performances at the domestic level. During his early years, he was touted as the “next big thing” of Pakistan cricket. This immensely talented left-hander had a promising bright future, but destiny has been very unfair to him. He was dropped from the Pakistani squad very often and has got very limited chances to prove his outstanding talent. Pakistan Cricket Board never properly utilized this naturally talented all-rounder.
Fawad Alam is a very versatile batsman and plays at whichever position assigned to him in the batting order. Fawad Alam has been Pakistan’s most indispensable players in the past few years. In the first seven innings of his ODI career, Fawad batted at all positions from number five to nine.
His mental strength, athletic fielding has been a very valuable asset for Pakistan team as they have always had a dearth of a world-class fielder. He has also been vital in raising the fitness as well as the fielding standards in Pakistan.
With a first-class record that yielded 11,441 runs at an average of above 56, Fawad Alam would definitely go down as one of the most underrated batsmen of all time, given his depleted amount of opportunities that he was provided with.
7. Mark Boucher
Mark Boucher of South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images/Getty Images)
A complete wicketkeeper who could keep wickets with equal finesse to all kinds of bowlers, Mark Boucher, without a doubt one of the greatest wicketkeepers of all time. The Proteas wicketkeeper-batsman holds the record for the most number of dismissals in Tests by 532 catches and 23 stumpings in 147 Tests.
Besides being a natural behind the stumps, keeping with ease, Boucher had been a more than handy customer lower-order with an average in excess of 30 across the formats, adding runs on a regular basis on each visit to the crease, also performing under pressure and in the most trying conditions.
His knock of 43-ball-50 in the record 434-run chase against Australia at the Wanderers in 2006, dismantling the potent Aussie bowling will remain etched in the record books as not only one of the greatest matches of all time, but also a special knock for the Protea keeper.
After being severely injured by a bail in his right eye during a warm-up in 2012, Boucher had to, unfortunately, announce his retirement from all forms of international cricket. For all his credentials to the game, Mark Boucher was not as hailed as his longtime opponent Adam Gilchrist and was underappreciated.
8. Chris Woakes
Chris Woakes. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Among all those stars in the English side capable of winning matches single-handedly in white-ball cricket, Chris Woakes doesn’t precisely get the credit he deserves. The 30-year-old from Birmingham has become one of the finest bowlers around the world in the last four years and despite all the performances, he still remains underrated.
In 98 ODI matches, Chris Woakes has picked up 142 wickets at an average just above 30. In the Test format, he’s accounted for 72 scalps in 27 matches as his best figures in a match reads 11 wickets for just 102 runs. He is a capable batsman lower down the order. With more than 1000 runs with four centuries and a century to his name in the longest format, his capabilities with the bat in hand often don’t get the credit it deserves.
In one of the recent victorious World Cup campaign, England had even promoted him up the order to number 3 when neither the target nor the opposition bowling attack was intimidating. England had ticked all their boxes perfectly for the 15-man squad and even if their top order failed, they have enough depth to help the side get to a decent total 9 times out of 10.
9. Rangana Herath
Rangana Herath of Sri Lanka. (Photo by MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
With more than 520 wickets in international cricket Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath is one of the greatest spin bowlers in the history of the game.
The 40-year-old has been his country’s biggest match-winner with the ball after the retirement of the great Muttiah Muralitharan.
Despite his numerous achievements and invaluable contributions to Sri Lankan cricket, Herath for some reason have never got the appreciation he deserves. Getting better with age, Herath is a perfect role model for younger generations to follow.
10. Kyle Mills
New Zealand cricketer Kyle Mills. (Photo by LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP/Getty Images)
The most underrated cricketers tend to be the unflashy ones. Not much to see in the way of cool haircuts, novelty tattoos and quirky soundbites from post-match interviews. If anything, those tend to be the overrated ones. This next one will be probably best be remembered for just having been born with curly hair, which he normally wore quite long. But he deserves to be remembered for so much more.
Who were the great New Zealand bowlers in ODIs? The canny Daniel Vettori, the lightning-quick Shane Bond, the incomparable Richard Hadlee. How about the strangely effective Chris Harris, the swing sensation that is Trent Boult or the supremely gifted Chris Cairns? You could make a case for any of them but it’s very easy to forget Kyle Mills.
And it’s even easier to forget that for quite a long time he was the number 1 ranked ODI bowler in the world. He never really got to grips with the demands of Test cricket and probably had neither the pace nor the varieties to master T20 bowling.
But he loved ODIs and for a long time was as good as anyone. Well, obviously given that he was officially the best of the lot ranking-wise for a period and that for year after year, he was an almost permanent fixture in the Top 10 list of ODI bowlers.
11. Morne Morkel
Morne Morkel of the Proteas with his son. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
The man with a tall, sleek stature from South Africa had been one of their major pacers with the ball for more than a decade. With 309 wickets from 86 Test matches and 188 wickets in the 50 over format, Morne Morkel has been one of South Africa’s most potent bowlers for a long time.
Morne Morkel would find himself alongside many other great cricketers who have not got the appreciation they deserve for some reason or the other. Morkel has also gone under the radar and not quite gained the limelight like his other teammates.
Following his retirement from international cricket in March 2018, Morkel had signed a two-year contract with Surrey as a Kolpak registered player.
~Written by Dwaipayan Mukherjee
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