Some cricketers shine all too briefly before unfortunate circumstances curtail their international careers, leaving fans yearning for what might have been. These are ten of the best.
He had swing, he had seam, he had smarts, he could lift his team-mates' performances, and most exciting of all, he had pace. Had he stayed fit, Bond might have competed neck and neck with Dale Steyn to be the standout fast bowler of the 2000s. Unfortunately, multiple injuries, including one to the spine that required a titanium rod to be inserted into his back, plus a two-year stint in the Indian Cricket League, meant he only played 18 Tests between 2001 and 2009. In those Tests he took 87 wickets at an average of 22.09 and an incredible strike rate of 38.7. If statisticians tweaked the usual 100-wickets-minimum criterion to include him, he would be No. 1 for his generation. Bond was deadly in the 82 ODIs he played as well, and his 6 for 23 against the all-conquering Australians in the 2003 World Cup stands out as one of the finest bowling performances in the tournament's history.
When, at age 28 and a year into his international career, Johnson won three Man-of-the-Match awards at the 1999 World Cup, most thought he would go on to become one of Zimbabwe's most prolific allrounders. Born in Harare, he had lived most of his life in South Africa, but moved to Zimbabwe in 1998 for the opportunity of playing international cricket. However, a strained relationship with Zimbabwe coach Dave Houghton and dissatisfaction with pay led him to go back to South Africa just two years later, his international career cut short after 13 Tests and 48 ODIs.
Johnson had made an instant impression for Zimbabwe, dismissing Sachin Tendulkar twice in his first Test and scoring a century in a win against Pakistan in his second. Then, at the World Cup, he topped the runs and wicket charts for Zimbabwe. Against South Africa, he scored 76 and took three wickets in an upset win, and against eventual champions Australia, he scored 132 not out in a loss. His exit, along with that of Murray Goodwin, who could have been a separate entry on this list, perhaps marked the beginning of Zimbabwe's slide in the 2000s.
That line. That relentlessness. That victory against South Africa delivered on a shattered knee. Harris was one of the finest Test bowlers of the 2010s, but ended with just 27 Tests. Part of that was because he began his Test career late, at 29, but he could still have played a lot more had it not been for multiple injuries, in particular a chronic knee issue. On the other hand, he may have ended up playing even less had it not been for his toughness and willingness to play through pain.
Harris was a master of accuracy and subtlety. Hitting a nagging line and length, he would generate just enough swing and seam to take the edge. He had the pace to hit the deck and keep batsmen from committing to the front foot. And when the conditions suited, he could reverse it too. His 113 wickets, at 23.52, were crucial in ensuring Australia stayed competitive during their transition period in the early 2010s.
Ryan ten Doeschate
Pop quiz: who has the highest batting average in ODI history, given a minimum of 20 innings? Ryan ten Doeschate, that's who. However, there will always be an asterisk next to his stunning average of 67.00 in 33 ODIs, since less than a fourth of those games came against Test sides. After scoring two centuries at the 2011 World Cup, ten Doeschate decided to focus on his county career with Essex, where he had been since 2003. He went on to captain them to a Division One title as well as two Division Two titles. His 10,766 first-class runs at an average of 45.17, plus impressive stints at various T20 franchises, have left fans wondering how well he would have done had he played for a Test nation.
Some batsmen are just born in the wrong era. The Australia Test team of the 2000s had the Waugh brothers, Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn, Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke, Darren Lehmann and Andrew Symonds, so even a batting average of 55.88 was not enough to earn Hodge a place in the middle order. He got just six opportunities in Tests and could not have done a lot better than he did: which was to get a double-century against South Africa and two fifties against West Indies. The names ahead of Hodge in the pecking order were always too big. He did not have much more luck in ODIs, playing just 25. An outstanding T20 franchise career gave fans a glimpse of a talent that would have probably shone longer on the international stage had Hodge been in any other team.
While Kumar did play 68 ODIs, it was his ability to swing the red ball both ways that most caught the eye. But he only displayed that ability in six Tests before injuries, disciplinary issues and the emergence of other prospects cut his international career short. After initially making his name as a white-ball bowler, Kumar enjoyed one impressive summer of Test cricket, in 2011. He got 12 wickets in three Tests in the West Indies and was then India's most impactful bowler on an otherwise disastrous tour of England, taking 15 wickets in five innings, including a five-for at Lord's. With Zaheer Khan hobbling off in the first Test, Kumar was left to spearhead India's bowling and did so ably. But a spate of injuries kept him out for a year, by which time India had moved on. It did not help that he developed a reputation as a hothead - after an ugly episode involving fans in Australia, he was suspended for abusing a batsman in a domestic match. Kumar managed to continue his domestic career but did not play Tests again after 2011.
In 2015, with Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen all gone from the Test side, England were looking to rebuild their middle order, and Taylor was considered one of the brightest prospects. Despite his 5'6" frame, which Pietersen once infamously said was more suited to a jockey than a batsman, and a difficult start to his international career, by 2015, Taylor had made it back to the Test side and got a half-century in Sharjah against top quality spin and another in Durban against imposing pace. He established himself in the ODI side as well, but just when he was being spoken of as a potential future captain, his career came to an abrupt halt when he was diagnosed with a serious heart condition. At 26, he was forced to retire from all forms of the game and two years later he became an England selector.
South Africa have lost several talents to Kolpak contracts in the past few years, Kyle Abbott, Simon Harmer and Rilee Rossouw among them, but perhaps none have been missed as much as Olivier. At just 26, having played ten Tests, Olivier decided to join Yorkshire as a Kolpak player, ending his South Africa career. With Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn all retired from Tests, he could easily have been a consistent member of the Test side had he signed a central contract. Olivier has a Neil Wagner-esque ability to bang the ball into the pitch and strike ribcages and helmets, and he took 48 wickets at an average of 19.25 and strike rate of 30 in his ten Tests. We may see more of him as an international player yet, as he has expressed a desire to play for England in the future.
That nearly a quarter of Jones' 18-Test career was played in one of the greatest Test series ever makes one both thankful that memories of his wicked swing remain fresh, and rueful that he never had the opportunity to kick on and play more international cricket. Jones provided one of the iconic moments of the 2005 Ashes, bowling Michael Clarke with an unplayable inswinger, and took 18 wickets over the first four Tests, but he was injured before the fifth and never played for England again. He was capable of hitting speeds up to 90mph and had the ability to get late swing, both conventional and reverse, which was rare for England seamers, and to trouble the best batsmen of his time. He underwent a total of three surgeries on his knee during an injury-ravaged career, and his international career ended when he was just 27.
This might seem a strange entry on this list given Trescothick played 76 Tests and 123 ODIs, but you have to remember that he was just 31 and in his prime when he had to stop playing internationals due to a stress-related illness. The glut of runs he scored for Somerset in subsequent years and the length of his first-class career, which ended when he was 43, make one wonder what kinds of records he might have broken for England had he been able to continue at international level. While he averaged a healthy 43.79 in Tests, it was in ODIs that Trescothick played an even more crucial role, a new-age, attacking batsman in a side that seemed to be stuck in the 1990s. While international cricket lost a talented batsman with his early retirement, it gained a new perspective on mental-health issues thanks to his courage in speaking openly about the subject.