Not everyone is lucky enough to have a long and successful international career. A combination of factors can decide if a player plays for a long time or not and especially for a country like India, when there is always someone waiting around the corner, poor form can lead to a short career.
While there have been a few players like Amol Muzumdar, who were unlucky to not get a chance despite impressive track records in the domestic circuit, there have been others who have got a chance and after a promising start to their career simply faded away due to a variety of reasons.
Here are 5 promising Indian cricketers whose career faded away:
India’s search for an all-rounder who could adequately fill the void left by Kapil Dev remained unfulfilled until Irfan Pathan popped up. Capable of swinging the ball and scoring at a rapid pace anywhere in the batting order, he seemed like the perfect answer.
However, despite a hat-trick to his name, Man of the Match performances in Australia and in the 2007 World T20 final that India won, Irfan Pathan has never quite managed to recapture his form that saw him touted as someone who could go onto to become of the best all-rounders in the game.
Although he has over 300 wickets and nearly 3,000 runs across all formats for India, Pathan’s career is one that promised so much but faded away. Despite his 100 Test scalps, his last match in the format was in 2008 and he hasn’t played a game for India since 2012. Although he is only 32 and still impressing in the domestic circuit for Baroda, who he also captains, his inability to develop into one of India’s finest makes him a player who never fulfilled his potential.
As a 17-year-old, Maninder Singh was hailed as the heir-apparent to the legendary Bishan Singh Bedi. Even after an impressive started that had opposing batsmen fearing his arrival to the bowling crease, his Test career ended at the age of 27 with just 88 wickets an average of 37.
Following in Bishan Bedi’s footsteps isn’t easy. There were many protégés who tried it in the 1980s but none were especially successful. But with excellent flight, variety and ability to turn the ball viciously on surfaces that suited spin, Maninder Singh had it all. Match-winning performances against England, Sri Lanka and Pakistan were proof of that.
However, as soon as he established himself, it all went away. After his 10-wicket haul against Pakistan in Bangalore in 1987, he picked up just two wickets in the next three Tests he played. Thereafter he was dropped from the side, unsuccessfully tried to come back in 1989 where he picked up two wickets in three matches. He played his last Test in 1993 and picked up seven wickets against Zimbabwe but it wasn’t enough as he never played for India again.
It is not very often that a player plays his last Test at the age of 20. Especially if he became the youngest Indian Test cricketer (at the time) when he made his debut at the age of 17 against West Indies. But that is exactly what happened with Laxman Sivaramakrishnan.
Before he became a commentator, he was regarded as a prodigiously talented leg spinner, as is evident from the fact that he made his Ranji debut at the age of 16 and picked up 7/28 as well before playing for India at the age of just 17. Man of the Match-winning performance against England at Mumbai in 1984 justified the selector’s decision to pick him.
Although he played just 9 Tests, he finished with a Man of the Series award for his 23 wickets in the England series and was also an integral part of the Indian side that won the World Championship of Cricket in Australia in 1985. But that was as good as it for the leggie, as he was a shadow of himself in the 1987 World Cup and within four years of Test debut, he had played his last international match for India at the age of 21.
There are two parts to the Ajay Sharma story that shouldn’t be forgotten. First is his exploits with the bat that saw him finish his first-class career with the third-best average of any player who scored over 10,000 runs and yet played in only one Test. The second is his involved in the match-fixing scandal that ended his career after he was given a life ban.
In his 129-match first-class career, Ajay Sharma scored 10,120 runs at an average of 67.46, including 38 centuries. His Test debut came in 1988 and although he looked decent with scores of 30 and 23, he never played for India in the longest format again. Despite an excellent first-class record, Ajay never got another chance in the whites.
However, he did play 31 ODIs and his handy left-arm spin meant he was seen more as an ODI specialist despite not really impressing particularly with either bat or ball in the format. Arguably the unluckiest of the players on this list, 10,000 first-class runs at an average of nearly 70 only earned him a solitary Test for India.
When you score you first ball in Ranji Trophy for a six, become the first Indian to score two Test double tons in a row against two different teams and scored four centuries in his first seven Tests, you expect to play more than 17 Tests. Especially when you consider that in those 17 Tests he averaged 54.20 (the best for any Indian with over 1,000 runs).
With nearly 10,000 runs at an average of 60, including 35 centuries, Vinod Kambli certainly managed to showcase longevity in the first-class arena. Even in his all too brief Test career, he had plenty of highs, including smashing Shane Warne for 22 runs. But he only played 17 Tests, despite his incredible track record.
Although he played over 100 ODIs, he was never as prolific in that format and a combination of several issues meant that he played his last Test for India at the age of 23. Some considered him to be more talented than Sachin Tendulkar but his lack of application in the longest format meant he became a poster child for a wasted genius.