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From Malik to Herath: Ten players who debuted way before you thought they did

Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer, Brisbane 2000/01
by Abhishek Mukherjee 5 minute read

There are some debuts you remember. And some that get little more than blank looks – for you are unable to recall their forgotten early forays into Test cricket.

There can be various reasons behind this. Pat Cummins made an outstanding debut, in Johannesburg in 2011/12, but subsequent injuries kept him out of the Test side for over five years. His debut was not exactly a forgotten one.

Upon his recall, Gareth Batty broke the world record for most Test matches missed (142), and cricket statisticians duly reminded the world of his obscure debut, while social media ensured that fans remained aware of Fawad Alam’s decade-long axing.


Dinesh Karthik did not have a great debut, but had stayed relevant through other formats despite having fallen out of favour. Graeme Swann, on the other hand, debuted in ODIs back in 1999/00, but his Test debut was in 2008/09, nearly a decade later..

This list consists of men’s Test cricketers who had had forgettable starts and were left out of the XI, and the first part of their careers is seldom remembered. To keep out the Derek Shackeltons and the Younis Ahmeds, we have ensured they have played at least once in the 21st century.

Justin Langer, 1992/93

It is not your fault if you cannot remember the reserve wicketkeeper who was one day asked to bat at No.3 against the West Indies fast bowlers and played only eight Test matches in his first five years. Langer was first paired with Matthew Hayden as late as in 2001. Since that year, he did not bat in any other position. But it was all the way back in 1993 that Langer made his Test debut.

Matthew Hayden, 1993/94

One Test match in Johannesburg was all Hayden had for nearly three years. When he returned, he made 125 against the West Indies, but was left out for three more years after a five-Test run. It was not until 1999/00 that he established himself as Michael Slater’s opening partner. In a year and a half, Langer and Hayden were a thing.

Misbah-ul-Haq, 2000/01

Five Tests across two and a half years, 120 runs at 13.33. There was little wonder that Misbah was left out in the cold for four years. He returned through the shortest format, at the 2007 T20 World Cup, and did not look back after that year’s India tour, where his 464 runs came at 116. By 2010 he was leading Pakistan.

Rangana Herath, 1999/00

Herath took 4-97 on debut, but was left out of the XI after three Test matches. Unfortunately, this was the era of Muttiah Muralitharan, and the two leading Test wicket-takers in the history of Sri Lankan cricket played only 15 times together in nearly 11 years, seven of them between 2008 and 2010. Herath went from strength to strength only once Muralitharan retired.

Damien Martyn, 1992/93

Martyn debuted before Hayden, and had got three fifties in his first seven Test matches. However, in the seventh, he was last out attempting a shot in the air as South Africa sealed a historic win, and Martyn was dropped for six years. He returned in 1999/00, and with the selectors using Langer – who previously batted three – up top and Ricky Ponting at No.3, there was suddenly a spot in the middle order. After Mark Waugh was dropped, Martyn found a home at No.4.

Ryan Sidebottom, 2001

One Test match and two ODIs after his debuts in both formats, Sidebottom found himself out of the XI for six years. Then, in the summer of 2007, he played for England in all three formats. By 2008, he was named in ICC’s Test Team of the Year. Two years later, he became part of a T20 World Cup winning side.

Floyd Reifer, 1997

After several key cricketers made themselves unavailable due to a pay dispute. the West Indies included nine uncapped cricketers – including the youngsters, Kraigg Brathwaite and Kemar Roach – in their squad for the 2009 Tests against Bangladesh. Leading them was Reifer, who had played four times before – but never in the 20th century. On his comeback, Reifer achieved the bizarre ‘feat’ of getting out to the same bowler (Mahmudullah) in all four innings of a Test series.

Chris Rogers, 2007/08

With 367 runs at 40.77, Rogers impressed in the 2013 Ashes – but he had played a Test match before that, against India at Perth in 2007/08. India won the Test match – their last victory in Australia for another decade – and Rogers was dropped after he made 4 and 15. He did end with a Test average over 40 across 25 matches, 15 of those coming against England.

Shoaib Malik, 2001

While Malik’s 20th-century ODI debut is well-documented, his Test debut, against Bangladesh in 2001, is not as well known. Malik had little to do in that one-sided affair, but played only one more Test match until the 2003 season. He kept wading in and out of the XI, never quite taking the world by storm until he was left out for good in 2010 – only to be recalled for one last time in 2015/16, for his best ever series (averaging 48.67 with the bat and 20.72 with the ball). A most singular career.

Prasanna Jayawardene, 2000

On Jayawardene’s debut, against Pakistan in Kandy, Sri Lanka made 467-5 before it rained… and play never resumed. Let alone keeping wicket, Jayawardene did not even get a bat – and thus had to be happy with a Test cap but without a mention on the scorecard. He did not play again for another two years, and it was not until 2006 that he played another Test against sides other than Bangladesh or Zimbabwe.

Bonus entry: Jason Roy and Marnus Labuschagne

A teenage Roy’s fielding talent was spotted by England in 2008, who drafted him into the squad as substitute fielder for the Oval Test match of 2008. More famous are the ‘debuts’ of Labuschagne, as the part of the Hotspot camera crew during the the 2010/11 Ashes, then as substitute fielder during the 2014/15 Border-Gavaskar Trophy.




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