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Wisden’s ‘You’re only as good as your last game’ XI

Wisden XI
by Wisden Staff 5 minute read

Test ten-fors, one-day double centuries, debut Test centuries – sometimes, even once-in-a-lifetime efforts are not enough from being spared the axe.

Presenting an XI of players who did all that they could – and more – but still got dropped from the next match. Some of these exclusions turned out to be career-ending; some overcame the little jolt of surprise and fought their way back; and as for the rest, there is still hope.

Ishan Kishan (India, 2023)

Let us start with the youngest. Ishan Kishan is part of an elite club of seven male players who have hit ODIs double hundreds, a feat that was never achieved in the first four decades of the format. The 210, against Bangladesh, came after Kishan was inducted at the expense of an injured Rohit Sharma. Ahead of India’s next ODI, exactly a month later, a fit-again Rohit declared that he and Shubman Gill would open. Kishan was benched. Credit to the Rohit-Gill combo, for putting together a 143-run stand. Still, dropped after a double hundred?


Andy Ganteaume (West Indies, 1948)

Moving on to the other wicketkeeper. There have not been many one-Test wonders quite like the late Andy Ganteaume. On Test debut against England in 1948, he hit 112, no mean feat by any standards, but there were whispers around him slowing down the match. Captain Gerry Gomez even sent a note, asking the two debutants, Ganteaume and Frank Worrell, asking them to “push on”.

Jeff Stollmeyer – whose place Ganteaume took due to injury – later said: “Andy’s innings in its later stages was not in keeping with the state of the game.” And thus ended a Test career that had barely begun.

Jason Gillespie (Australia, 2006)

Dizzy is in at three, and you know why. Seventeen years since, the image of a sweaty Gillespie inside the dressing room, bat in hand, beaming with pride is still fresh. A night-watch had stayed put for 425 deliveries, scoring an epic, unbeaten 201. Surely, at 30, there was more ahead for him? Sadly, not. With his bowling numbers having dried up, Gillespie somehow never managed to play a Test after the Chattogram miracle. Two years later, he retired – though he still unfailingly congratulates every Test double-centurion, particularly if they do it in the subcontinent.

Faf du Plessis (South Africa, 2019)

When JP Duminy retired after the South Africa-Australia 2019 World Cup match, Faf du Plessis hailed him as a “father figure”. Faf probably would not have known then, but it turned out to be his last ODI as well. In January 2020, he was dropped (stripped from captaincy), despite continuing to be available for all formats. In the Australia game, he had hit a 94-ball 100 (after a 96 not out in the previous game).

It was a year where he hit more runs than any of his teammates, averaging 67.83, but South Africa had seemingly made up their mind. He has still technically not retired from the format.

Kurtis Patterson (Australia, 2019)

Patterson knew what his fate was. There was no surprise, no drama. With no David Warner or Steve Smith, Patterson – who hit back-to-back unbeaten hundreds against Sri Lanka on tour games – was drafted in for the Canberra Test against the same opponents. He responded with a fine 114 in the game, but was not picked for the Ashes later that year. Smith & Warner returned, and Patterson was left with a Test average of 144, still the highest for any player without any qualification.

Stuart Law (Australia, 1996)

Law’s Test career will remain one of the game’s big mysteries. A domestic titan in Australia and England – he scored over 27,000 first-class runs with 79 centuries – but managed just the one Test for Australia. In that one-off appearance, he scored 54 not out at No.6 against Sri Lanka in the 1995/96 Perth Test – an excellent return that was outdone by fellow debutant Ricky Ponting’s 96. He could not find another chance amidst Australia’s mighty world-beaters.

Axar Patel (England, 2021)

Imagine taking 27 wickets in your first six Test innings, including two four five-wicket hauls (three of them on the bounce). You would feel pretty secure about your spot elsewhere, but not in India. After a magical debut series against England, Axar had to wait eight months to play Test cricket again. Not that it mattered: he came back in and took a five-for straightaway. His numbers have come down to mortal levels since.

Marchant de Lange (South Africa, 2011)

It is hard to believe de Lange is still just 32. Twelve years ago, he ran through Sri Lanka on Test debut with a seven-for. The debut had come courtesy of a knee injury to Vernon Philander, and once he was back, de Lange had to be dropped. One can partly understand, though: at that time, the trio of Dale Steyn, Philander and Morne Morkel was near untouchable, and there was also Lonwabo Tsotsobe around.

De Lange played one more Test match – due to Jacques Kallis’ stiff neck – but his own run-ins with injuries thereafter meant a Test career unfulfilled.

Amit Mishra (India, 2016)

Few would remember Amit Mishra’s first ODI stint, right after the 2003 World Cup, five years before his first Test. From 2008 onwards, Mishra enjoyed brief spells of success with the Test team – India have seldom backed slow wrist-spinners since Subhash Gupte – but his limited-overs appearances remained sporadic.

In MS Dhoni’s last full series as India captain, in end-2016, Mishra found a late thrust, picking up 15 wickets in five ODIs against New Zealand, rounding off with a five-for. There were no ODIs for him since then, probably because of the emergence of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal.

Scott Boland (Australia, 2022)

A year ago, Scott Boland was the real deal, in the midst of a Test start like few others. He had taken a seven-for on debut, he had taken a seven-for in the next innings, he had finished his debut series – an Ashes – with 18 wickets. The bowling average was a scarcely believable 9.55, but Boland had to give way once Australia’s first-choice attack was complete. He did not play in Pakistan, and had to wait for nearly an entire year before another cap came his way.

Andy Caddick (England, 2003)

A near decade-long Test career witnessed a memorable high when Caddick ran through Australia in the 2003 new year Test in Sydney, first pecking through their top order in the first innings, before plucking a seven-for to finish with a career-best match haul of 10-215. Then, the World Cup came along, before a foot (and later back) injury came along as an ugly twist to the tale. For the next six years, Caddick continued to play first-class cricket, but another go in the Test team never came. He retired at 40, in 2009.

Ajaz Patel (New Zealand, 2021)

For only the third time in Test cricket’s 144-year history, a bowler achieved the perfect ten, but even that was not enough to save Ajaz Patel a place. The feat came against India, in Mumbai, but New Zealand could not accommodate him for a home Test series against Bangladesh, stressing on the need to stick to their strengths at home. Ajaz was disappointed, but not surprised.

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