May 19, 2014

The lightweights

Cricketers who didn't trouble the weighing machine
37

Matthew Elliott
Tall, thin and angular, with a face to match, left-hander Elliott was briefly a prolific presence at the top of the Australian batting order: at Headingley in 1997 he enjoyed ecstasy (an Ashes hundred) and agony (out for 199). But that face never quite seemed to fit in the powerful Aussie sides of the time, and Elliott played only 21 Tests in all, despite amassing 50 first-class centuries.

Mushtaq Ali
One of the most graceful of all Indian batsmen, Mushtaq was also one of the most slender. At 21, the pencil-slim Mushtaq made India's first Test century overseas, 112 at Old Trafford in 1936. Keith Miller called him "The Errol Flynn of cricket - dashing, flamboyant, swashbuckling and immensely popular wherever he played."

Ranji
Another Indian - although he played Test cricket for England - KS Ranjitsinhji was all silk-shirted wristy elegance at the crease. He added a bit of avoirdupois in later years, but early on - if the Vanity Fair cartoonist can be believed - the great Ranji was as thin as a rake.

Greg Chappell
Possibly because he was often in indifferent health, Chappell always appeared to be model-slim, an impression accentuated by his military strut and cool presence at the crease. If there has been a better batsman to watch in the last 40 years, I haven't seen him. Collar turned up and wide-brimmed sunhat on, he didn't miss much at slip, either.

Mohammad Azharuddin
The Azharuddin who astonished England in 1984-85 with centuries in each of his first three Tests was another magician with the bat - and another batsman in need of the slim-fit trouser range. He remained lithe and wristy throughout his 99-Test career, never better than at Lord's in 1990, when his beautiful hundred achieved the improbable feat of upstaging a triple-century (Graham Gooch's 333).

Douglas Jardine
Our skipper (despite the probability of a clash with the captain of the Calorie-Challenged XI) is best remembered for masterminding Bodyline - but he was in that strong 1930s England side on merit, an imperturbable, defensive-minded right-hander without an ounce of spare flesh. That flesh took a pounding when the West Indians tried out Bodyline in 1933, but Jardine was unfazed: "You get yourself down this end," he told his partner, "I'll take care of this bloody nonsense." He made 127, his only Test century.

Jack Russell
Possibly because he existed on a peculiar diet involving baked beans or Weetabix steeped in milk for a prescribed number of minutes, Russell was, in keeping with his canine name, as thin as a whippet. It helped him keep wicket to an impeccably high standard into his forties - and only Alec Stewart's superior batting stopped Russell from clocking up significantly more Test caps.

Fred Spofforth
Cricket's original Demon bowler was also stick-thin, if his "Spy" cartoon is to be believed. It makes him look like a vulture - and he certainly preyed on the England batsmen in the 1882 match at The Oval that spawned the Ashes legend. Spofforth followed 7 for 46 in the first innings with 7 for 44 in the second, as England were shot out for 77, just eight short of their lowly target.

Sikander Bakht
Bakht, a slim speedster from Sind, took 67 wickets in 26 Tests for Pakistan, including 8 for 69 (and three more in the second innings) against India in Delhi in 1979-80, when he bowled almost unchanged after Imran Khan broke down. Apart from his eight wickets, he also ran out Gundappa Viswanath. Wisden decided: "Although India batted very poorly, Sikander deserved great credit for exploiting their errors through his unerring direction on or just outside off stump."

Lance Gibbs
Fighting off opposition for the offspinner's spot from the angular Egyptian-Zimbabwean John Traicos, the equally toothpick-slim Gibbs was the first slow bowler to reach 300 Test wickets. He gambolled in off a short, bouncy run, and fielded brilliantly too. Gibbs' cousin, Clive Lloyd, was pretty slimline in his early days too.

Bruce Reid
Tall and painfully thin, left-armer Reid often looked as if he might snap in half - which he did in one of the Twelfth Man's wickedly funny pastiches. In real life the 6ft 7in Reid took 113 wickets in 27 Tests between the almost inevitable injuries, including 13 England scalps in Melbourne in 1990-91.

12th man: Venkat
International cricket's ultimate jack of all trades, the Indian offspinner Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan followed 156 wickets in 57 Tests - some as captain - with spells as manager, coach and referee - before, most famously, a lengthy stint as an international umpire, which included officiating in 73 Test matches. And all of it with a frame as slender as a clothes horse.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2014

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • J751 on May 21, 2014, 14:52 GMT

    Zaheer Abbas,when he made his epic 274 against England in 1971 was a very lightweight figure and he wore glasses as well.

  • on May 21, 2014, 13:44 GMT

    Left arm spinner Venkatapathy Raju should top the list !

  • on May 21, 2014, 10:42 GMT

    sourav ganguly in his early days

  • on May 21, 2014, 10:42 GMT

    sourav ganguly in his early days

  • on May 21, 2014, 6:38 GMT

    Venkatesh prasad...... hemang badani... joe root... danish kaneria.... shabbir ahmed.... peter george...

  • on May 20, 2014, 11:38 GMT

    Venkatpathy Raju, nicknamed muscles by Brian Mc Millan

  • Guruchandarus on May 20, 2014, 10:35 GMT

    Upul Chandana, Ajit Agarkar, David Williams(West Indian Keeper)

  • kamranwasti on May 20, 2014, 4:58 GMT

    Asif Iqbal should be the team's all-rounder.

  • on May 20, 2014, 3:16 GMT

    Akila Dananjaya.. srilankan player who played for chennai super kings... tiniest, thinnest, lightest whatever you say... he should have in no. one position.

  • on May 20, 2014, 2:43 GMT

    @Speng: you probably mean Courtney Walsh, don't you?

  • J751 on May 21, 2014, 14:52 GMT

    Zaheer Abbas,when he made his epic 274 against England in 1971 was a very lightweight figure and he wore glasses as well.

  • on May 21, 2014, 13:44 GMT

    Left arm spinner Venkatapathy Raju should top the list !

  • on May 21, 2014, 10:42 GMT

    sourav ganguly in his early days

  • on May 21, 2014, 10:42 GMT

    sourav ganguly in his early days

  • on May 21, 2014, 6:38 GMT

    Venkatesh prasad...... hemang badani... joe root... danish kaneria.... shabbir ahmed.... peter george...

  • on May 20, 2014, 11:38 GMT

    Venkatpathy Raju, nicknamed muscles by Brian Mc Millan

  • Guruchandarus on May 20, 2014, 10:35 GMT

    Upul Chandana, Ajit Agarkar, David Williams(West Indian Keeper)

  • kamranwasti on May 20, 2014, 4:58 GMT

    Asif Iqbal should be the team's all-rounder.

  • on May 20, 2014, 3:16 GMT

    Akila Dananjaya.. srilankan player who played for chennai super kings... tiniest, thinnest, lightest whatever you say... he should have in no. one position.

  • on May 20, 2014, 2:43 GMT

    @Speng: you probably mean Courtney Walsh, don't you?

  • tashan329 on May 20, 2014, 1:22 GMT

    Bhuvaneshwar Kumar is another candidate .......

  • Speng on May 19, 2014, 17:15 GMT

    err... Curtly Ambrose? I reckon he was not light but it was spread over 6'7" or so. Chanderpaul tends to look pretty lost in his pads as well.

  • on May 19, 2014, 17:02 GMT

    Shahbaaz Nadeem is by far the thinnest I have ever seen. His clothing might weigh heavier than him.

  • AndyZaltzmannsHair on May 19, 2014, 16:29 GMT

    Rameez Raja. Skinny opener who never quite fitted the Pakistan team of his or any Pakistani era. Too skinny as a commentator too.

  • on May 19, 2014, 16:22 GMT

    honourable mentions:- venkatapathi raju,Russel Arnold,Shiv chanderpaul

  • jw76 on May 19, 2014, 16:02 GMT

    Tich Freeman can't have played with many lighter than him. Lindsay Hassett looks like another featherweight, Some of the names listed above were thin, sure enough, but their height would have added to the scales - like Greg Chappell, Elliott and Jardine, for example.

  • CricketPissek on May 19, 2014, 15:21 GMT

    in Sri Lanka, we skinny blokes used to say "I have a body like Arnold... unfortunately, it's not Schwarzenegger, but Russel Arndol :( "

  • TheCricketEmpireStrikesBack on May 19, 2014, 14:29 GMT

    @Rohit Ramesh - I certainly agree that Bill Lawry could have made the list. BTW the "corpse with pads on" was a reference to his rate of scoring and always seemed insincere given its origin and that a certain Geoff Boycott was around at the time.

    Lawry is an absolute legend and anyone who watched him face up to the fearsome duo of Hall and Griffiths could only wonder where he stored all the courage.

  • mshyder on May 19, 2014, 13:26 GMT

    Why did we forget pencil thin Uppal Chandana

  • on May 19, 2014, 13:21 GMT

    Scandalous ommission of Eddie Hemmings from this article.

  • kappy123 on May 19, 2014, 12:53 GMT

    What about our very own muscles - Mr. Venkatapathy Raju..

  • on May 19, 2014, 11:52 GMT

    Ian Redpath anybody???? He was as thin as they come.

  • IndianInnerEdge on May 19, 2014, 11:24 GMT

    I think it was Brian McMillian the SAF allrounder who nicknamed venkatpathy raju as 'muscles'-should have made this list, along with Ajit Agarkar, Mo Kaif, Harb Singh was thin as a rake when he started out......SL had russell arnold, Williams the windies keeper was a pencil slim character, Even Ashton Agar could have had a honourable mention...

  • on May 19, 2014, 11:18 GMT

    I might have thought Bill Lawry would have made the list. The english press called him a corpse with pads.

  • on May 19, 2014, 10:27 GMT

    how about Russel Arnold ? i think he was lightest of all

  • Sagarneel on May 19, 2014, 10:17 GMT

    How about Mushfiqur Rahim? And I'd have made Ajit Agarkar as the first entry on that list.

  • balajik1968 on May 19, 2014, 10:04 GMT

    Another one. Nilesh Kulkarni, he played a couple of matches for India and he was painfully thin. Yasir Hasan, I think you are talking about David Williams. Wicketkeepers are in general short, but this man was tiny.

  • Prodger on May 19, 2014, 9:38 GMT

    Present day possibility could be James Taylor, his dad was a jockey, I'm sure JT could fill the criteria

  • on May 19, 2014, 7:47 GMT

    why cant we have FAWAD ALAM?

  • on May 19, 2014, 7:04 GMT

    What about commentator and former leg-spinner Laxman Sivamarakrishnan??

  • Rowayton on May 19, 2014, 6:44 GMT

    Glad to see Sikander there. I think it was Lenny Pascoe who said that even if he hadn't been a cricketer, Sikander could have had a sporting career as a snooker cue.

  • manas_02 on May 19, 2014, 5:35 GMT

    How can you forget Ajit Agarkar?...He was as thin as they came

  • on May 19, 2014, 5:13 GMT

    I remember a tiny and thin Wicketkeeper from West Indies... http://www.espncricinfo.com/westindies/content/player/53230.html I think Umer Gul is also very close to joining this list

  • Aamir_Javed on May 19, 2014, 4:39 GMT

    How could someone forget Kumar Dharmasena.....

  • Sir_Francis on May 19, 2014, 3:45 GMT

    Ashley Mallett too. Elliott was unlucky to crash into Mark Waugh and wreck his knee. Particularly as his opponents at the time were Blewett, Hayden, Langer, Slater, Taylor. Give up your test spot then and you may never get it back.

  • on May 19, 2014, 3:13 GMT

    Ian Redpath and Bill Lawry had to be on the outskirts

  • Kirti_Sinha on May 19, 2014, 2:30 GMT

    I would have expected this list to start with Venkatpathy Raju, or Muscles, as they call him

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  • Kirti_Sinha on May 19, 2014, 2:30 GMT

    I would have expected this list to start with Venkatpathy Raju, or Muscles, as they call him

  • on May 19, 2014, 3:13 GMT

    Ian Redpath and Bill Lawry had to be on the outskirts

  • Sir_Francis on May 19, 2014, 3:45 GMT

    Ashley Mallett too. Elliott was unlucky to crash into Mark Waugh and wreck his knee. Particularly as his opponents at the time were Blewett, Hayden, Langer, Slater, Taylor. Give up your test spot then and you may never get it back.

  • Aamir_Javed on May 19, 2014, 4:39 GMT

    How could someone forget Kumar Dharmasena.....

  • on May 19, 2014, 5:13 GMT

    I remember a tiny and thin Wicketkeeper from West Indies... http://www.espncricinfo.com/westindies/content/player/53230.html I think Umer Gul is also very close to joining this list

  • manas_02 on May 19, 2014, 5:35 GMT

    How can you forget Ajit Agarkar?...He was as thin as they came

  • Rowayton on May 19, 2014, 6:44 GMT

    Glad to see Sikander there. I think it was Lenny Pascoe who said that even if he hadn't been a cricketer, Sikander could have had a sporting career as a snooker cue.

  • on May 19, 2014, 7:04 GMT

    What about commentator and former leg-spinner Laxman Sivamarakrishnan??

  • on May 19, 2014, 7:47 GMT

    why cant we have FAWAD ALAM?

  • Prodger on May 19, 2014, 9:38 GMT

    Present day possibility could be James Taylor, his dad was a jockey, I'm sure JT could fill the criteria