Cricinfo XI

Unfulfilled potential

Young Cricketers of the Year who haven't quite gone on to make the grade

Martin Williamson

September 27, 2007

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Since 1950, at the end of each English summer the Cricket Writers' Club - whose membership, as the name suggests, consists of the great and good from the written media as well as TV and radio - selects a Young Cricketer of the Year. Most of the choices go on have successful international careers, but a few fall by the wayside. We look at XI who did not quite make the grade.



The 2007 Young Player of the Year, Adil Rashid ... what future awaits him? © Getty Images
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Brian Taylor (1956)
Essex's wicketkeeper-batsman for almost two decades, Taylor, then 24, passed 1000 runs for the first time in 1956 and, with Godfrey Evans nearing the end of his career, he seemed set for an England career. He was selected to tour South Africa that winter as Evans' understudy without breaking into the full side. But two years later when Evans retired, Taylor had been overtaken in the pecking order by Jim Parks, and with an embarrassment of riches for England in the form of John Murray and then Alan Knott, he never came close to even a tour again.

Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie (1958)
A man who belonged to an earlier, more cavalier, time, Ingleby-Mackenzie's approach to life and cricket was very similar: it was there to be enjoyed. He was a crowd-pleasing batsman who almost certainly would have gained England honours had he been prepared to adopt a more serious approach to the game, but that was simply not his style. Asked what his secret was, he said: "Wine, women and song." And discipline? "Yes, everyone must be in bed by breakfast." He did lead Hampshire to their first Championship in 1961, though, and went on to become a popular administrator.

John Whitehouse (1971)
In 1971 Whitehouse enjoyed a successful first season for Warwickshire, scoring 1295 runs and blasting 173 against Oxford on his first-class debut, including a hundred in 97 minutes. But his form fell away in the next two seasons and he missed a full summer because of accountancy exams. By 1976 and 1977, the only other two years he passed 1000 runs, his chance had come and gone.

Dudley Owen-Thomas (1972)
One of the stranger choices, Owen-Thomas shone as a schoolboy and then for Cambridge University, signing off with a hundred in the 1971 Varsity match and then helping Surrey win the Championship later that summer. In 1972, his first full county season, he scored three hundreds and narrowly missed out on 1000 runs, but that was still enough to win him the Young Cricketer of the Year award. But his form fell away markedly - only one more hundred came in the next three summers and by the end of 1975, aged only 27, he had drifted out of the game.



Andrew Kennedy: a poor summer followed the award © Cricinfo
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Andrew Kennedy (1975)
A left-hand opener, Kennedy was almost 26 when he won the award on the back of a good summer with Lancashire, peaking with a fifty in their Gillette Cup victory. But England were not short of opening batsmen, especially when Geoff Boycott returned from the wilderness in 1977, and in any case Kennedy's form was erratic. In 1976 he struggled - almost a third of his runs came in one innings of 176 not out, and in 1977 he lost his place after making 166 runs in seven games. He battled back but was never close to an England call-up and retired in 1982 after another wretched season.

Rob Bailey (1984)
More than most in this XI, Bailey was unlucky. A courageous top-order batsman, he scored heavily for Northamptonshire, especially in the first half of his career, forcing his England selection at a time when the national side was in turmoil. He made a gutsy 43 on debut against West Indies in 1988 and was picked for that winter's tour of India, which was cancelled. He was again selected for the Caribbean tour in 1989-90 on which he played three more Tests. He received an appalling decision on his recall but withstood a fearsome battering from the West Indies pace attack and emerged bruised but with his reputation enhanced. Despite that, he was dropped and not given another chance. He continued to be one of the best batsmen on the domestic circuit but suffered from playing for an unfashionable side.

Ashley Metcalfe (1986)
Metcalfe was an attacking opening batsman who never quite fulfilled his early potential. He scored a hundred on his debut for Yorkshire in 1983, putting on 248 for the first wicket with Geoff Boycott, and he underlined his one-day credentials with a Sunday League century the following summer. In 1986 he scored 1803 runs, including six hundreds, was named the Young Player of the Year, and came close to being selected for that winter's Ashes tour. But his form fell away and though Ray Illingworth, the England supremo, was his father-in-law, he slid down the pecking order and before he was 30 had lost his place in the county side.

James Whitaker (1986)
Whitaker, a middle-order batsman, arrived with a bang, passing 1000 runs in each of his first three full seasons. In 1986 he scored 1526 runs at 66.34 despite having bones broken in both hands by Malcolm Marshall. Shortly after winning the Young Cricketer award at the end of that summer he was picked to tour Australia and played one Test in England's Ashes-winning series. He started 1987 with a fifty for MCC against the champion county but could not fight his way into the England squad. He continued to pile on runs for Leicestershire but came no closer to a recall than an England A tour of Zimbabwe in 1989-90.



Richard Blakey: won the award as a batsman but earned his England caps as a keeper-batsman © Getty Images
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Richard Blakey (1987)
Blakey began life as a batting wunderkind and won the Young Player award as a specialist batsman. In 1989-90 he scored 221 for England A in Zimbabwe but the following summer he was converted into a wicketkeeper-batsman and his form fell away. He was a controversial choice for England's disastrous tour of India in 1992-93, picked ahead of Jack Russell, and critics were proved right when he failed dismally with the bat.

Mark Lathwell (1993)
Lathwell arrived like a comet and a good A team tour of Australia in 1992-93 had critics cooing that he would go on to great things. He started 1993 in excellent form amid a clamour for his call-up as England fell apart against Australia. But by the time he was eventually picked he was out of touch and, as it later emerged, a bundle of nerves. Even his mother said he had been chosen when too young. The effect seemed to seriously blight him and while he scored well for Somerset, he never recaptured his early form. Disillusioned and admitting that he found the game a strain, he quit in 2001 before he was 30.

Paul Franks (2000)
The one selection who still has time on his side - just. In 2000 Franks, a fast-medium bowler from Nottinghamshire, appeared to be on the brink of something special, making a one-day appearance against West Indies on his own ground. He had already made his mark as a member of the Under-19 side that won the 1998 World Cup. But injury struck at the wrong time and he missed most of 2001, half of 2002, and then had a poor 2003 season. He has been dogged by niggling injuries on and off since and his chance now seems to have gone.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo

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Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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