Injured by a small boy, and other tales

Kevin Pietersen was dropped from the Lord's Test for textual impropriety. Here are some other instances of players who missed matches for unlikely reasons

Steven Lynch

August 20, 2012

Comments: 23 | Text size: A | A

Gautam Gambhir raises his bat after making his first half-century against West Indies, India v West Indies, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 1st day, November 14, 2011
Gautam Gambhir skipped a Test to attend his sister's wedding © AFP

Didn't like the wicketkeeper
Fred Spofforth was the first fearsome Australian fast bowler - not for nothing was he nicknamed "The Demon". But he was a notable absentee from the first Test of all, against England in Melbourne in March 1877, because he wanted his friend Billy Murdoch to keep wicket, rather than the man chosen, Jack Blackham. Spofforth relented for the second Test, and soon struck... when Blackham pulled off a fine stumping to remove the England opener Alfred Shaw. Spofforth finished with 94 wickets from just 18 matches.

Talked out
Looking at the Headingley wicket for the Test against Pakistan in 1987, England's vice-captain John Emburey suggested that it would be a seaming pitch, so they should probably play only one spinner. Skipper Mike Gatting and the selectors agreed - and plumped for Emburey's Middlesex team-mate Phil Edmonds. Embers carried the drinks.

Sister's wedding
Gautam Gambhir decided to skip the third Test against Sri Lanka in November 2009 because it clashed with his sister's wedding. "Something like this was unimaginable in my playing days," huffed a previous Indian Test batsman, Anshuman Gaekwad: "I am the only son in my family and I have three sisters, but all the weddings were done keeping the cricket schedule in mind." Sunil Gavaskar cautioned that Gambhir might find it hard to get back in if his replacement did well - but given that he had scored a century in each of his previous four Tests, he probably felt secure.

Scoring too slowly
Ken Barrington was dropped by England after he scored a slow century against New Zealand in 1965, and something similar happened to an unamused Geoff Boycott two years later, after he amassed 246 not out at a sedate pace against India. Both bowling attacks were fairly friendly, which contributed to the decision at a time when many were calling for "brighter cricket" - it's unthinkable that the selectors would have been so censorious if Australia had been the opposition.

Scoring too fast
Kapil Dev was dropped by India as a disciplinary measure after England wrapped up the second Test in Delhi in 1984-85 - Kapil had hit his second ball for six and holed out off the next one. He was hardly the only one to underperform in that match, though, as England won it by eight wickets. "I was dumped for one Test in order to prove some obscure point about discipline," Kapil later wrote. It spoiled a superb run: India played 132 Tests between Kapil's debut in October 1978 and his last match in March 1994... and he played in 131 of them.

Injured by small boy
The great all-round sportsman (international cricketer and footballer, handy rugby player, former long-jump world-record holder) CB Fry missed the first Test of the 1905 Ashes series because of an unlikely injury: "My thumb had been squashed to a jelly," he revealed in his autobiography, "while practising on my home ground at Hamble to the bowling of a small boy."

Ran himself over
Ted Dexter was ruled out of consideration for the 1965-66 Ashes tour because he had broken his leg in a bizarre accident on the Chiswick Flyover: he was pushing his Jaguar after it broke down, but it ran out of control and crushed him. Dexter, who had been late arriving for the previous winter's tour of South Africa as he'd been a (defeated) candidate in the General Election, never played for England again, apart from a brief reappearance in 1968.

Ted Dexter on crutches after running himself over with his own car. He was pushing the vehicle after it had run out of petrol when it ran over him, 1964
Ted Dexter on crutches after running himself over © The Cricketer International

Cut hand on a breadknife
A similar self-inflicted injury ruled Jimmy Adams out of West Indies' 1998-99 tour of South Africa. On the plane going there he cut his hand badly on a breadknife (some reports say butterknife, but breadknife sounds better). The nasty gash needed three stitches - administered by a doctor on the plane, assisted by South African cricket supremo Ali Bacher, who was also a medical man - but Adams could not play any part in the Tests that followed, which West Indies lost 5-0.

"I'd rather play for Middlesex"
In the early days Tests weren't considered quite as important as they are now, and in 1890 Drewy Stoddart missed the first match against Australia and played for his county instead. Selected for the second one, he withdrew again, as Middlesex were due to play Yorkshire - whereupon the aristocratic Lord Hawke pulled Bobby Peel and George Ulyett out of the Test side too, to oppose Stoddart. He was forgiven eventually - he later captained England.

Hay fever
Norman "Mandy" Mitchell-Innes made his Test debut for England against South Africa in 1935, after some fine performances for Oxford University. But he pulled out of the next Test, pleading bad hay fever: "I might be sneezing just as a catch came in the slips," he wrote to Plum Warner, the chairman of selectors. Mitchell-Innes may not have done his chances of another cap much good when, feeling a bit better, he scored a century for Oxford at The Oval while England were sliding to defeat in the Test he was supposed to be playing in across the river at Lord's.

Wife and child can't come
The great England bowler SF Barnes was invited to tour Australia in 1920-21, even though he was 47 by then. Barnes said he'd go if MCC would pay for his wife and child to accompany him to Australia. They declined, and so did SF. MCC might have wished they'd paid up: Australia won the series 5-0, the first such Test whitewash.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2012

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Posted by sajjodaalman on (August 23, 2012, 15:41 GMT)

sarwan got dropped many times for unexplained reasons really

Posted by ravikb on (August 23, 2012, 9:02 GMT)

What about Ganguly faking injury after seeing the green wicket at Nagpur against Aus in 2004?

Posted by xylo on (August 23, 2012, 2:58 GMT)

Wasn't an Aussie player bit by a dog when visiting India?

Posted by   on (August 22, 2012, 22:57 GMT)

I remember one nayan mongia ...he was dropped coz he ran azhar out against newzealand...

Posted by jonesy2 on (August 22, 2012, 2:16 GMT)

what about the most famous of all? pidgeon stepping on the ball in 05. also roy symonds' gone fishin' saga..

Posted by   on (August 21, 2012, 16:17 GMT)

hey guys..add Yuvraj Singh to the list too..he was injured while playing i think rugby/football in the training session.. and then missed many matches when Chappel was Indian coach..

and another interesting one- Vinod Kambli was rested in one of matches in 1998 Pepsi cup being played in India. he was fielding as substitute fielder and while stopping a ball at the boundary line he ran on the ball..and had ankle injury which put him off the field for many days which shut down his chances of making a come back.

Posted by OldAdam on (August 21, 2012, 12:54 GMT)

I can't add to the list of unlikely reasons but I do have reason to remember Ted Dexter's Jaguar well. As a 13-year-old, I and my friends asked for his autograph before a game between Derbyshire and Sussex at Chesterfield. He said he didn't have time but we could have it after the game if we washed his car for him. We did just that but at the end of the day he declared that he was in too much of a hurry again. The b....r!

Posted by guptahitesh4u on (August 21, 2012, 11:44 GMT)

Chris Lewis should be a part of this list. He practiced under the sun with a shaved head and caught the bed!!

Posted by   on (August 21, 2012, 7:09 GMT)

sachin was cleaning the dust from the ball and umpire took it as ball tempering and he missed a the next test.

Posted by jezzabo on (August 21, 2012, 2:49 GMT)

Paul Reiffel missed a test against the West Indies in 1996-97 for an injury he received while asleep! Apparently, the team hotel's pillows weren't to his liking, and he awoke with a stiff neck. It allowed Jason Gillespie to make his test debut.

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Steven Lynch Steven Lynch won the Wisden Cricket Monthly Christmas Quiz three years running before the then-editor said "I can't let you win it again, but would you like a job?" That lasted for 15 years, before he moved across to the Wisden website when that was set up in 2000. Following the merger of the two sites early in 2003 he was appointed as the global editor of Wisden Cricinfo. In June 2005 he became the deputy editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. He continues to contribute the popular weekly "Ask Steven" question-and-answer column on ESPNcricinfo, and edits the Wisden Guide to International Cricket.

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