January 7, 2013

Dial Z for ...

Cricketers who'd be bottom of the pile if sorted alphabetically

Zulqarnain Haider
A brief international career for this feisty wicketkeeper, but enough incidents to pad out a TV drama: given out for a pair on Test debut but reprieved on review to score 88; a handful of limited-overs caps, but none since a moonlight flit from Dubai, claiming match-fixers were after him for refusing their advances. Since then Zulqarnain has sought asylum in Britain (but later returned home), been briefly banned from domestic cricket, offered psychiatric help... but he's back playing now. However, there's a queue of Akmals to get past before he can get the Pakistan keeping gloves back.

Zaheer Khan
India's very own "Zed", the left-arm quick bowler Zaheer has been the spearhead of the attack for some years - although recently, now 34, there have been worrying signs of a decline, not helped by injury niggles: it felt like a seminal moment when he limped out of the first Test at Lord's in 2011, and India have rarely looked right in Tests since. Still, Zaheer is close to 300 wickets in both Tests and one-day internationals.

Tim Zoehrer
A combative wicketkeeper from Perth, Zoehrer had a brief run behind the stumps for Australia', including the 1986-87 Ashes series, before slipping behind Ian Healy in the pecking order. Still "Ziggy" made his presence felt, doing well enough as a legspinner to push for a Test place on a couple of tours. It never quite happened, though.

Adam Zampa
One of the latest Australian legspinning prospects to be saddled with the "new Warne" tag, 20-year-old Zampa made a good start in first-class cricket, taking five cheap wickets for New South Wales against Queensland in Canberra last November. He's had some decent Big Bash performances for Sydney Thunder since, and has an outside chance of selection for the Ashes tour... unless cricket's most famous "W" makes that comeback, of course.

Sultan Zarawani
The captain of the United Arab Emirates team in their first World Cup, Zarawani assured himself of a footnote in history by strolling out to bat against South Africa in a sunhat rather than a helmet. Allan Donald was predictably unamused, and his first ball smacked Zarawani on the head. Although groggy, he got to his feet and batted on, but survived only seven more balls before falling for a duck, and going to hospital for a check-up. Zarawani was captain almost by default: he was the only UAE-born player in the side, although his great wealth (he owned more than a dozen luxury cars) possibly helped too.

Andrew Zesers
Australia seemed to have unearthed a young star when the barrel-chested Zesers, a 20-year-old medium-pacer of Latvian descent, was part of the squad that won the 1987 World Cup. But he was dogged by shoulder problems and, despite becoming the youngest Australian to take 100 first-class wickets, was forced to retire before he turned 23. A South Australia team-mate at the time was the batsman Rob Zadow, and there were a few instances of "c Zadow b Zesers" to cheer up trivia-lovers. (Sadly none involved Tim Zoehrer, although Zesers did get him out a few times.)

Zulfiqar Ahmed
The first of the Z-men to make much of a mark in Tests, offspinner Zulfiqar had stunning figures of 37.2-19-37-5 and 46.3-21-42-6 as Pakistan crushed New Zealand in Karachi in October 1955. However, Zulfiqar's other eight Tests brought him only nine wickets, and he soon faded away, even though Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Pakistan's first captain and a great influence on their early cricket, was his brother-in-law.

Monde Zondeki
It couldn't have been Brian Johnston who gave Monde Zondeki the nickname "All Hands", but it really should have been. Zondeki, a South African medium-pacer, who took a wicket (Marvan Atapattu) with his first ball in one-day internationals, then surprised everybody by batting for three hours and scoring 59 on his Test debut at Headingley in August 2003. But he proved not quite quick enough for international cricket, although he's still active on the South African domestic scene.

Nuwan Zoysa
A big left-arm paceman from Colombo, Zoysa took a hat-trick with his first three balls in a Test against Zimbabwe in Harare in November 1999: after Chaminda Vaas started the match with a maiden, Zoysa pinned opener Trevor Gripper and the No. 4, Neil Johnson, in front, and in between had Murray Goodwin caught behind. It was the earliest hat-trick in any Test at the time, but has since been surpassed by Irfan Pathan's in the very first over for India against Pakistan in Karachi early in 2006.

Before there was Zulqarnain Haider, there was Zulqarnain: he also kept wicket for Pakistan, in three Tests in Sri Lanka early in 1986. "The latest in Pakistan's efforts to find a regular successor to Wasim Bari kept wicket well," reported Wisden. He toured England in 1987, but hardly got a game, as the noisier Salim Yousuf, a better batsman, made the place his own.

Zaheer Abbas
And finally the "Zed" who was so well known that that was what he called his 1983 autobiography. Abbas was a beautiful batsman to watch, for Pakistan or Gloucestershire, and specialised in big scores: there were two silky Test double-centuries against England, and a record eight instances of two hundreds in the same first-class match. And all this while (usually) wearing glasses, which did perhaps make him a little susceptible to extreme pace. Still, Zaheer averaged over 50 in first-class cricket, a respectable 45 in Tests, and a lofty 47 in one-day internationals. He had to be in here, much as I wanted to end this XI with Gratney Rodolph Zwilchenbart-Erskine (who played for Eton in the 1880s) or Georgina Zucchini-Watts of Leeds Women.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2013. Ask Steven is now on Facebook