I'll not be back

After Kevin Pietersen's international exit, a look at some other unusual endings to Test careers

Steven Lynch

February 10, 2014

Comments: 30 | Text size: A | A

Mohammad Azharuddin salutes the crowd after completing a century, India v South Africa, second Test, Bangalore, 5th day, March 6, 2000
Mohammad Azharuddin: banned after his 99th Test John Macdougall / © AFP
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Refused by the board
Arguably the closest parallel to KP's enforced retirement came in 1951-52, when the controversial New South Wales opener Sid Barnes was recalled by the selectors for the third Test against West Indies, only for the Australian board to veto his selection on grounds other than cricket ability. Barnes sued - not the board, but the writer of a letter to a newspaper supporting the decision. Still, he never played for Australia again.

Pneumonia from wet sheets
GF "Fred" Grace made his Test debut alongside his more illustrious brother WG against Australia at The Oval in 1880. WG made 152 - but Fred bagged a pair, although he did take a famous catch from a stratospheric skyer, clinging on as the batsmen completed their third run. And Fred never got the chance to make amends: a fortnight after the match he was dead, not yet 30, from pneumonia thought to have started when he slept on a damp mattress.

Punch-up in the lift
The Gloucestershire slow left-armer Charlie Parker lies third on the all-time list with more than 3200 wickets. But he only won one Test cap, in 1921, when he was 38. One of the reasons usually cited for his continued omission was that he once grabbed Pelham Warner - the chairman of England's selectors at the time - by the lapels in a lift in the Grand Hotel, Bristol, and harangued him about his exclusion.

Played somewhere else mid-Test
Tom Graveney, perhaps England's most stylish post-war batsman, faced a quandary during the first Test against West Indies in 1969: it was his benefit year, and there was a match arranged on the Sunday (which was a rest day in the Test in those days). Graveney felt obliged to play, as his name was on the advertisements, and although he escaped injury he was slapped with a ban. It was only for three Tests but, since he was already 42, Graveney knew that actually it was signalling the end of his Test career.

Life ban after 99 Tests
Mohammad Azharuddin scored centuries in his first three Tests and, more than 15 years later, made yet another hundred in what was his 99th Test, against South Africa in Bangalore in March 2000. But hopes for a century of caps were scuppered when he was implicated in a match-fixing scandal, and banned for life. The ban was lifted in 2012 after being ruled "unsustainable" - but Azhar was nearly 50 by then.

Denied a home farewell
Late in 1999, Australia's selectors told the 35-year-old Ian Healy that they were planning to replace him behind the stumps with Adam Gilchrist. While not pleased, Healy accepted the decision - but asked whether he could be allowed to make his farewell in the first Test of the home summer, in front of his own supporters in Brisbane. But the hard-hearted selectors refused, meaning that Healy's last bow had been in front of rather fewer fans, in Harare. Gilchrist made 81 in his first Test and a hundred in his second - and hardly looked back.

Injured escaping enraged husband
Nazar Mohammad made Pakistan's first Test century, carrying his bat for 124 against India in Lucknow in October 1952. But his career came to a somewhat sticky end not long after that. According to the Lahore newspaper Imroz, at the time, Nazar had been conducting an affair with a film actress, and had to make a hurried departure one day when her husband came home early. He jumped out of a first-floor window and badly broke his arm.

Retired mid-Test
Graeme Swann raised a few eyebrows by retiring during the recent Ashes tour, but Stuart MacGill went one better in Antigua in mid-2008, announcing his retirement in the middle of the second Test against West Indies. The unfortunate MacGill had suffered a string of injuries since finally making the legspinner's spot his own on the retirement of Shane Warne. He had not bowled well in the Caribbean, and admitted: "Unfortunately now my time is up."


Tom Graveney in the nets ahead of the Australians' tour game against the MCC, Lord's, May 15, 1953
Tom Graveney: went to play a benefit match during a rest day © PA Photos
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Hay fever
"Mandy" Mitchell-Innes, an attractive batsman for Oxford University and Somerset, made his Test debut against South Africa at Trent Bridge in 1935. But he pulled out of the next one, worried about his hay fever: "I might be sneezing just as a catch came in the slips." He never did play again: the selectors possibly didn't appreciate the fact that he felt well enough to make a century for Oxford at The Oval while England were sliding to defeat in the Test he was supposed to be playing in, not far away, at Lord's.

Dropped after scoring 325
Andy Sandham compiled Test cricket's first triple-century, against West Indies in Kingston in April 1930. But that was a second-string side - there was another England team playing Tests in New Zealand at the same time - and when Australia came calling later in 1930, England could not find a place for Sandham, whose 47-year-old Surrey opening partner Jack Hobbs returned for his last hurrah. Sandham, who was 40, never did win another cap.

Injured after 30 minutes
It's just about the shortest active Test career of all: Andy Lloyd, opening the batting against West Indies on his home ground, at Edgbaston in June 1984, and had weathered the first half hour of the innings when he was hit on the earpiece of his helmet by a short ball from Malcolm Marshall. Lloyd spent the next ten days in hospital, suffering from blurred vision: although he made a county comeback, his eyesight was never quite the same again and he never played another Test. He remains the only opener not to be dismissed during his Test career.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2013

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Posted by   on (February 14, 2014, 5:29 GMT)

Sachin Tendulkar, played 200 tests but his last 20 matches were pointless

Posted by   on (February 11, 2014, 8:54 GMT)

Even Anil Kumble i guess.. It was supposed to be Dada's farewell series and Kumble injured himself in 3rd test and immediately retired after that if I am right..

Posted by   on (February 11, 2014, 4:15 GMT)

jason gillespie is a notable omission .. a double century in his last innings

Posted by   on (February 10, 2014, 23:40 GMT)

What about Muhammad Yousuf from Pakistan?

Posted by Chris_Howard on (February 10, 2014, 22:59 GMT)

Dean Jones, 2 centuries and 2 fifties in his last four Tests. Without explanation, never picked again.

Posted by   on (February 10, 2014, 21:47 GMT)

Jason Gillespie? A fearsome fast bowler at his peak but injuries turned him to mediocre medium pacer in his last couple of series. Atfer being dropped, was brought back against Bangladesh for 1 final test where he scored a double century.....

Posted by sithnico on (February 10, 2014, 20:32 GMT)

Steven, can please make list of players "Not coming back!" or "left without any news!" players who never annonced their retirement or just vanished for example: 1.Muhammad Yousuf 2.Shoaib Akhtar 3.Ravi Shastri 4.Shaun Tait 5.Ian Harvey 6.Roger Twose

etc.... thanks

Posted by   on (February 10, 2014, 19:18 GMT)

What about Marvan Atapattu? Midway through the test series of Sri Lanka's tour of Australia in 2007, he hit out at the national selectors, calling them "a set of muppets headed by a joker". He scored two half-centuries in the series and announced his retirement from international cricket on the last day of the 2nd Test.

Posted by   on (February 10, 2014, 19:06 GMT)

Have you all forgotten niel jonshon from zimbamve

Posted by   on (February 10, 2014, 16:57 GMT)

For Team India, Kapil Dev's exit was mid series too, Kumble / Boucher unfortunately were injured beyond repair on field so was WK - Saba Karim by a Kumble bouncer ironically. Ravi Shastri too at just 30 due to bad knee. Hence these unceremonious exits. Vengsarkar before 1992 world cup and Mohinder Amarnath a year before that are another shining examples.

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Steven LynchClose
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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