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.

Posted by MAK123 on (February 10, 2014, 16:38 GMT)

"Injured escaping enraged husband" - As a matter of fact, the actress was none other than Noor Jehan, who was also a very famous play-back singer. Nazar Mohammad jumped from the first floor of hour house, when Noor Jehan's husband, Ejaz (another famous actor of his time) arrived home early. Nazar actually broke his leg and not his arm :-)

Posted by RohanMarkJay on (February 10, 2014, 15:58 GMT)

Steven Lynch don't forget David Gower and Dean Jones in the early 1990s, both big stars and their outstanding cricketers for their respective teams but met an unceremonious exit from the stage seemingly well before their time.

Posted by   on (February 10, 2014, 15:41 GMT)

what about trescothick,yardy

Posted by krishna_j on (February 10, 2014, 13:12 GMT)

What about the bizarre retirement midway on the fourth day of the third test in Delhi vs Aus in 2008 by India's captain Anil Kumble ? As India's highest wicket taker and in reasonably good form with 617 wickets , Dhoni had led india to victory in the previous test which Kumble sat out due to injury and a debutant leggie Amit Mishra had bowled reasonably well - but for the captain to retire midway in a test series where India was leading - bizarre to say the least

Posted by   on (February 10, 2014, 11:56 GMT)

what about Daryll Cullinan. he was offered the test captaincy agaibst Australia but due to contract issues withdrew and never played test cricket again.

Posted by   on (February 10, 2014, 11:14 GMT)

Andy Ganteaume (Trinidad & Tobago, WI) scored a century on debut v England 1947-48 (he was 26). But probably because the captain felt he scored too slowly, and the fact that he had only been selected when Jeff Stollmeyer (Trinidad & Tobago, WI) was unavailable because of injury, he was dropped for the next match. He was not picked for a subsequent tour of India but was picked for the tour of England in 1957 (at age 36 probably past his best)...but did not play a test !! Thus he remains the only batsman with a test average past 100 (112.00) but I guess because it was only based on one test inning it would not be considered !!!!!

Posted by   on (February 10, 2014, 11:08 GMT)

Chris Cowdrey, picked as captain, discarded as player and captain the next Test, never to be seen again. Mark Lathwell should have been given more chances. Stuart Law, 52 on debut, never seen again.

Posted by   on (February 10, 2014, 10:58 GMT)

My 3 cricket heroes all played their last Tests when they had much more left in them. Gower, 1992 - left out by Gooch for India - DISGRACE. Thorpe for the Ashes 2005, KP came in which is fine, but England had Bell who did nothing in that series and Vaughan was there for his captaincy, LOL. Robin Smith was dropped after 1995/96 tour to South Africa; he was averaging 43 while England continued with Ramprakash, Hick, Butcher who never did anything special.

Posted by John-Price on (February 10, 2014, 9:55 GMT)

Fred Grace did not catch Pneumonia from sleeping ion a damp mattress. Pneumonia is an infection and/or inflammation of the lungs. Being cold or wet doesn't make you sick with infectious diseases. Being infected by a bacteria or virus (or other infectious pathogen) that your immune system is unable to fight off is the cause of not only pneumonia, but virtually every communicable disease. It is the transmission of this infectious agent that causes the illness, not the conditions in which the infection is contracted.

Posted by wajidjawaid on (February 10, 2014, 9:31 GMT)

Deepanjan.. a correction is required in your description of the word 'nazar'. 'Nazar' is written in two different ways in urdu; they have different meaning but same pronunciation. One of them does mean vision/ evil eye as you described. But the name 'Nazar' is written differently and it means gift/ donation.

Posted by   on (February 10, 2014, 9:28 GMT)

Mark Boucher surely the most unusual of all.

Posted by   on (February 10, 2014, 9:21 GMT)

Now I know why Nazar and Mudassar Nazar carried bats for Pakistan:)

Posted by   on (February 10, 2014, 9:03 GMT)

For people asking that why these players are not added, they should know only 11 players are put in this list as this is ESPN Cricinfo XI. They cant add more players in it.

Posted by Jonathan_E on (February 10, 2014, 8:15 GMT)

There's also Hedley Verity and Ken Farnes, both killed in World War 2. Verity, as a spinner, might have expected his career to continue a decent long time after the war: and Farnes might still have been fit to play as well, although as a fast bowler in his 30s, he was unlikely to have bowled as fast as he did pre-war. Unfortunately, "Messerschmitt Stopped Play"...

Posted by Big-Dog on (February 10, 2014, 6:45 GMT)

Jason Gillespie scored a double ton for Australia & was never selected again.

Posted by Zavierz on (February 10, 2014, 5:54 GMT)

Nazar Mohammad, Oh Man what a way to go.........:O

Posted by CUPULW on (February 10, 2014, 5:51 GMT)

Piyal Wijethunge was a Sri Lankan leggie who just played one test in 1996. In his younger years he formed a trio of spinner for St Anthony's College Kandy with - Muttaiah Muralitharan and Ruwan Kalpage. However despite being a very good schoolboy cricketer, Piyal never made it at the highest level. The presence of 3 offies in Murali , Kalpage and Kumar Dharmasena , who were also good bats , probably swayed the selectors' thinking.

Oddly, Sanjeewa Weerasinghe , another leggie suffered the same fate , playing just one test in 1985 , never to play again. At the time he was the youngest to play for Sri Lanka , but those were the days when Sri Lanka played just a couple of tests per year.

Again at that time there were Asoka De Silva, Jayananda Warnaweera and Don Anurasiri figthing for the spinner's spot.

Posted by jonesy2 on (February 10, 2014, 5:27 GMT)

simon katich, damian martyn, brad hodge, Andrew symonds, Jason krejza?

Posted by ZkAneela on (February 10, 2014, 5:26 GMT)

What about michael bevan......???

Posted by   on (February 10, 2014, 4:18 GMT)

Thought Andy Lloyd and Fred Grace were just about the most interesting/ unfortunate cases when Nazar Mohammad 'jumped' into view .. literally and figuratively. (For those who care to know 'nazar' in Urdu means view/ evil eye). That's one heck of a reason to end your test career

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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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