May 5, 2014

The others

Cricketers who were overshadowed by their more famous relatives on the field

When Jimmy Ormond made his Test debut for England against Australia at The Oval in 2001, he was welcomed to the big league by Mark Waugh, who generously informed him that he was nowhere near good enough for Test cricket. Ormond's spirited reply was: "Maybe, but at least I'm the best cricketer in my family." So here's a look at some other international players who were outshone by members of the family circle.

EM Grace
When we look back now at cricket's era of Dr Grace, in the late 19th century, we could easily be paying tribute to EM Grace, "The Coroner", who pulled off all-round feats like - for MCC against Kent in 1862 - carrying his bat for 192 then taking all ten wickets. But EM had to contend with the huge shadow of WG, his even more talented brother, whose bearded face (EM affected only a pair of impressive mutton-chop sideburns) was probably the most famous in the land, apart possibly from Queen Victoria herself.

John Benaud
Almost a decade after Richie Benaud retired following a glittering playing career, his brother John played a few Tests - watched by the omnipresent Richie in the commentary box. Benaud (J) probably missed the 1972 tour of England after getting out for 99 in an unofficial Test against the World XI the previous winter, then in 1972-73 learned he'd been dropped for the third Test against Pakistan before the second one had finished. One imagines that bottom lip jutting, Richie-style, as John hammered 142 in the second innings to embarrass the selectors. Still, he would win only one more cap.

Chris Cowdrey
It was always going to be hard to follow the legendarily nice Colin Cowdrey, who won 114 caps for England over two decades. Chris Cowdrey did pretty well, leading Kent with verve and, in India in 1984-85, making a valiant attempt to fill the Ian Botham role after Beefy took the winter off. Cowdrey managed only four expensive wickets and a highest score of 38, which might have been it - but for a recall as captain in 1988 against West Indies at their most ferocious. Peter May, his godfather, was the chairman of selectors who chose him - and who seemed slightly relieved when, after making 0 and 5, Chris was ruled out of the next Test with an injured foot. He never played for England again.

Peter Pollock
It says a lot for the rest of the family that Peter Pollock, a ferocious fast bowler in his pomp, took 116 Test wickets at 24 - yet he is not only rated well below his brother Graeme, the peerless left-hander who averaged 60 in Tests, but his son too. Shaun Pollock sailed past 400 wickets at an even lower cost, although he admittedly had far more opportunities than his dad.

Ron Headley
George "Atlas" Headley was the first great West Indian batsman. His son, left-hander Ron, was a fine opener too, although his best days were largely confined to the County Championship, after he qualified to play for Worcestershire. He might have opened in Tests with Conrad Hunte throughout the 1960s, but West Indies didn't pick county players back then: still, Ron did get his brief moment in the sun - two Test caps - when he was called up for West Indies' 1973 tour of England. Later his own son, Dean, made the Headleys the first three-generation Test family when he played for England.

Merv Harvey
The Harveys of Fitzroy were a fine sporting family. Four of the six brothers played in the Sheffield Shield, and the boys won 80 Test caps between them. Of those, 79 belonged to Neil, the light-footed left-hander who finished up with 6149 runs and was arguably the best batsman in the world in the 1950s. The other one went to Merv, who opened with Arthur Morris in the fourth Test of the 1946-47 Ashes series (as Sid Barnes was unfit), scored 12 and 31... and never played again.

Grant Flower
He's his country's most-capped player, with 67 Tests, and his six centuries included a double against Pakistan in Zimbabwe's first Test victory. And yet it was Grant Flower's lot to be generally overshadowed by his older brother Andy, who made twice as many tons and averaged nearly double (51 to 29) despite often keeping wicket and captaining too.

Barry Hadlee
A batsman like his Test-playing father Walter, Barry Hadlee joined two of his brothers in the New Zealand side in 1975, playing two one-day internationals, one of them in the World Cup. Richard Hadlee went on to great things, finishing with 431 Test wickets, and Dayle took 71 himself. But that was it for Barry. It must have been a pretty competitive family: small wonder that Christopher, the youngest brother, kept away from cricket (he was a handy tennis player, though, and an architecture graduate). Father Walter blamed himself: "Unwittingly I left him to be a target for his older brothers, who aspired to be fast bowlers."

Trevor Chappell
He didn't play much for Australia - just three Tests, compared to brother Ian's 75 and Greg's 87. Trevor Chappell's Tests all came in the 1981 "Botham's Ashes" series, one most Australians now prefer to forget. And they tend to gloss over the biggest talking point in Trevor's 20 one-day international appearances too - his delivery of the underarm ball at the MCG in 1980-81, which denied New Zealand the chance of hitting the final ball for six to tie the game. It wasn't really Trevor's fault: his brother (Greg) told him to do it.

Rohan Gavaskar
Before Tendulkar, there was another short, dapper batsman who broke records for India. And Sunil Gavaskar did it all from the top of the order, reserving his best for the then-mighty West Indies, against whom he averaged 65 and made 13 of his 34 Test centuries. His son, who was named after Rohan Kanhai, had a fine career himself for Bengal - but although he played 11 one-day internationals in 2004, scoring 54 against Zimbabwe in one of them, he never cracked the Test side.

The Akmals
This is a tough one: no other family has produced three Test wicketkeepers, and it's hard to rank the Akmal clan. Kamran, the oldest, has outdone all Pakistan's other keepers in the run department, but his occasional outbreaks of ham-fisted keeping still produce nightmares from Peshawar to 'Pindi. Umar is a fine - if impetuous - batsman, and a useful stand-in stumper. Adnan Akmal is probably the best pure wicketkeeper of the trio, and is no mug with the bat. So maybe there's a fourth brother at home, who could never get his turn behind the stumps?

This topic started as a thread on the Ask Steven Facebook page, so thanks to everyone who contributed on there. I've tried not to be rude, since I admire anyone who was good enough to play for their country a Test match, because neither I nor my brother got very close to doing so. And it could have been worse. Imagine if Don Bradman had had a brother...

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2014