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Six of the worst: When Test teams are weakened by disputes and disaster

Australia go into the first Test against Pakistan in the UAE this week without the services, through suspension as well as injury, of almost half of their first-choice team. ESPNcricinfo looks back at six other Test campaigns that were affected by a spate of significant, and unscheduled, absentees

The background
The 1977 Ashes had some unquestionably memorable moments - Ian Botham's debut and Geoff Boycott's 100th hundred, to name but two - but the series was played out in something of a bewildered haze following the revelation that a host of star names, including almost the entire Australia squad, had agreed terms to play in Kerry Packer's inaugural season of World Series Cricket. It meant that, come the arrival of India for the start of the Australian Test season in December, the Australian selectors were obliged to dredge up an almost unrecognisable team. Out of retirement, at the age of 41, came the former captain Bob Simpson, to lead a cast of rookies featuring six new caps for the first Test at Brisbane.

Missing players
Dennis Lillee, Greg Chappell, Rick McCosker, Ian Redpath, Doug Walters, Ian Davis, David Hookes, Gary Gilmour, Len Pascoe, Mick Malone, Wayne Prior, Max Walker, Ray Bright, Rod Marsh, Richie Robinson

What happened next?
In an unexpected boost to the beleaguered ACB, the India series turned out to be a five-match thriller - Australia were pegged back to 2-2 before sealing the decider by 47 runs at Adelaide. But in the longer term there could be only one winner of the stand-off, especially after a 5-1 Ashes trouncing in 1978-79. Packer got what he'd been battling for all along - broadcasting rights to Australia's home internationals - and the star names returned for the 1979-80 season.

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The background
For the first two Tests of a Packer-dominated tour, it was the Simpson-led Australia who appeared to have all the problems, as they were routed by a full-strength opposition that appeared to have deftly sidestepped the politics. But then, for the third Test in Guyana, the WICB attempted to play hardball with three young players who had belatedly joined their senior colleagues in signing for WSC. Clive Lloyd resigned in protest and took his senior men with him, leaving a skeleton West Indies side to play on in their absence. Some of the stand-ins, such as the savage and speedy Sylvester Clarke, were unquestionably worthy of picking up the Mean Machine's mantle. Others less so - notably the opening batsman Alvin Greenidge, who proved to be a poor non-relation of his more illustrious namesake Gordon.

Missing players
Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge, Joel Garner, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Richard Austin, Deryck Murray, Colin Croft

What happened next?
West Indies' core players were welcomed back after WSC, and brought some important lessons with them - most notably the benefits of fitness, as drilled into them by the physio Dennis Waight, who had been hired by Packer to work with the squad and ended up staying with them for 23 years. They would go unbeaten for 15 of those, up until Australia's tour of the Caribbean in 1994-95. Many of the players who had stepped in during the stand-off, however, had less fruitful futures. Several signed for the ill-fated rebel tour of South Africa in 1983, and were treated as pariahs on their return.

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The background
Contracts disputes had become a regular feature of West Indies cricket in the mid-to-late 2000s, but few stand-offs were as dramatic as the one which led to a third-choice Test team taking on - and losing to - Bangladesh for the first time in their history. Thirteen of West Indies' first-choice names withdrew themselves from selection on the eve of the series and, with several others indicating that they would be unwilling to step up in their place, the WICB was obliged to scour the Combined Colleges and Campuses team to cobble together a faintly serviceable XI. Floyd Reifer, whose previous Test appearance had come ten years earlier, was recalled to captain a side that would feature seven debutants, the most in any West Indies team since their maiden Test in 1928.

Missing players
Chris Gayle, Adrian Barath, Sulieman Benn, Dwayne Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Narsingh Deonarine, Runako Morton, Brendan Nash, Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul, Andrew Richardson, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Jerome Taylor

What happened next?
In front of barely a handful of spectators, West Indies were humbled by a Bangladesh team that had lost 52 of its first 59 Tests, and won just the once (against Zimbabwe four years earlier). They did fare slightly better a week later in Grenada but couldn't prevent a 2-0 series loss. There were a handful of finds amid the debris, however - in particular Darren Sammy and Kemar Roach, who would go on to become stalwarts of the side in future years.

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The background
England hardly needed to tear their own team apart in the summer of 1989 - Allan Border's Australians were already doing that job very nicely indeed. But by the fourth Test at Old Trafford, any remaining vestiges of national pride and unity had been scrubbed from the summer. In the course of another crushing defeat, this time by nine wickets, England's dressing-room was used to plot the announcement of that winter's rebel tour of South Africa - a trip that was to be led by the recently deposed England captain, Mike Gatting, and would include nine players who had already featured in a dismal Test campaign. And that in itself was telling. The fact that England's selectors churned through 29 players in the space of six Tests was as much a vindication of the rebels' frustrations as it was a reaction to the absences they created.

Missing players
Mike Gatting, Chris Broad, Graham Dilley, John Emburey, Neil Foster, Paul Jarvis, Bill Athey, Kim Barnett, Chris Cowdrey, Richard Ellison, Bruce French, Matthew Maynard, Tim Robinson, Greg Thomas, Alan Wells, David Graveney

What happened next?
England's fortunes nosedived even further as they were crushed by an innings in the fifth Test at Trent Bridge - Australia's openers Geoff Marsh and Mark Taylor batted throughout the first day's play in a stand of 301. But then, with Graham Gooch installed as captain, England embarked on a scarcely credible renaissance. Their victory over the mighty West Indies in Jamaica was a result that ranks among the most jawdropping of all time.

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The background
Australian Ashes whitewashes have become de rigueur in recent years but, until the meltdowns in 2006-07 and 2013-14, there had been just one clean sweep in the history of the rivalry. That came at the hands of Warwick Armstrong's men in 1920-21, and irresistible though they proved to be, the margin was exacerbated by England's sheer lack of readiness after four gruelling years of war. "The tour … resulted, as everyone knows, in disaster," wrote Wisden with a stiff-upper-lipped lack of sympathy - the deaths of some 700,000 British soldiers in the preceding years had been rather more disastrous. However, it did note that MCC had baulked at sending a touring side a year earlier in 1919-20, rightly concluding that "English cricket had not had time to regain its pre-war standard".

Missing players
CB Fry, SF Barnes, and countless unfulfilled talents

What happened next
England's fortunes didn't improve in a hurry, as they were crushed by 10 wickets, eight wickets and 219 runs in their first three Tests of the home summer, against the same opponents. But, with Jack Hobbs rekindling his pre-war form, new heroes such as Herbert Sutcliffe and Wally Hammond emerged to join him as the decade progressed.

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The background
Even by Pakistan's habitually chaotic standards, 2010 was a year of staggering upheaval. Against Australia at Sydney in January, they lost ignominiously despite a first-innings lead of 206, whereupon their two senior batsmen Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan were banned indefinitely from selection … then unbanned hours later. But that was nothing compared to the mayhem on the England tour seven months later. The spot-fixing scandal erupted midway through the Lord's Test, leading to bans and jail sentences for Mohammads Amir and Asif, and the new captain Salman Butt.

Missing players
Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif, Salman Butt

What happened next?
Pakistan's unrivalled powers of bouncebackability kicked in almost immediately, as Misbah-ul-Haq slotted into the vacant captain's role and established the parameters of a squad that would rise, within six years, to the top of the ICC Test rankings. A drawn series against South Africa in the UAE was followed by an away win in New Zealand and a creditable draw in the Caribbean, and when they were reunited with England in the spring of 2012, they crushed them 3-0. Which just goes to show, that some teams cope with chaos rather better than others.