Stars who quit too soon

February 16, 2020

There have been bowlers in international cricket who had great expectations but faded out of sight after shining for a brief period

Waqar Younis

They came, the bowled and they conquered the world of cricket with their magical bowling. However, due to excessive cricket, different formats and cricket leagues around the world, good cricketers are quitting right, left and center.

The latest person to do so is South African pacer Vernon Philander who called it quits at 34. Had he been an average bowler, no one would have cared but the South African spearhead took 224 wickets in 64 Tests besides scoring 1779 runs with the help of 8 fifties. His ODI career began in 2007 and ended in 2015, but it was Test Cricket where he won matches for South Africa since making his debut in 2011. Is he the first one to say goodbye to his career on his prime or have there been others? Let’s find out.

Waqar Younis (Pakistan)

Playing Career: Less than 14 Years

Waqar Younis made his international debut for Pakistan in 1989 and by the mid-90s, he had become the most feared bowler in the world. His toe-crushing Yorkers, his in-swing deliveries and his ability to generate pace made him Pakistan’s most lethal right-arm pacer who didn’t need fielders to take wickets.

In fact, just a couple of years before the World Cup in 2003, Waqar took as many as 13 wickets in two consecutive ODIs, finishing with figures of 7/36 (against England) and 6/59 (against Australia). He and Wasim Akram formed the most destructive bowling pair in the world.

However, it was a different story altogether after the World Cup in which Pakistan failed to qualify for the Super Sixes despite having the two Ws, Mohammad Sami and Shoaib Akhtar in the squad. Skipper Waqar Younis accepted the responsibility of the team’s failure and decided to call it a day, and Pakistan lost its deadliest bowler since Imran Khan. He may have represented Pakistan for nearly 14 years, but he was hardly 31 when he retired. He still had at least five years’ Cricket left in him!

Stuart MacGill (Australia)

Playing Career: 10 Years

Stuart MacGill’s biggest drawback was being born in the same era as fellow leg-spinner Shane Warne. He was just two years younger than Warnie. He might not have been as talented as the leg-spinning legend but he had the variety, the deception and above all, the will to prove his worth. That’s why whenever he got the chance to represent Australia, be it in place of Warne or alongside him, he tried his best, sometimes even upstaging the senior leggie. Stuart MacGill’s finest hour was during the time when Shane Warne was serving a one-year ban in 2003. He took 53 wickets during that period. However, after Warne’s retirement, he had to compete with younger bowlers and announced his retirement due to injuries to his arm and knee. He took 208 wickets in 44 Test appearances. Had he been in some other country, or time period, he would surely have taken more wickets and played more Cricket than he actually did.

Saqlain Mushtaq (Pakistan)

Playing Career: Less than 9 Years

How long do you think was the career of the bowler who invented the doosra? Would you believe it if I told you that Saqlain Mushtaq represented Pakistan for less than 9 years before he quit international cricket? Yes, the off-spinner made his international debut in 1995 and was an instant success. With his ability to turn the ball away from right-handed batsmen, he was able to win matches for Pakistan. In 49 Tests, he took 209 wickets whereas in 169 ODIs, he dismissed as many as 288 batsmen. His form dipped during the last few years of his career, especially in the ODI format where he was once considered unplayable in the final overs. He quit in 2004 and decided to become a bowling coach after his successful county career ended in 2008.

Mohammad Zahid (Pakistan)

Playing Career: Less than 7 Years

Before there was Shoaib Akhtar, there was Mohammad Zahid, the Gaggu Mandi Express who took 11 wickets on his Test debut. He terrorised batsmen including the great Brian Lara during the tri-nation series that Pakistan won in 1997.

After starting his career on a high, Zahid became prone to injury and had to spend more time off the field than on it. With the emergence of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami, Zahid was a forgotten hero by the time he made his comeback in 2002. He played matches alongside his ‘replacements’ but couldn’t perform better, ending his career prematurely with just 15 Tests and 10 ODI wickets in 5 Tests and 11 ODIs.

Geoff Allott (New Zealand)

Playing Career: Less than 4 Years

He may have represented New Zealand for less than four years, but he made quite an impact at the international level. He was part of the Kiwi side that won the Bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in 1998 but he was destined for greater things, which happened within a year. He took 20 wickets during the World Cup in England next year and topped the bowling averages, steering his side to the semi-final. Be it deceiving batsmen in the air or through his change of pace, Geoff Allott was like a bowler possessed during the mega event. However, his luck ran out in the next 12 months as from being on top of the world he ended up being out of sight, out of mind. His ouster had more to do with the expectations his team had from him than his own performance, as he ended with 52 wickets in 31 ODIs.

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Stars who quit cricket too soon: Pakistan's Waqar Younis, Saqlain Mushtaq, Mohammad Zahid, Australia's Stuart MacGill, New Zealand's Geoff Allott