8 under-appreciated international cricketers
Cricket is a team sport. As a result, the players who directly contribute to victories are often lauded. There are some players who play minor yet vital roles that lead to these wins. These players often go unnoticed.
Over the years, there have been several superstar cricketers who have helped their countries win big games, trophies and plaudits. Along with these big names, there have always been those players whose performances haven't always received the recognition they merited.
On that note, let us take a look at eight such under-appreciated international cricketers who largely operated under the radar:
#1 Ryan Harris (Australia)
Often referred to as 'Rhino' by his teammates, Ryan Harris was one of the best new-ball bowlers in his time. While he played all three formats for Australia, the longest-format is where he made a name for himself.
In his 27 game Test career, Harris picked up 113 wickets at an average of 23.52. He proved to be the perfect foil for Mitchell Johnson in the famous 2013-14 Ashes series. In all, Harris picked up 45 wickets in nine matches against England.
The fast bowler has also done well in ODI cricket. In 21 matches, he picked up 44 scalps at an average of 18.91.
A string of injuries plagued his career and he was eventually forced to retire from all forms of cricket in 2015.
#2 Pragyan Ojha (India)
Despite putting in a string of match winning displays in first-class cricket, Pragyan Ojha had to wait till 2008 for a chance to represent his country. He is one of the first cricketers to break through the ranks of an IPL side.
The left-arm spinner played a crucial role in helping Deccan Chargers win the franchise's first and only title in 2009. He picked up 18 wickets in the tournament that season. After that edition of the IPL, Ojha made his Test debut. Incidentally, he also won the purple cap in the 2010 IPL.
Ojha was an integral part of the Indian Test Team between 2009 and 2013. During this time, he picked up 113 wickets in 24 matches. He forged a successful partnership with Ravichandran Ashwin to help India win matches at home.
Interestingly, Ojha went on to win the Man of the Match award in his first international match as well as his last international match, which also happened to be Sachin Tendulkar's last match for India.
#3 Nathan Bracken (Australia)
Nathan Bracken was one of many cricketers to have played under the shadow of the legend called Glenn McGrath. The left-arm fast bowler was known for his usage of the old ball. He was one of the few bowlers at the time to use the 'slow ball' effectively.
Bracken represented Australia in all formats. But it was in ODIs where he proved to be lethal. In 116 matches, batsmen fell prey to the left-arm pacer on 174 occasions. The Australian went on to become the world number 1 ODI bowler in 2008.
Unfortunately, a series of injures meant that his career came to an end prematurely.
#4 Matt Prior (England)
Matt Prior is arguably England's greatest wicket batsman of the 21st century. Although he wasn't a success in white-ball cricket, he more than made amends with his displays in Test cricket.
Despite playing down the order, Prior had a batting average of 40.19. His aggressive cameos helped England improve as a Test side.
Prior's best performance came against New Zealand in 2013. He batted over four hours to salvage a draw in Auckland in the third Test of a three-match series. This innings epitomised his versatility as a batsman.
The former Sussex man was more than handy with the gloves too. He was involved in 256 dismissals (243 catches, 13 stumping) in his career. 68 of those scalps came off the bowling of James Anderson. The Prior-Anderson wicket tally is the highest for any pair of wicketkeeper and bowler in Test cricket for England.
#5 George Bailey (Australia)
Apart from being an underrated cricketer, George Bailey is also one of the most under appreciated captains. He captained the Australians in the absence of Michael Clarke. and led the team to victories.
Bailey captained Kings XI Punjab in IPL 2014 and took the franchise to the final of the tournament. The brand of cricket played by Bailey's side in that IPL was widely appreciated.
The 37-year old can consider himself unfortunate as far as his international career is concerned. In 90 ODI matches, Bailey has scored 3044 runs at an average of 40.59.
#6 Charl Langeveldt (South Africa)
Charl Langeveldt was one of the few fast-bowlers in international cricket to master the art of 'death bowling'. His ability to reverse the old ball proved to be too hot to handle for batsmen.
In 73 ODI matches, Langeveldt picked up 101 wickets at an economy rate of 5.13. The fast bowler was named South African cricketer of the year in 2007.
Langeveldt's most memorable performance for the Proteas came in 2005 against the West Indies in Barbados. The match went down to the wire as West Indies needed 2 runs off 4 balls, with 3 wickets in hand. Langeveldt then picked up a hat-trick to help his team snatch a narrow victory from the jaws of imminent defeat.
#7 Nuwan Kulasekara (Sri Lanka)
Filling the boots of the legendary Chaminda Vaas was never going to be easy, but Nuwan Kulasekara slotted himself into the international arena like a duck to water.
While he might have made his ODI debut in 2003, Kulasekara's rise as a cricketer coincided with Vaas' retirement in 2008. The 37-year old picked up 47 wickets that year and propelled himself to the top of the ICC ODI rankings.
Kulasekara wasn't blessed with raw pace. He used his ability to swing the ball to trouble batsmen at the top of the order. Besides, he also had the knack of picking up wickets in the latter part of the innings with accurate yorkers.
During his stint in the Sri Lankan side, Kulasekara forged a potent partnership with Lasith Malinga. The duo helped Sri Lanka consistently reach the finals of several ICC tournaments.
#8 Stuart MacGill (Australia)
Stuart MacGill is arguably the unluckiest player cricket has ever witnessed. Unfortunately, he was a leg-spinner and he played in the same-era as that of the mighty Shane Warne.
The Aussies seldom operated with two spinners in their starting eleven. So, MacGill had to make do with the limited opportunities he received in Warne's absence.
Despite limited game-time MacGill did himself no harm whatsoever. In 44 Test Matches, the leg-spinner picked up 208 wickets at an average of 29.03. His strike rate of 48.81 is the best for a spinner with at least 20 wickets in Test cricket.
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