The upcoming Edgbaston encounter against India will see England becoming the first team to complete the landmark of 1000 Tests. In what has been an exceptionally enduring 141-year journey, the traditional heavyweights have provided plenty of legendary names to the sport. However, there have also been quite a few players whose prospective legacies were impeded by various factors.
Let us take a close look at five such England players who can consider themselves extremely unlucky not to have played more matches at the highest level. Due to diverse reasons ranging from perilous heart condition to the second World War, numerous promising careers were cut short.
#5 David Bairstow
During December last year, an emotional Jonny Bairstow received a very special gift from a veteran England supporter. The young wicket-keeper was given a pair of gloves which had been signed by his late father in 1978. With son consolidating his old man's dream, it was indeed a truly poignant moment.
Aged 46, David Bairstow took his own life following a series of personal setbacks. He had built his cricketing career on his tenacity. Aside from his skills behind the stumps, the Yorkshireman could also bat boisterously. The presence of the iconic Alan Knott, as well as the gifted Bob Taylor, delayed the gloveman's entry into the England team.
David played just four Tests spanning from 1979 to 1981 before being discarded for good. When Knott and Taylor walked into the sunset, the wicket-keeper's slot was up for grabs in the mid-1980s. However, the selectors overlooked Bairstow's experience and instead shifted attention to younger alternatives such as Paul Downton.
#4 James Taylor
Forced to bid adieu to the game at the age of 26, James Taylor's truncated career is probably the most heartbreaking cricketing story in recent times. Diagnosed with Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Arrhythmia (ARVA), the diminutive batsman retired at a time when he was just beginning to blossom into his own at the highest level.
Extra Cover: James Taylor - A True Fighter
Taylor's stop-start Test career traversed from 2012 till early 2016. In his final Test series, he contributed handsomely with his enterprising batting and remarkable close-in catching. The right-hander was at his best in the 50-over format. From 27 ODIs, he scored 887 runs at an impressive average of 42.23.
Were it not for his major heart condition, Taylor could have established himself as an integral member of England's lineup across multiple formats. Instead, he is now part of the selection panel.
#3 Mike Hendrick
For a seamer of such profound skill, it is rather surprising that Mike Hendrick played only 30 Tests. Tall and lithe, the Derbyshire fast bowler had the propensity to extract awkward bounce at reasonable pace. Accuracy became his hallmark on pitches not conducive to his style of bowling. He could also trouble opposition batsmen by finding stifling seam movement on classic English tracks.
Bob Willis spearheaded England's bowling attack right throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. With the inimitable Ian Botham sealing another spot in the seam department, Hendrick had to stave off myriad other competitors. In an international career spanning across seven years, he picked 87 Test wickets and 35 ODI scalps. He was a key part in England's journey to the 1979 World Cup final.
#2 Eddie Paynter
Among all England batsmen who have played at least 20 Tests, Eddie Paynter's imposing average of 59.23 is only behind Herbert Sutcliffe's 60.73 in the all-time list. Owing to the circumspect nature of team selections in the 1920s and 1930s, he had to wait for five years since his first-class debut before getting the opportunity to represent his country.
Renowned for his incredible doggedness, Paynter carved a niche for himself by taking on difficult situations. The left-hander's adeptness whilst batting with the lower-order made him a thorn in the Australian flesh. His astounding average of 84.42 is comfortably the best against the age old rivals. When he was at the top of his game, the second World War came in the way of what could have been an iconic career.
#1 Frank Tyson
Frank Tyson's numbers present a fairly accurate description of his eminent menace in the ultimate format. From just 17 matches, he collected 76 wickets at an average of 18.56 and strike-rate of 45.4.
Nicknamed 'Typhoon' for his intimidating pace, he simply blew away batting lineups when on song. The most startling aspect of Tyson's game was his intrinsic ability to push batsmen perpetually on the back foot despite operating mostly from a relatively shorter run-up.
During the 1950s, England had their best ever assortment of fast bowlers. With Fred Trueman and Brian Statham forming a potent new-ball pairing, Tyson had to settle for providing the shock value. After beginning to experience the aftereffects of a career-threatening heel injury, he extracted himself from cricket at the age of 30 and drifted to Australia for exploring other avenues.