The game of cricket requires three different skills to make a team function properly – batting, bowling and fielding. While all players in the team are expected to know how to field, there are generally specialists who take up the role of either batsmen or bowlers. However, there are players in every team who can contribute with both bat and ball.
Although these players fall under the broad category of all-rounders, they are usually referred to as ‘utility cricketers’ as they are not experts in one particular department of the sport. Over the years, such players have been part of many successful cricketing sides but did not receive enough credit for their performances.
Let’s take a look at five utility players from different teams who were never given their due:
1. Robin Singh (India)
Former Indian cricketer Robin Singh made his debut for India back in the year 1989 but played just 2 ODI matches. After a gap of 7 years, he returned to the team and did not take too long to cement his position in the Indian team thanks to his all-round skills. In a career which consisted of 136 ODIs and a solitary Test, Singh came to be known as one of the best fielders in the team.
As a left-handed batsman, Robin Singh scored more than 2000 ODI runs at an average of just under 26 and grabbed 69 wickets. Among his most memorable performances was an 82 against Pakistan at Dhaka during the final of a triangular series which helped India chase down a then-record 315. With the ball, he famously picked up a 5-wicket haul against Sri Lanka in the 1999 World Cup.
Despite being such a useful contributor for Team India in the late 1990s, Robin Singh is hardly remembered for anything apart from his fielding.
2. Ian Harvey (Australia)
Having made his debut for Australia in the year 1997, Ian Harvey had a 7-year long career during which he represented the national team in 73 ODIs. Other than being a handy medium pace bowler, Harvey was also a handy lower-order batsman with the ability to hit the ball hard. The Victorian cricketer claimed 85 wickets in ODI cricket and also scored more than 700 runs at a brisk strike rate of 88-plus.
One of his best performances with the ball came against India in the final of the TVS Cup triangular series played in 2003, which also featured New Zealand. Harvey registered figures of 4 for 21 and helped secure a 37-run victory for the Aussies. He was dropped from the Australian team in the year 2004, and it prompted him to head towards county cricket post which the all-rounder never made it back to his national team.
3. Andrew Hall (South Africa)
Over the past several years, South African cricket has earned a reputation for giving the game some fine all-rounders in the likes of Jacques Kallis, Lance Klusener and Shaun Pollock. However, leaving aside such big names, there have been other utility players who have done a decent job for the Proteas and one of them was Andrew Hall. In a career which lasted close to 7 years, Hall played 21 Test matches and 88 ODIs.
Perhaps the most memorable moment of his career came in the year 2004 when he scored a brilliant 163 against the Indian team in a drawn Test at Kanpur. Andrew Hall was an effective medium pace bowler as well and his best ODI figures of 5 for 18 were recorded against England in the 2007 ICC World Cup for which he earned a Man of the Match award.
Although Andrew Hall achieved some significant feats for South Africa, not many people tend to keep him in mind while looking back at the country’s cricketing best.
4. Jacob Oram (New Zealand)
A left-handed batsman and right-arm medium pacer by trade, Jacob Oram made his international debut for New Zealand in 2001. After some good performances in the ODI format, the big-hitting all-rounder was drafted into the Kiwi Test side. While he made a greater contribution with the bat in the longer version of the game, he was an important part of the New Zealand bowling attack in 50-over cricket.
Oram played 33 Tests in which he scored 1780 runs at a very decent average of just over 36 with 5 centuries to his name and also claimed 60 wickets. In 160 ODIs, he had a run tally of 2434 runs and also claimed as many as 173 wickets. Even though Jacob Oram emerged at quite the same time as players like Brendon McCullum, he never quite managed to get due recognition for his efforts.
5. Guy Whittall (Zimbabwe)
Zimbabwe used to be a pretty strong team back in the 1990s and had the ability to topple the strongest opposition on their day. While players like Andy Flower, Heath Streak, Grant Flower and Alistair Campbell received most of the credit for their efforts, one of the names that many may forget in a hurry is Guy Whittall. A utility player to the core, Whittall produced some fine performances with bat and ball for his team.
As a right-handed batsman, he had a tally of over 2000 runs in both Tests and ODIs. Whittall’s medium pace bowling also fetched him 51 Test and 88 ODI wickets. The highest point in Guy Whittall’s career was his epic unbeaten double century against New Zealand in the year 1997. He also represented Zimbabwe in 3 World Cups from 1996 to 2003.Published 26 Jun 2016, 11:41 IST