Extraordinary athleticismNot often does an exceptionally talented cricketer arrive who has also had a flair for other sports. The amount of dedication and hard work required to excel in cricket these days makes it almost impossible to play other sports professionally at the same time.But, extraordinary as it may seem, there are quite a few cricketers who had originally started out their careers in some other sport. Some of them even continued to play both the sports simultaneously balancing both their careers. Let us look at 5 cricketing greats who started out their careers in other sports.
#1 CB Fry
CB Fry is widely acknowledged to be one of the most versatile geniuses to have played the game of cricket. But Fry was a complete sportsman who was just as brilliant as a footballer. Before Fry played for Surrey in 1891, he had already displayed his aptitude as a defender with enviable pace.
Fry played football regularly at Repton School where he captained his school team and also signed up for the amateur football club called the Casuals. He turned out for the Casuals in the FA Cup at the age of sixteen and even captained the Oxford University football side. He signed up for the Corinthians in 1891 for whom he went on to play 74 matches between 1891 and 1903.
Fry was thus one of the few sportsmen who continued to play cricket and football simultaneously. He later signed up for Southampton FC and played every match for them in the 1902 FA Cup. Southampton eventually lost to Sheffield United in the final of that tournament.
#2 Denis Compton
Denis Compton is remembered as one of the most flamboyant and unorthodox players who have graced the game of cricket. His career lasted up to twenty years between 1937 to 1957 during which he scored 5807 runs at an average of 50.06. He scored his first Test century in 1938, when he was only twenty years old, against a mighty Australian team led by Bradman. He was also a more than useful slow bowler and later became successful as an all-rounder.
It is widely remembered that Compton was one of the myriad gifted sportsmen of yesteryears who had it in him to excel in more than one sport. Compton started playing football for Arsenal before he made his debut in international cricket. He was a prolific winger and continued to play both the sports simultaneously. He even won the FA Cup with Arsenal in 1948.
#3 Jonty Rhodes
It is difficult to imagine Jonty Rhodes anywhere else but on a cricket field standing at his favourite backward point position. But as it turns out, Jonty who was one of the most athletic cricketers who re-defined fielding for a generation growing up in the 90s did have a flair for other sports.
Before he made his debut in 1992, Jonty had already represented South Africa in hockey and was chosen as a part of the 1992 Olympic squad to go to Barcelona. However, the squad, unfortunately, did not qualify for the tournament. He was again called up for trials to play in the 1996 Olympic Games but was ruled out this time because of a hamstring injury.
#4 Aasif Karim
A clever slow left arm bowler, Aasif Karim captained Kenya in the 1999 World Cup after which he announced his retirement. He, however, made a surprise comeback in the 2003 World Cup where Kenya enjoyed exemplary success reaching the semi-finals. His figures of 8.2-6-7-3 against Australia in the tournament beggared belief and is still remembered to this day.
But Karim had started out playing tennis and represented Kenya in the Davis Cup in 1988. His father had played tennis at the national level while his brother had, like him, taken to both cricket and tennis.
Karim had won a scholarship to study in the US where he honed his skills in tennis. He was the captain of Kenya in that Davis Cup tournament in 1988 but unfortunately, lost all the three matches he played.
#5 Sir Vivian Richards
It is often forgotten today that Sir Vivian Richards had more than a flair for football before he took up cricket earnestly. Before he made his debut for the West Indies in 1974, Richards was already into football and according to a few, displayed some sublime skills occasionally.
His football career was not as auspicious, though. He represented Antigua and Barbuda in the qualifiers for the 1974 World Cup. But they lost all their matches finishing bottom of the group and failed to qualify for the World Cup. Their campaign included embarrassing losses of 1-11 to Trinidad Tobago and 0-6 to Suriname.
But Richards remains the only player to have played in both the cricket and the football world cup, if the qualifiers are taken into consideration.