5 modern day support bowlers who never got the credit they deserved
It’s no secret that Cricket is a batsman’s game. Flat pitches, short boundaries, broad bats, fielding restrictions are all equally responsible for this tilt in balance towards the batsmen. With the advent of T20 cricket, the bowlers have been made to suffer even more. All the spectators want to see are fours and sixes.However, there are some bowlers who manage to attract crowds, who manage to steal the limelight. Bowlers such as Brett Lee, Shoaib Akhtar, Shane Warne, Lasith Malinga. Crowds come to watch them bowl. They come to see them torture hapless batsmen. They come because they see stumps flying, they see balls turning square, they come because it’s beautiful, they come because these bowlers’ skill appeals to their eyes. That’s why these bowlers are so well known, so popular. There are some others who are not so popular. Not many people know about them. They are not the lead bowlers of their team. They are like the side heroes in a movie. The bowling line up, much like the movie, is never complete without them, but it’s the lead bowlers who everyone knows about, who everyone gives the credit to.But this support cast is of as much importance. It’s another matter that they’re not given enough credit.
#5 Simon Jones
Simon Jones is best remembered for his never ending spate of injuries. He had knee reconstructions, fragile hamstrings, a bad back and what not. It meant Simon Jones just played 18 Tests, when he should have played at least 75. Being one of the most talented bowlers England had ever produced was not enough, for he never had that rub of green going his way.
He fractured his knee on his Test debut, he was that unlucky. For most of his career, Simon Jones was out injured. But there was a two year period from 2003 to 2005, where Jones, against all odds, kept himself fit. And that period included the 2005 Ashes, arguably the best test series ever played. England won the Ashes after 25 years that year. The celebrations that followed the victory were something the world of sport had rarely seen.
It was England’s bowling that had won them the Ashes. It was Andrew Flintoff who was leading their attack. He was magnificent, brilliant, unreal, supreme and all other praise worthy adjectives that can be found in a dictionary. Muck like Ian Botham in 1981, the Ashes of 2005 were known as Flintoff’s Ashes. He stole all the limelight, like he always had. Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard also got some of that limelight. Harmison, because he took that last wicket in Old Trafford and Hoggard, well because he is Hoggard.
Simon Jones didn’t hog the limelight, he didn’t get too much credit. He should have, for he deserved every bit of it. One of the most iconic images from that Ashes is Michael Clarke, bowled shouldering arms to a reverse swinging ball. Few know that it was Simon Jones who bowled it. They just presume it was Flintoff who bowled it.
Jones was just a notch below Flintoff in that series, he dried one end up, he bowled long spells when Flintoff and Harmison were rested, he broke important partnerships, he introduced that fear of reverse swing in the Australians’ mind. He did much more than he was asked to, much more than he was expected to. But he never got any credit. The fourth Test at Trent Bridge turned out to be his last. His knees, they never let him play again.
While his short career 18 Test career and his bowling statistics are nothing out of the ordinary, Jones was special and he was never given enough credit for that. People say that it was just that one series in which he bowled exceptionally. They tend to forget that it was the probably the most important, most emotional, most talked about series in modern cricket.
And it takes something quite exceptional to perform when the stakes are so high and when your body doesn’t support you. Simon Jones, for that one series, for just those four Tests, mustered that something from within him. He fought against his body, he fought against odds and he played a central role in helping England win what was his last series as an international cricketer.
He deserves to be given more credit because of the smiles he helped bring to the face of the English people, because he helped rebuild their faith in English cricket and because he played a central role in telling the world that Australia can be beaten. In each of the 18 Tests he played, he really gave it more than his all. For that spirit as much as his bowling, he deserves more credit. Simon Jones really does.