The craft of batting in cricket has arguably seen more evolution than any other area over the last decade. It becomes even clearer when scores of 350 in ODI cricket and 200 in T20 cricket became ‘par’ scores – the equivalent of what 230 used to be in the 1990s. This is partly due to the advent of T20 cricket as well as the overall improvement in the quality, fitness and skill levels of the new generation of batters. However, it’s not always a Virat Kohli or an AB de Villiers playing the most stunning innings.
While bowlers have suffered all over the world, it hasn’t been more apparent than in the success of even a particular breed of batsmen: those who hit the scene with a miraculous innings and then struggle to maintain their stardom. The one-hit wonders of the cricket world, in a way, some of who have faded away, while some are still trying to replicate that early success. An example is Kedar Jadhav’s innings against England on Sunday – his second ODI century, but nobody expected the 31-year-old journeyman to step up to the plate and deliver against one of the best teams in the world. If he doesn’t manage to hit another century and fulfill the talent he showed us, he will become part of this category.
Let’s take a look at five such unforgettable could-have-been players:
PAUL VALTHATY (KINGS XI PUNJAB)
A contract with Kings XI Punjab in IPL 2011 was perhaps the Mumbai-born Valthaty’s last chance to make a mark – after he wasn’t deemed good enough to play Ranji cricket, and played only a single ODI for Mumbai five years prior to that. He was part of the same 2002 U-19 squad that had Irfan Pathan, Stuart Binny and Parthiv Patel.
He became the ultimate fairytale of IPL 2011 when he dismantled reigning champions Chennai Super Kings with a stunning 120 off 63 balls out of nowhere, chasing down 189 for his team. It was the season’s first hundred, and it was safe to say NOBODY would have expected it to come from a ‘backup’ domestic opener in a star-filled side. Valthaty didn’t look like your conventional athlete, but he rolled his arm over well too in the next couple of games, with a 4-for and a couple of other quick innings. But arguably no other fleeting performance captured Indian imaginations as much as this man – who went on to play only 20 more T20 games after that before fading away into domestic oblivion. He last played an IPL game in 2013.
RICHARD LEVI (SOUTH AFRICA)
The stocky Rugby-player-built opening batsman hit the scene running in 2012 for South Africa, when he stunned opponents New Zealand as well as the world by scoring the fastest T20 international century back then (off 45 balls), ending on an unbeaten 117 (51) in a winning chase. He smashed 13 sixes on the day at Seddon Park in Hamilton, capturing the attention of every T20 franchise in the world. Not surprisingly, Mumbai Indians jumped the gun and bought him immediately in time for the IPL three months after the match. By then, though, bowlers around the world had figured out that Levi was predominantly a leg-side player and could not – for the life of him – play spin bowling. It was just one of those days when everything connected that day, and a hapless New Zealand side may have cost Mumbai Indians a large sum of money. He failed repeatedly as an opener in the first few matches alongside Sachin Tendulkar for the Indians, before being dropped and never picked again. He scored only 237 runs in those 13 T20 internationals in 2012, out of which 117 was in his second match. In his last eight games, he scored 65 runs, including one fifty against Zimbabwe. He continues to play for the Cape Cobras in South Africa, successfully even, but hasn’t really been plying his trade elsewhere anymore. He is nothing if not a freewheeling T20 specialist.
RICARDO POWELL (WEST INDIES)
The West Indian hitman was what many call an ‘India’ specialist. Who can forget that fateful day in 1999 during the tri-series in Singapore? Powell announced himself as a 19-year-old centurion, then the youngest-ever West Indian player to do so, in the finals against a clueless Indian side. He did go on to play over 100 ODI matches for West Indies, but this remained his only century and his most memorable innings – with eight sixes (a record then), ending on 124 off 93 balls, and being bracketed along with Shahid Afridi and Sanath Jayasuriya as one of the biggest hitters in limited-over cricket. His career lasted till 2005, and ended with an average of a paltry 24, though he averaged 44 against India – including another blazing 76 with seven sixes not too soon after this innings. He hit 75 sixes in 109 matches, with over 2000 ODI runs at a strike-rate of 96 – aggressive numbers for the era he was part of. He tried to return to cricket by being part of the 2013 IPL Auction, but unsurprisingly went unsold.
CHARLES COVENTRY (ZIMBABWE)
Arguably nobody can have been a greater one-hit enigma than the bespectacled Mr. Coventry – a Zimbabwean batsman who many statisticians and cricket enthusiasts will remember. The man scored 194 not out in August, 2009, against Bangladesh at number three in Bulawayo – equaling Saeed Anwar’s long-standing individual ODI record of 194 (against India at Chennai). It was his first and last century at international level, and the record lasted all of five months until Sachin Tendulkar scored cricket’s first ODI double century in February 2010 against South Africa. Also a keeper, Coventry ended on 37 ODI matches, and played as recently as 2015 against Pakistan (his last ODI), with an average of 24. His score however remembers the highest-ever ODI score in a losing cause.
DOUGLAS MARILLIER (ZIMBABWE)
Once again, Indian fans will primarily remember this tall, audacious Zimbabwean all-rounder. The original inventor of the Dilscoop, then known as the Marillier, he pulled off a miracle in 2002 against a full-strength Indian side with a stunning 56 off 24 balls at number nine in Faridabad – the fastest fifty for a Zimbabwean batsman.
He repeatedly scooped Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan, winning his team the match with one wicket in hand. When he came in, Zimbabwe required an improbable 65 to win off 32 balls with three wickets in hand. They needed 49 in the final four overs, and 10 off the final Kumble over, when Marillier slammed the penultimate ball for a four and won them the game. He did go on to play 48 ODIs for his country, and even scored a century against Kenya with some handy bowling performances, but he quickly faded away because of his inconsistency (he even opened against Kenya!) and will forever be remembered for that one stunning innings. Back in 2002, it was a big deal.
AMAY KHURASIYA (INDIA)
In 1999, the then 28-year-old left-hander walked in at Pune to make his debut against a World Champion but weak Sri Lankan side. He shuffled across his stumps repeatedly, scoring 57 resourceful runs off 45 balls. But even back then, it was obvious that his flaw would be picked up and exploited by a faster bowling attack. It was his only half century, and he scored less than 100 runs in his next 10 matches before dropped after failing twice more in 2001. He was even selected as part of India’s 1999 World Cup squad on the strength of his debut. Rumour has it that Khurasiya had cleared the IAS before he was selected for the Indian team.