Picking Every Test-Playing Nation's Cricket Cult Hero
Every country has at least one cricketing cult hero that they are proud to call their own, regaling countless stories about them, and to celebrate these legendary and never-to-be forgotten characters, we are here to select our favourite ones from all 10 Test-playing nations.
And remember, these are the unreliable or unconventional players who, for some reason or other, will always hold a special place in the hearts of that particular country’s cricket fans, and we are here to explain the reasons why …
A real tough one to kick off with as, for some unexplained reason or other, the English seem to have had a bucket load of cult heroes down the years, and what is even more odd is that the vast majority of them all seem to be spin bowlers too.
Take your pick from the likes of Monty Panesar, James Tredwell, Chris Schofield, Ashley Giles (or “Smash Me Miles” as he was known as), or Shaun Udal, but they all belong in the category Of English cricketing cult heroes, as do wicketkeeper Paul Nixon, substitute fielder Gary Pratt and all-rounder Rikki Clarke.
However, as if to confirm our initial theory regarding step-and-fetch-it bowlers, our vote has to go to former England left-arm spinner Phil Tufnell for his combination of at times brilliant spin bowling, lamentable fielding and the cheekiest of cheeky grins.
Was is it exactly about the connection between slow bowlers and cricketing cult-hero status, as you would think it would be the wicketkeepers who were dominating this category?
But Proteas fans are known to have a soft spot for former tweaker Pat Symcox, while middle-order batsman Boeta Dippenaar is another name under consideration.
However, B/R’s vote goes to none other than slow left-arm chinaman Paul Adams, the man with perhaps the most unorthodox bowling action ever seen in the Test arena but who the South African supporters always had a soft spot for during his on-off, stop-start 45-Test career.
Again, a hard one to call for the Black Caps, especially when you have quirky characters of the calibre of Roger Twose, “Two-Metre” Peter Fulton, Jesse Ryder and Chris Harris to consider.
But, in the end, there really can only be one man as far as the Kiwis are concerned, and that is none other than batting legend Chris Martin, who was in the team to take wickets and yet conversely would attract the most amount of attention when he had a bat in his hand.
Not that that would last very long mind you, with no player in the history of New Zealand Test cricket recording more ducks than Martin managed, while it also incredibly took the paceman until his 36th Test to reach a double-figure score.
Australia can put forward players such as David Boon, Colin “Funky” Miller, Michael Bevan, or Doug “The Rug” Bollinger. However, all four of those contenders ultimately lose out when going head to head with the man with one of the all-time great moustaches in the history of the game, paceman Mervyn Gregory Hughes.
Now, do not get me wrong, Hughes was a deceptively brilliant and at times vastly underrated Test-match bowler, but when it comes to the art of sledging, then there can have been few better exponents of what one-time Aussie skipper Steve Waugh liked to call “mental disintegration.”
In fact, just ask ex-England captain Mike Atherton, who was on the end of a fair old tongue lashing from the Victorian in his debut series in 1989, with Hughes reportedly telling the opener after yet another play and miss: “'I’ll bowl you a fucking piano, you Pommie p**f, let’s see if you can play that.”
Pakistan’s nominations are the exception to the general rule when it comes to defining a cult hero in that their main contenders are in fact some of the nation’s most impressive players, but one should never be that shocked at the contradictions and surprises found in the game in this part of the world, where anything can happen.
But, while leg-spinner Danish Kaneria, all-rounder Shahid Afridi and off-spinner Saeed Ajmal all came close, in the end we have gone for former Test captain Inzamam-ul-Haq.
“Inzhi” was one of the greatest batsman of the modern era, but also a man known for his many idiosyncrasies, especially when fielding, something the big man did not enjoy, none more so than when a spectator called him a fat potato in Toronto in 1997, resulting in the Pakistani charging into the crowd and attacking the supporter.
And apparently, it was the fastest he had ever moved on a cricket pitch …
The names of Ravinder Jadeja, current skipper and stumper MS Dhoni and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh spring to mind when we move on to Pakistan’s subcontinental rivals, but in the end, B/R’s nomination goes to none other than former Test all-rounder Ajit Agarkar.
The 35-year-old was just adored by the millions of cricket fans in India, probably because he was an example of one of those players who extracted every last drop of talent from his body.
And Agarkar was rewarded for all his hard work and toil towards the end of his career when he scored a memorable maiden Test hundred at of all places Lord’s, a feat that not even the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis or Ricky Ponting ever achieved at the home of cricket.
And boy did it go down well back in his homeland.
In the end, it came down to a straight fight between fast bowler Eddo Brandes and current spin bowler Ray Price, although there could only ever really be one winner in that matchup, with the larger-than-life chicken farmer famed for his quick-witted sledges and the hat-trick he took against England in 1997 getting our vote.
There is just something deliciously simple about the smooth batting of Bangladesh’s Tamim Iqbal, with the 24-year-old left-hander an absolute cult hero to his millions of adoring fans back in his home city of Chittagong.
And when you watch the big-hitting opener at the crease with his powerful forearms and languid batting style, while always maintaining a large grin at all times, you can understand just why he has this status in Dhaka and beyond.
Well, I do not think that there are going to be too many surprises with our pick here, even though just for the record both former left-arm chinaman Dave Mohammed and one-time Test captain Darren Ganga came under consideration.
However, in the end there can only be one nomination, and that is a certain Christopher Henry Gayle, perhaps the coolest man ever to have played Test cricket, and without doubt an absolute cult hero back in the Caribbean for the adventurous and thrilling fashion in which he plays the game, whether that be the longer version or the shorter format.
Ex-captain and the man who lifted the World Cup back in 1996, Arjuna Ranatunga, gets a mention here, as do both shaggy-haired paceman Lasith Malinga and one-time wicketkeeper and opener Romesh Kaluwitharana.
However, we have decided to plump for current all-rounder Nuwan Kulasekara, a man who on his day can both swing the ball round corners and destroy a bowling attack with fearsome six-hitting.
It is just, like most cult heroes, those days tend to be few and far between…