10 Cricketers Who Were Irreplaceable to Their Sides
Every side has one, a gun player who is simply irreplaceable and whose absence from the starting line-up can even end up lifting the opposition’s spirits when they read the team sheet, such is their huge importance to that team.
And here we nominate 10 such key individuals from each Test-playing nation, so let us know your thoughts on those we have chosen and whether you agree or disagree with our final selections.
ENGLAND: Andrew Flintoff
Star all-rounder whose value to the England setup between 1998 and 2009 was immeasurable.
Not only did big Freddie balance the side beautifully by allowing the addition of an extra bowler, but his inspirational character also seemed to invariably bring the very best out of his team-mates too.
And none more so than in the 2009 Ashes series, Flintoff’s last as a cricketer, when he almost single-handedly beat the Aussies on one leg.
AUSTRALIA: Steve Waugh
The Aussie skipper invariably carried an over-my-dead-body attitude into every single match that he played for his country, and boy did the opposition knew it too.
In fact, there cannot have been many harder batsmen to remove from the crease in the international game than Waugh over the past 25 years, and it was that sheer will to win that made him such an invaluable member of the Australian side in their pomp.
WEST INDIES: Shivnarine Chanderpaul
Just imagine for a brief second exactly what state West Indies would be in right now were it not for the countless match-saving contributions with the bat from the little Guyanese left-hander?
Shiv first broke into the side way back in 1994 as the once-dominant empire was beginning to crumble, so his efforts these past 20 years need to be seen in that light.
However, there can be few other cricketers in that same period of time who have proved more crucial to the overall health of their team than the obstinate 39-year-old has.
INDIA: Sachin Tendulkar
It may seem obvious to some to nominate the recently retired Indian batting legend, however, the Little Master’s influence on his country these past 25 years was so much more far reaching than simply his volume of runs.
No, Sachin was the very heartbeat of the team, someone his team-mates all looked up to, consulted for advice, and when he played well it inspired everyone else around him to also follow suit.
Conversely, when Tendulkar was missing from the line-up, there appeared almost to be a giant hole in the side that was virtually impossible to fill, with India’s displays being adversely affected as a result.
And yes, there was also the small matter of his 34,000-plus international runs to make up for as well, a massive absence that always seemed to give the opposition a huge boost in the process.
PAKISTAN: Imran Khan
More than all the runs and wickets that the brilliant all-rounder managed for his country over a 20-year period, it was his inspirational leadership qualities that made Imran such an irreplaceable figure.
As you knew for sure that if the captain was in the side, than the real Pakistan would be on display, and conversely the opposite was true.
And this was shown most during the 1992 World Cup when Imran, by then aged 40, led Pakistan from the depths of despair to a shock triumph through his sheer force of personality as he inspired his team-mates to produce previously unseen match-winning performances.
SRI LANKA: Muttiah Muralitharan
At times during the spinner’s near 20-year international career it did appear as though Sri Lanka were a one-man team, such was their absolute reliance on the off-break bowler.
In fact, it even got to the stage during the height of Murali’s powers where opponents would simply attempt to see the tweaker off by not scoring off him at all, rather than risk losing bunches of wicket to his mystery spin.
Which is why the man with 800 Test-match victims to his name was so utterly indispensable to Sri Lanka over the years.
NEW ZEALAND: Richard Hadlee
Taking on the Kiwis without Hadlee in their side was an entirely different proposition to facing the Black Caps with the great all-rounder in their starting XI, with the legendary swing bowler a hugely intimidating figure to opponents all over the world.
And it is hard to think of any other player in the modern game who was so absolutely integral to his team’s chances of success than the New Zealand fast bowler was.
SOUTH AFRICA: Gary Kirsten
The one Proteas wicket that opposition teams wanted more than any other during the mid-'90s to early 2000s was always that of opener Gary Kirsten, a batsman similar to Australia’s Steve Waugh in that while not the most technically accomplished or gifted of players, was still the hardest to prize from the crease.
So much so, in fact, that on the race occasions that the left-hander did fail with the bat, so invariably did the rest of the team.
BANGLADESH: Tamim Iqbal
The free-flowing and big-hitting batsman may have a reputation for being somewhat cavalier at times, especially for an opener. However, the 24-year-old is still his country’s most influential player and one Bangladesh cannot ever afford to be without.
ZIMBABWE: Andy Flower
During his 10-year career with Zimbabwe, the small Southern African nation enjoyed its most successful period ever in the international arena, with Flower responsible for much of that as their skipper, but more importantly, their inspiration too with both the bat and behind the stumps as well.
And as a result, Zimbabwe were famed at that time for always punching above their weight, in the image of their captain, who liked to lead from the front via deeds rather than words, and none more famously than with his black armband protest against the “death of democracy” in his homeland at the 2003 World Cup.