Every International Cricket Team's Player Who Gets Under Opposition Skin

Alex TelferFeatured ColumnistJuly 26, 2014

Every International Cricket Team's Player Who Gets Under Opposition Skin

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    Batting, bowling and fielding are clearly the three core skills in cricket but what about the mental warfare practised by certain players?

    People who can wind up the opposition and put them off their game can be an asset in some sports—see ice hockey's NHL where an "agitator" is often a sought-after commodity—and cricket, where concentration is key, is one of them.

    The methods used can vary; it might be a close fielder talking to batsmen between balls, a fast bowler aggressively following through in his run up or even a deliberately barbed comment in the media.

    Here is every Test-playing side's leading player in terms of getting under the opposition's skin.

1. Australia: David Warner

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    Since the retirement of Shane Warne, Australia have produced a number of candidates to assume the job of "chief opposition baiter" and, despite the emergence of James Faulkner, David Warner clearly currently wears the crown.

    Whether dealing in insensitive comments to the media, punching cricket's meekest-looking player (Joe Root) in a bar or merely provoking hostile responses on the pitch by his sheer presence, the left-handed batsman ticks all the boxes.

    But, undeniably, Warner backs up his outspokenness with action and has continued to excel in all formats of international cricket, scoring his top order runs at a blistering rate. Let's not get started on that pathetic moustache though...

2. Bangladesh: Shakib Al Hasan

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    As well as being arguably the Asian country's greatest-ever player (what has happened to Tamim Iqbal?), Shakib Al Hasan seems to have a penchant for winding people up, as evidenced by his catalogue of misdemeanours. 

    Currently serving a controversial six-month ban handed down by the country's cricket board for a "severe attitude problem," the all-rounder has previously had a run-in with a fan, had numerous altercations with coaches and the Bangladesh board, and also been banned for making inappropriate gestures.

    But of course, the main reason he is the most annoying player from the opposition's point of view is his ability. Shakib has taken nearly 350 international wickets and scored more than 6,500 runs.

3. England: Jimmy Anderson

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    Jimmy Anderson generally comes across as a nice guy but, once he crosses the white line (or more accurately, the sponsored triangular inflatable boundary) the Lancastrian seamer transforms like the Incredible Hulk.

    His recent bust-up with India's Ravindra Jadeja is one of a number of incidents that have blotted the notorious sledger's copybook and this discussion with Mitchell Johnson is a good example of why he gets under opponent's skins.

    But Anderson's most notorious moment was winding Michael Clarke up to the point that the Australian captain intimated the England player might be receiving some short bowling imminently...albeit, a little less eloquently than that (NSFW).

4. India: Virat Kohli

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    While Parthiv Patel was described on sportskeeda.com by AB de Villiers as being "the most irritating cricketer he has come across," and Gautam Gambhir prompted Shane Warne (err...kettle, pot, black?) to suggest he was one of the "top three most annoying cricketers", they are both currently out of the India team.

    So, despite Ravindra Jadeja's recent progress, Virat Kohli gets the nod. There is just something about the 25-year-old that seems to make the opposition try that little bit harder when he's at the crease.

    To be fair, apart from the embarrassing episode of on-field handbags with Gambhir, Kohli is rarely at the forefront of on-field incidentsbut he's normally somewhere close behind.

     

5. New Zealand: Danny Morrison

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    OK, I have to admit defeat on this one. The ever-improving Black Caps seem to be a relatively pleasant and innocuous bunch and it is difficult to choose a clear "agitator."

    Sure, Jesse Ryder has a rap sheet as long as one of his meaty sixes, but the all-rounder's chequered history is mostly to do with his battle with the bottle and authority figures rather than upsetting the opposition.

    But one thing is for sure; in the permanently excited and hyperactive Danny Morrison, New Zealand certainly possess the most annoying commentator on the planet. Check out this "greatest hits" compilation.

6. Pakistan: Shahid Afridi

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    Back in the day, Javed Miandad was infamous for rubbing opposition players up the wrong way as per this almost WWE-style fight with Australian great Dennis Lillee.

    But nowadays, with Shoaib Akhtar safely retired, the title of mischief maker in chief goes to the prodigiously talented Shahid Afridi.

    The all-rounder seems to divide opinion with his exploits, on and off the pitch, and notable fallouts with Shane Warne and even the relatively meek Mahela Jayawardene highlight his hair-trigger temper. And this childish obstruction of Gautaum Gambhir is a classic.

7. South Africa: Dale Steyn

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    Consummate pace merchant Dale Steyn's aggression is a major part of his armoury, and not many games pass without the South African squaring up to an opposition batsman or two.

    The 31-year-old has locked horns with Yusuf Pathan, Sulieman Benn, Virat Kohli and more over the years, but like many ultra-competitive sportsmen, he comes across as a good bloke off the pitch.

    The infamous "Steyn Stare" must haunt many a cricketer's dreams though. Also, an honourable mention has to go to Andre Nel.

8. Sri Lanka: Sachithra Senanayake

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    Sri Lanka have had a number of feisty players over the years, the most notorious of which was Arjuna Ranatunga who drove the opposition wildas evidenced by this outburst from the mild-mannered Alec Stewart.

    But the current instigator-in-chief has to be Sachithra Senanayake whose recent "Mankad" dismissal of Jos Buttler made him enemy number one among England's ranks.

    The spinner is one of Sri Lanka's leading ODI and T20 bowlers but is currently banned by the ICC due to his delivery action being deemed illegal.

9. West Indies: Marlon Samuels

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    The West Indian stereotype personified, Marlon Samuels often comes across as laid back and perhaps not overly concerned with affairs on the field.

    However, his career so far has been littered with numerous bust-ups with opposition players, although most were fairly tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted affairs.

    Apart, that is, from this ugly incident when the Jamaican hurled his bat at Shane Warne. Yes...it is a shame he missed. 

    Alas, despite scoring nearly 3,000 runs, Samuels was recently dropped from the West Indies Test squad, but let's hope he returns soon to keep us entertained.