Hype, fame and recognition at a young age can be daunting for sportspersons and, much in contrast to the fairytale script, in many cases, it turns out detrimental to their careers. Today, we look at the winners of the ‘ICC Emerging Cricketer of the Year’ award and see how their career panned out.
Does talent equate to success? Do child prodigies always go on and make it big at the very highest level? Is fame and recognition at the embryonic stages of a sportsman’s career healthy? Is a wondrous start to a career a sign that the player will succeed in the long term? These are questions that have bugged both the athletes and the fans ever since the inception of sport. Unfortunately, through evidence which we’ve been able to garner over decades, “No” seems to be the most common answer for all the aforementioned questions.
We’ve seen these tales unfold in Football. From Adriano to Jack Wilshere to Michael Johnson, footballers who were destined for greatness, footballers who proved their mettle and ability at the highest level, tragically ended up fading into obscurity, to the point where they were considered irrelevant. They were hyped, recognized and were pipped to become all-time greats and yet, despite having the world at their feet when they embarked on this journey called sport, despite everything being too easy for their own liking, they simply could not sustain their success or leave behind a legacy.
Cricket is no different: for every Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli, there is a Unmukt Chand and Vinod Kambli who leave your heart shattered, making you wonder ‘what could have been?’. The bottom line, though, is that sport has taught us to take everything with a pinch of salt - be it an accolade or a first impression. The “ICC Emerging Player of the Year” award is considered the pinnacle of all awards for a rising young cricketer in the sport, yet the question remains: how many cricketers who bagged the award pushed on, made it big and left a legacy? Today, we, here at SportsCafe, look at how the careers of the cricketers who won the ‘Emerging Player of the Year’ panned out.
2004 - Irfan Pathan
Irfan Pathan broke into the international scene at just the age of 19, as someone who could viciously swing the ball into the right hander. But after an enormously successful start to his international career, where he had two labels - ‘king of swing’ and ‘next Kapil Dev’ - next to his name, Pathan’s graph and his ability as a player fell drastically, something very few saw coming. By 2008, at just the age of 24, Pathan lost the one weapon that made him a force to be reckoned with, swing, didn’t know if he was a bowling or a batting all-rounder and eventually, became an outcast. Post 2008, in fact, he just went on to play 29 more games for the country.
2005 - Kevin Pietersen
It could be said that no player in the 21st century has had such a remarkable start to their international career as KP. As a 24-year-old with fancy, fluffy hair and a stud outlook, Pietersen, in no time, became the posterboy of English cricket after he helped England to an Ashes win in 2005 at home, in his first ever Test series. By 2009, he established himself as one of the best all-format cricketers in the world and in 2010, Pietersen delivered England their first ever ICC Trophy, a T20 World Cup. Often seen as a cricketer who was way ahead of his time, from the Viv Richards school of batting, KP invented the ‘switch-hit’ and revolutionized modern-day batting through his swag. Differences with the ECB meant that his career ended way earlier than it should have, but nevertheless, Pietersen left the sport as an all-time great.
2006 - Ian Bell
An orthodox batsman who oozed class and grace, Ian Bell had a solid start to his Test career, starting off with a fine 70 against Windies on debut, whilst averaging close to 43 in his first 30-odd Test matches. Bell came to the spotlight with his performance against Pakistan in 2006, where he hit three Test tons in four innings, after which he suffered an extremely lean patch. However, he eventually recovered from it and ended his career on an extremely strong note, tormenting the Aussies, delivering England both the 2013 and the 2015 home Ashes. Despite not hitting the same heights in coloured clothing, Bell established himself as a fine utility player who could both open the batting and slot in at the middle.
2007 - Shaun Tait
Known as the “Wild Thing”, Shaun Tait rose to fame through his excruciatingly fast and aggressive bowling, something that saw him be hailed as the fastest bowler of the 21st century - giving Shoaib Akhtar a run for his money. However, despite being a part of the dominant Australian side that won the 2007 World Cup without losing a single game, recurring injury problems meant that he played only a total of 59 international games for the country, with his career effectively coming to a halt at just the age of 28. A player who can genuinely be termed ‘unlucky’, I suppose.
2008 - Ajantha Mendis
When he made his Sri Lanka debut in 2008, Ajantha Mendis was the most mysterious yet fascinating cricketer in the world. Not only did he hit incredible heights within the first year of his career, but he also revolutionized white-ball cricket with his ‘carrom ball’, a delivery that continues to haunt batsmen till date. After becoming the fastest bowler to pick 50 ODI wickets - a record that stands unperturbed till date - Mendis’ career took a steep fall between 2010 to 2013. His mystery faded away, batsmen figured him out, he lost his mojo and unfortunately, he never really recovered from that blip. At just the age of 30 - which is considered to be peak years for a spinner - his career was as good as done, much to the dismay of cricket tragics.
2009 - Peter Siddle
Peter Siddle’s career followed a weird trajectory - a remarkable start, a forgettable middle phase and a somewhat-poetic end. A fiery bowler who had the ability to swing the ball at pace, Siddle made the world take notice of him by dismissing both Sachin and Dhoni in his first ever Test outing, after which he became the x-factor of the Australian side. However, injuries - which resulted in him losing his pace - coupled with disciplinary issues meant that Siddle drastically lost his way post 2013 and threatened to fade into oblivion without doing justice to his talent. Eventually, he had a late resurgence, thanks to him tidying up his game in county cricket, and almost poetically, ended his career by delivering Australia their first ever Ashes retention on English soil in 18 years. He will always be remembered for his birthday Ashes hat-trick at the GABBA, though.
2010 - Steven Finn
Perhaps, we are approaching the dark phase of this article. When Steven Finn broke onto the scene in 2010, he was England’s Glenn McGrath - except a few inches taller and 10 k’s quicker. But after a glorious start to his career - which saw him take his first 50 wickets at a strike rate just over 40, a phase where he also helped England win the Ashes on Aussie soil - injuries and inconsistency meant that he never rediscovered his 2010 self ever again. He did make a cluster of appearances post that and even recreate some old magic, but it became increasingly evident that he was not even a shadow of his older self. That he is now just 31 years of age, and he started declining as early as 24, makes his story tragic.
2011 - Devendra Bishoo
Indeed, we are in the dark part of the article. With the Windies not having had a decent spinner in the entirety of the 21st century, Devendra Bishoo’s emergence in 2011 was a blessing to the Caribbean Nation. He was a viewer’s delight: he was baby-faced, had a smooth action, flighted the ball miles up in the air and generated drift like no one else in the game at that point of time. Look up his wicket of MS Dhoni in the 2011 World Cup; it will tell you everything you need to know. But while Bishoo was never someone who piled up the numbers, his outlook stood out and provided hope, but that slowly but steadily started degrading post 2011. By 2013, he completely lost his edge, lost everything that made him special and, in fact, even changed his action. He did make a resurgence in 2015, but the Bishoo that caught the attention of the fans was long gone; he became just another leggie. It’s been two years since his last West Indies appearance and it looks highly unlikely that he would feature for the Windies ever again.
2012 - Sunil Narine
Sunil Narine was the Ajantha Mendis of 2012 - with a bit more flair and charisma. In fact, it was with Trinidad & Tobago in the Champions League that he made his name known and soon after he was fast tracked into the national side. To state facts, when Narine broke on to the scene, no batsman really knew how to play him. I mean, he bowled a maiden in a Super Over, how ridiculous is that? But after a dream start to his cricketing career - which included winning KKR their maiden IPL title and winning Windies their maiden WT20 title - Narine’s career turned upside down in 2015, when he was banned for chucking. He did come back with a remodelled action, but that was to no avail, as his new, 2.0 version had lost the mystery that made his 1.0 version a literal God. That he played only 32 international games post November 2015, picking just 33 wickets, should tell you everything you need to know.
2013 - Cheteshwar Pujara
Alas, after quite a while, we’ve landed on a player who can claim to have had a very good international career. By the time Pujara made his national debut in 2010, he’d established a reputation for himself in domestic cricket as the sage whose patience knew no bounds and it did not take him time to replicate the same in international cricket. A batsman known for his unperturbed mental strength and immaculate patience, Pujara has been hailed as the next Wall of India and he has, thus far, done justice to the tag. Despite averaging over 50 for a vast majority of his career, Pujara often came under the pump for his inability to perform away from the sub-continent, but he made everyone eat humble pie with his performance in Australia in 2018/19, where he helped India win a series Down Under for the first time in their history. With 18 hundreds to his name, you’d imagine Pujara would be acclaimed as an Indian cricket great even if he calls time on his career at this very moment.
2014 - Gary Ballance
The light did not last long, after all. Memories tend to fade quickly and a quick glance / re-visit at Gary Ballance’s numbers, would, in fact, give us a good idea of the remarkable start he had to his career. After moving from Zimbabwe to England, Ballance made his debut in 2014 and put his name on the Lord’s honours board in just his second Test. He then established himself as ‘The guy’ with his tons against India in the 2014 series and at that point in time, there were serious talks of handing the captaincy over to the southpaw. He is, in fact, till date, the joint 5th fastest cricketer in history to 1000 Test runs. However, a glaring flaw in his technique versus pace was then exposed in the second year of his career (second season syndrome), after which he went into a rut from which he never recovered. The ‘rut’ was so bad that he averaged just 19 in his last 13 Tests; 2 fifties in 25 innings. While he’s just 30 and still tearing up the County Circuit, an England recall, unfortunately, looks far away.
It would be a bit premature to judge the careers of the players who won the award in 2015 and beyond, but nevertheless, there are already glaring signs that the careers of a few are slowly but steadily derailing.
Winners of the ICC Emerging Player of the Year award - 2015 and beyond
2015 - Josh Hazlewood
2016 - Mustafizur Rahman
2017 - Hasan Ali
2018 - Rishabh Pant
2019 - Marnus Labuschagne
Hazlewood aside (given he’s had a pretty successful career thus far), while it’s way too early to take a call or pass judgements on both Pant and Labuschagne, it can be said that things look pretty bleak for both Hasan Ali and Mustafizur Rahman, both of who seem to have lost their x-factor which made them special entities. Given both bowlers are still just 25 years old, of course, there is more than enough time for them to bounce back and fulfil their potential, but things, as of this moment, look very gloomy indeed.
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