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Ode to Onions and the others who should have played more

Updated: May 17

Today marks the day that Graham Onions announced his retirement from cricket due a back injury.

It’s a career that everyone will remember fondly whilst also reminding us of how few games he ended up playing for England. That is by no means a slight on Onions, to my mind he’d played at least 25 times but it was the impression that he left that was the most important aspect of his Test Career. Onions was also incredibly unlucky in his career that injuries took such a chunk out of his potential game time for both England, Durham and later Lancashire.

With this in mind I thought I’d bring up some other players, who, for various reasons should have played more for their country.

(Photo credit: "time for lunch?"by nic_r is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

James Foster

I could have chosen a whole list of wicket-keepers who didn’t quite get the game time they deserved for England in the 00’s; Chris Read, Tim Ambrose, Paul Nixon and Phil Mustard but James Foster was always the player who could feel most hard done by. The form of Matt Prior was often the reason that these ‘keepers didn’t get a look in.

Up until his retirement the only people who ever came close to Foster’s ability behind the stumps were Sarah Taylor and Ben Foakes, who saw Foster as his role model whilst at Essex.

But it wasn’t just his ability with the gloves that should have made him a shoo-in but also his form with the bat as he averaged 36 in First Class Cricket.

Simon Jones

Another fast bowler who can count themselves extremely unlucky through injury. Arguably the pick of the bowlers in the 2005 Ashes, Jones played his final Test in the Trent Bridge Test where England took the series 2-1, needing only to draw the final game.

After that series, a number of knee and ankle injuries blighted the rest of the paceman’s career. Every time he would manage to get a run of games under his belt, he’d pick up another injury. It’s so often the way with fast bowlers (see Andrew Flintoff, Pat Cummins, James Pattinson, Ryan Harris, Chris Tremlett the list goes on) that the stress and strain that they put their bodies under is not sustainable. Mark Wood also similarly went through ankle issues which at one stage looked as though he may suffer a similar fate to Jones.

At his best, Jones had vicious pace and we all remember him bowling Michael Clarke in the 2005 Ashes, but we can only dream of what he could have achieved if he had been able to add to his 18 Tests.

Mark Cosgrove

In 2006, Mark Cosgrove had reached the pinnacle of his career. Aged just 21 he made his international debut for Australia in an ODI against Bangladesh. Only 2 more games were to follow for Australia before he was dropped. His career can be seen as a constant battle for teams to realise his talent before looking at his weight. Despite the huge selection struggles that Australia went through at the turn of the 10’s, Cricket Australia still refused to pick Cosgrove based on his weight.

I mentioned Cosgrove before in our article on legends of the T20 Blast. As a powerful hitting batsman and a natural talent for the game, despite his fitness, he was a real hero of mine.

We can only hope that the West Indies do not make the same mistakes when it comes to another hugely talented cricketer in the form of Rakheem Cornwall.

Simon Harmer

South Africa will look at Simon Harmer as ‘the one that got away’.

At a time when many South African cricketers abandoned ship as they saw the end of the Kolpack Ruling quickly approaching with Brexit looming, Simon Harmer felt that he’d have greater opportunity plying his trade at Essex.

Having played just 5 Tests for his country, Harmer chose the county cricket route, thus retiring from the international game at just 27. Since then, with the help of Harmer, Essex have won the County Championship twice and a maiden T20 title.

Not a country known for its spinners; South Africa’s loss is Essex’s gain.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul

Now this may seem like an odd one considering Shiv played for the West Indies for 21 years, played 164 Tests and was a legend of not only West Indian cricket but world cricket too. His Test career, however, suddenly finished out of the blue in 2015.

Still happy to continue playing and despite a small loss of form, Chanderpaul was still one of the strongest batsmen in the West Indies team and had a mammoth amount of experience to go with it. The West Indian cricket board decided that it was time to blood some youth and thus Chanderpaul had played his final game without so much as a farewell for over 20 years of service. He continued playing for Guyana and Lancashire until 2018 by which stage he was 44 and still scoring runs.

And those who never got a game…

How do you find out if somebody’s a Somerset fan? They’ll start talking about James Hildreth the moment you bring up cricket.

Ah the ‘no-cap-wonders’. The players who you can only speculate what might have been. James Hildreth is a classic example of this, averaging 42 in First Class cricket and having captained his county, we have never had an opportunity to see him play at the highest level. There’s always been someone in slightly better form, or someone slightly younger, or someone who’s scored runs on trickier wickets.

Steve Magoffin is another example of a man who averaged just 23 with the ball but his ability was never recognised by Australia, and despite taking wickets in the County Championship well into his late 30s, the call never came.

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