Fleeting Flames: Players who began brilliantly, only to fade away
On June 26, 1999, a 16-year-old Mithali Raj took her first steps in international cricket. She would go on to score a century on ODI debut against Ireland, to kick off a career that has seen her rewrite several batting records. Earlier this week, Raj celebrated the completion of 21 years at the international level – something no other woman has managed.
While Raj’s accomplishments that day stole the limelight, there was another debutante who also enjoyed a terrific introduction to top-level cricket. Reshma Gandhi, India’s wicketkeeper-batter, kept Raj company through her innings, to finish unbeaten on 104. However, Gandhi played only one ODI after that record-breaking day at Milton Keynes – her stupendous start fizzling to nothing sooner than expected.
This week, Women’s CricZone brings you a list of players who began promisingly, but disappeared before their careers really blossomed.
Note: Only those who have played no more than five ODIs (and not more than 10 internationals overall) have been considered. Currently active players (even those playing domestic cricket) are not taken into account.
1. Tina Macpherson (Australia)
ODI Career: Jun 1973 – Jul 1973
A tall, strapping fast bowler, Tina Macpherson became the first woman to take an ODI five-fer when she ripped through Young England’s line-up in the first ever Women’s ODI. The right-armer bowled 12 miserly overs in the opening game of the 1973 Women’s World Cup, claiming figures of 5 for 14 as Australia bundled out the hosts for 57. Incredibly, the 24-year-old Macpherson bowled seven maidens in her spell.
She finished the tournament as Australia’s highest wicket taker, and joint second-highest overall with nine scalps in five games. It was only in the last game of the World Cup – a virtual final against England – that she went wicketless: 12-2-51-0. The game also marked the end of Macpherson’s international career.
2. Glenys Page (New Zealand)
ODI Career: Jun 1973 – Jul 1973
New Zealand’s Glenys Page holds the record for best figures on ODI debut. The left-arm spinner, made life difficult for Trinidad and Tobago in their opening game of the 1973 Women’s World Cup in England. Brought into the attack as the fifth bowler of the innings, Page finished with figures of 6 for 20, as New Zealand sauntered to a 136-run win.
She played only one more match against Young England where she bowled an economical spell of 11-3-26-0.
She made no further appearances for New Zealand at the international level.
3. Patricia Dawson (Australia)
ODI Career: Jan 1984 – Feb 1984
When Australia toured India for a Test and ODI series in 1984, they brought a fairly young team with several debutantes. Among them was Patricia Dawson, a 25-year-old wicketkeeper-batter, who topped the batting-charts with a total of 182 runs in the four-match ODI series as Australia blanked the hosts 4-0. Batting in the middle order, the right-hander started off with an unbeaten 58, to guide her team to a nervy three-wicket win.
The knock earned her a promotion in the order, as she batted at No.3 in the third and fourth ODIs, registering scored of 46 and 77 not out – both of which came in chases.
In the final ODI of the series – also Dawson’s last – she shared a 112-run partnership with skipper Jill Kennare, to headline Australia’s chase of 220. They overhauled the target in just 43.4 overs.
She played her final international match in December that year – a Test match against England in Adelaide.
4. Purnima Choudhary (India)
ODI Career: Dec 1997
Purnima Choudhary’s entry into the international arena was as special as can be – home World Cup, and a five-fer on debut. Opening the bowling with Renu Margrate, with India defending a below par total of 145 (in 40 overs) against West indies, Choudhary ripped through the line-up – accounting for a wicket in her first over – to hand India a 62-run win.
The right-arm seamer from Bengal – who scored an enterprising 11 off 13 balls in the first innings – dismissed skipper Marlene Needham in her first over to deliver a telling blow. West Indies never really recovered from that early loss and were bowled out for 83 in just over 33 overs.
Choudhary also removed Roselyn Emmanuel, Ann McEwan, Desiree Luke and Ann Browne to finish with figures of 5 for 21 – the best for India on ODI debut.
She played a further four games through the tournament, including the semi-final against Australia, where she bowled a spell of 4-2-7-0 in India’s narrow loss.
5. Dedunu Gunaratne (Sri Lanka)
ODI Career: April 1998
Dedunu Gunaratne became the first Sri Lankan to score a half-century on ODI debut when she achieved the feat against Pakistan in Colombo in 1998. Opening the innings, Gunaratne anchored Sri Lanka’s chase of 158 with an unbeaten 98-ball 57. She shared a 63-run partnership with Vanessa Bowen for the third wicket, before putting on 36 runs for the sixth wicket with Rose Fernando.
Gunaratne’s final ODI saw her share a 53-run stand with Vasanthi Ratnayake for the opening wicket. She scored a patient 18 before being dismissed by Nazia Nazir. Despite a middle-order collapse, Sri Lanka went on to win by six wickets, and record a 3-0 whitewash.
Gunaratne featured in the one-off Test match that followed, scoring a total of 55 runs. She never made an appearance for Sri Lanka again.
6. Reshma Gandhi (India)
ODI Career: Jun 1999 – Jul 1999
Reshma Gandhi spent a large part of her career as Anju Jain’s understudy. At 24, she was handed her ODI debut against Ireland at Milton Keynes in 1999 – a match that was originally thought to be a ‘practice game’. (It was retrospectively given international status). The right-hander shared a record 258-run stand with fellow debutante Mithali Raj also scoring her maiden century. She was also involved in two dismissals as India romped to a 161-run win.
When the subsequent series against England began, Gandhi found herself back on the bench, before she was called up for the final ODI after India had sealed the three-match series. While it was Jain who took the gloves, Gandhi batted at No. 7 and scored an enterprising 18 not out. She shared an unbroken 52-run stand with Hemlata Kala (33*) to help India to a total of 220 for 5.
Gandhi never played for India again.
7. Fiona Fraser (New Zealand)
ODI Career: Jun 2002 – Jul 2002
Imagine averaging 94.00 in three ODI innings and not playing a game after that. That is exactly what happened to New Zealand’s Fiona Fraser, who made her international debut during New Zealand’s tour of Netherlands and then played in the tri-series involving England and Ireland – a tournament which New Zealand won.
Fraser scored an unbeaten 71-ball 54 on debut, helping New Zealand rack up a total of 335 for 4 against Netherlands. She shared a rapid 86-run stand with Emily Drumm during the game.
She followed it up with a run-a-ball 26 against Ireland at No.7 – a game in which rain had the last laugh.
In the final of the tri-series, Fraser walked in at No. 6 with New Zealand struggling at 66 for 4 and stitched together an important 43-run stand with Kate Pulford to help resurrect the innings. Although she only managed a patient 14, Fraser’s contribution was key to New Zealand reaching a total of 161 – 63 runs too many for England.
You can read more lists here.