Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cricketing ‘cups of coffee’

A ‘cup of coffee’ is North American sports terminology for a short time spent by a minor league player at the major league level. The idea behind the term is that the player was only in the big leagues long enough to have a cup of coffee before being returned to the minors

Test Cricket history is littered with players who have represented their country just once. These players range from West Indian Andy Ganteaume who scored 112 in his only innings, to Gavin Hamilton who is one of the nine unfortunate players to have made a pair on their only Test appearance.

So – if we know that there are 382 players who have represented their country once in Tests and a further 169 who have played just one ODI, what about those players who made a name for themselves – albeit a fleeting one – at the top of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings?

In Test cricket three batsmen have topped the charts for just one match. The first was Australian Percy McDonnell, whose fifteen minutes of fame came way back in 1882 when he topped the batting table with a Rating of 472. The next was South African Herbie Taylor who sneaked above Jack Hobbs for one match in February 1923. The third man was West Indies stalwart Rohan Kanhai, who was the only man to break the Garry Sobers / Ken Barrington domination from 1960 to 1969 by edging ahead in January 1966 after Barrington failed at Sydney. However, with 60 and 102 in his next Test, the England batsmen nudged Kanhai back down to number 2.

Interestingly, there are a total of fifteen bowlers who have held the number one spot for just one Test Match in their careers, and some of the all-time greats are among them. Richie Benaud – one of the great leg-spinners - upset the Laker & Lock double-act in February 1959. John Snow was England’s fast-bowling hero of the 1960s and 1970s and ended with 202 Test wickets, but he only reached number one once – during the 1972 Ashes series. Wasim Akram – who took 414 Test wickets – only peaked at the top once – and then albeit joint top with Curtly Ambrose – in December 1997.

The other bowlers to have achieved the feat are: Alfred Shaw (1877), Tom Kendall (1877), Billy Bates (1887), Billy Barnes (1888), Charlie Turner (1892), Tom Richardson (1898), Monty Noble (1902), Jack Saunders (1908), Tibby Cotter (1910), Tich Freeman (1929), Bill Bowes (1946) and Dale Steyn (2008).

In the shorter form of the game, only two men have topped the charts for a solitary match. The first was John Edrich, whose innings of 82 in the first ODI of all enabled him to be top. The other was Mohammad Yousuf, who took Michael Bevan’s place at the top of the tree in October 2003, before a duck in the next match saw the Australian regain top spot.

Finally, in a stark contrast to the Test bowling, only one man has been top of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for ODI bowlers for just one match, and for that we need to go back to the first ODI played. Keith Stackpole took three for 40 in that first match at Melbourne to have a bowling Rating of 141 – enough for first place.