Five lesser-known finishers who deserve more recognition
In limited-overs cricket, matches go right down to the wire. In such situations, you need calm and composed characters capable of absorbing the pressure and taking their team over the line.
Finishing a game for one’s side is an art in cricket. It’s a difficult art to master but there have been a few cricketers like MS Dhoni and Michael Bevan, to name a few, who have mastered it, time and again proving themselves in crunch situations by taking their team to victory.
In the recent past, there have been players who have been moulded into the finisher's role for their respective teams. These players have, more or less, done the job for their side without having the spotlight on them. So, here’s a look at five such cricketers who deserve more recognition.
#5 Sarfraz Ahmed
The current Pakistan skipper, Sarfraz Ahmed, manages to churn out runs wherever he bats. He has batted in every position (except No. 3), but in recent times, has largely made the No. 5 and No. 6 roles his own.
His stats batting at 5 and 6 are very good. He averages 60 and 42 at No. 5 and 6 respectively. His finishing skills were on display during the Champions Trophy game against Sri Lanka which was a do-or-die fixture. Chasing 237, with Pakistan reeling at 137-6, everything looked lost, but Sarfraz batted with a lot of maturity and composure to help his side overhaul the target and reach the semi-final.
In ODIs in 2017, Sarfraz has batted in five innings and has remained unbeaten in three of them. He has been in wonderful form over the last two years, but has gone unnoticed in international circles.
Mahmudullah, like many other cricketers, started off his career as a bowler who could bat a bit but then reinvented himself into a batsman who could bowl handy off-spin.
Largely, Mahmudullah has batted at No. 6 or 7 for Bangladesh. He has been pretty good in finishing innings off for them. In the Champions Trophy this year, along with Shakib, Mahmudullah helped Bangladesh chase down 265 after being reduced to 33/4. This helped them enter their first ever semi-final in an ICC event.
He has been in very good form this year, scoring 297 in nine innings (5 not outs).
#3 Moeen Ali
An English cricketer of Pakistani descent, Moeen Ali earned a call-up to the English side for his off-spin after the shock retirement of Graeme Swann. But it was his batting pedigree that stood out in his early days.
He started his ODI career as an opener, but soon shifted to the lower order after players like Hales and Roy started producing big knocks. With the English side consisting of star players like Root, Morgan and Stokes, he has been allowed the opportunity to play with freedom. He has delivered the goods more often than not, giving England that big flourish at the end of an innings.
#2 Kedar Jadhav
A pocket-sized dynamo, Kedar Jadhav is India’s No. 6 and the designated finisher for almost a year now. He has been consistently getting opportunities since the New Zealand series in October 2016.
Largely batting at 6, he has scored vital runs at a brilliant strike-rate of 113.59 in his 30-match ODI career. He has produced some notable performances this year but hasn’t got the recognition he deserves. He helped India win when they were reeling at 63/4 in pursuit of 350, against England. Scoring 120 off just 76 balls, Jadhav took the pressure off skipper Kohli who also scored a hundred.
In the same series, chasing 321, India were in a hole at 173-5. Jadhav scored a crucial 90 but failed to get India over the line as England clinched a thriller by 5 runs.
With Dhawan, Rohit, Kohli, Dhoni and Pandya in the Indian line-up, Jadhav has produced some memorable performances which have largely gone unnoticed.
#1 Jos Buttler
Jos Buttler is an impact player. He has scored England’s three fastest ODI hundreds and topping that list is the 46-ball hundred against Pakistan in Dubai.
He has scored over 2000 runs batting at 6 and 7. These are not easy positions to bat in as batsmen are forced to go after the bowling right from the start. Buttler's strike-rate has never dipped below 110, which is simply extraordinary.
He is an all-round player and has all the shots in the book. With Hales, Root, Morgan and Stokes hogging all the limelight, Buttler goes about his job completely unfazed.