John Traicos, born on this day, had the unwanted record of being absent from Test cricket for the longest period of time. Given the dynamics of modern-day cricket, there seems very less possibility of anyone breaking Traicos’s record as cricketers hardly last at the highest level for as long as Traicos was missing from Test cricket. Here, we look at five such players who served the longest period between two Test matches and the backstories behind it:
John Traicos, 22 years & 222 days
South Africa’s suspension from international cricket in 1970 proved to be a tragic event in the lives of a number of cricketers. One of them was the right-arm offbreak bowler, John Traicos who made his Test debut for South Africa months before South African cricket was slammed with the suspension.
Playing three out of the four Tests of South Africa’s last Test series before suspension as a 22-year old - against Australia at home - Traicos picked four wickets. Even with the threat of suspension lingering on the nation, Traicos might not have thought that he would have to wait 22 years for his next Test cap. When it came, he was representing Zimbabwe in their maiden Test in 1992, aged 45, against India in Harare and held more experience of playing Test cricket than the country he was playing for. By then, South Africa were readmitted to international cricket but did not play a Test match till 1993. Besides, Traicos had become an integral part of Zimbabwe cricket, also appearing in their first ODI game in 1983.
He played four Tests for Zimbabwe before ending his career with 18 wickets in seven Tests. Born in Egypt, he settled in Australia post retirement.
George Gunn, 17 years & 316 days
England’s George Gunn’s career was on hold for nearly 18 years in the pre and post First World War era. In an unusual career, Gunn played 14 out of his 15 Tests overseas. His debut in 1907 was nearly a planned coincidence as he was not originally picked in England’s squad to tour Australia. He still visited the country citing health reasons. Destiny worked its magic. Gunn played each of the five Tests replacing the injured captain, scoring a hundred on debut in the last game of the series.
Although a Nottinghamshire legend, Gunn never cemented his place in England’s squad. He failed to replicate the success of his maiden tour in his intermittent appearances and found himself out of favor post the war. He was surprisingly picked for England’s tour of West Indies at the age of 50 in the 1929/30 season. The squad also included the 52-year old Wilfred Rhodes who returned to play Test cricket after four years. Both Gunn and Rhodes played their last international game featuring in all four Tests. Gunn scored 85 in the first innings of the fourth Test, his highest score below a hundred.
Younis Ahmed, 17 years & 111 days
The effect of the Apartheid suspension was not limited to South African cricketers. Pakistan’s Younis Ahmed was banned by the Pakistan Cricket Board for touring South Africa in 1973.
A promising young talent, Ahmed made his first-class debut as a 14-year-old. He played several seasons of county cricket before his Test debut in New Zealand in 1969. The ban on Ahmed was revoked in 1979 but he was out of favor by that time with players like Zaheer Abbas and Javed Miandad establishing themselves. He missed 104 Test matches until his next Test appearance in 1987 - a world record - and appeared for two Tests against India. A disciplinary breach where he complained of back pain in the Ahmedabad Test but was later seen in a disco ensured he did not play for Pakistan again. Overall, Ahmed played 460 first-class games and 327 List-A games amassing over 34,000 runs at the professional level.
Mick Commaille, 14 years & 92 days
A player of modest Test record, Mick Commaille was a dual international representing South Africa in cricket as well as on the field of amateur football. Making his debut in 1910, Commaille was a right-handed batsman who started at number eight but by the end of the series, he made his way to the top of the order playing as an opener in the fifth Test, albeit without achieving anything commendable with the bat. Consequently, the series remained his only international assignment in the pre First World War period.
Post-war, it was an outstanding 1923/24 first-class season - his best in his career - which opened the way for his Test return. Aged 39, he was included in South Africa’s squad to tour England as their vice-captain. Playing all five Tests as a top-order batsman, his highest score in the series was 37. Dropped from the side again, he made another return in 1927 and achieved his highest Test score, 47, in the second Test which also turned out to be the last of his career.
Donald Cleverley, 14 years & 28 days
New Zealand’s Donald Cleverley played only two Tests, spaced 14 years apart in 1932 and 1946. A right-arm fast-medium bowler, he was unable to take a wicket in any of those two Tests. The second of these Tests was New Zealand’s only Test against Australia till 1973. The reason was the glaring gap between the two sides as the match saw New Zealand succumb to an innings defeat, bundled out for scores of 42 and 54 in their two turns with the bat.
Cleverley’s greatest achievement as a sportsperson remained outside of cricketing circles as he was a national amateur boxing champion. Also, at the time of his death, he was the oldest living Test cricketer at 94 years and 55 days.