The general idea behind our massively unsuccessful Unlikely Lads series is that it’s an opportunity to look back at a career that never quite took off but still managed to catch our attention, usually in the form of providing us with, according to the young person’s vernacular, lolz. Whether that was because they couldn’t bowl a hoop downhill, were selected as a joke or were a bit of a fatso, the end result was always the same: a complete lack of international recognition.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. In this case it was one Liam Edward Plunkett. Of course, we knew exactly what we were doing here. Firstly, we gave him a bit of a gentle goading to raise him from his mid-career slump. Then, when he started to actually bowl properly again, we pushed for his international recall. The selectors – no doubt avid readers of our articles – took the hint and recalled him. Mission accomplished.
And so, having overseen the rebirth of Plunkett, along with the rise of #Devereux of course, today we set ourselves a new challenge: masterminding the return to the top of one
Of course, this is probably the point when we should make it clear that there is literally zero chance of Luke Wright ever getting anywhere near international cricket ever again. Much as we love him and his waddle to the crease, we don’t think Trevor Bayliss is quite such an avid fan of 51allout as his predecessors, given that he completely ignored our calls to replace Jonny Bairstow in the Test squad with a more experienced pair of hands, such as Alan Knott or Jack Russell.
For Wright then, it’s time to reflect on his many achievements in the game: there was that time he won the World T20, his excellent Big Bash performances and that time he was officially 12th man for a Test series, an accolade that no-one will ever be able to take away. Although we’re not sure exactly why they would want to.
Our hero’s close shave with Test cricket came back in 2009, when England toured South Africa. To some this series will always be remembered for Graeme Onions saving two Tests with England nine wickets down in the second innings; for us it’s the series in which Wright carried the drinks beautifully, only missing out on Test selection when the prospect of him batting at number seven and being a fourth seamer (a ‘Flintoff-lite’ according to Cricinfo) proved just too damn exciting, the selectors opting for the rather more prosaic charms of Ian Bell instead.
Unfortunately for Wright, the six batsmen/four bowlers setup worked rather well and became the template for the following few years for England. There was simply no place for an allrounder who waddled into the crease like a Vauxhall Corsa pulling away from the lights in fourth gear. Instead he had to settle for being a part of England’s ODI side, playing 50 matches while taking just 15 wickets (at 58.93) and reaching fifty only twice – once on debut – with a top score of 52 and an average of just over 20. Inspiring numbers, even by the standards of English ODI rubbishness of the the 21st century.
Despite generally haring around the field like a Labrador chasing an errant tennis ball, Wright unsurprisingly failed to properly nail down a spot in the fifty over game. Which left T20, the format of the game best suited to his ‘see ball, hit ball, chase ball, fetch!’ style. And it’s here that we first decided that he was actually one of our favourite players of all time, with our Luke proudly representing Pune Warriors, back when we used to pretend that we actually gave a shit about the most corrupt sporting competition in the world. Apart from athletics.
As well as starring in the Big Bash for the Melbourne Stars and being part of England’s successful World T20 campaign in 2010, Wright also very nearly became the first English player to hit a century in the format, ending up stranded on 99* against Afghanistan in 2012. And yet his international career again ended in the doldrums, a run of poor scores in 2014 bringing the curtain down and sending Wright back to domestic cricket, where he’s done pretty well for Sussex, scoring more than 1,200 runs in this year’s county championship.
So why do we have such fondness for Luke Wright? Lots of reasons – he played for Pune, he was always enthusiastic, his bowling inevitably made us laugh – but mainly because, despite his best efforts, he just wasn’t quite good enough for international cricket. And in the 51allout bumper book of great things to be, that’s right up there with gin producers, sexy pole vaulters and Steven Peter Devereux Smith.