All-time XI of major Tests spanning less than a decade
Test careers can be fragile: a period of sustained stability in the team is not necessarily an indicator of greatness.
While some end up playing at the top of the game for more than a decade, sometimes even two, others achieve greatness in shorter periods. Whether through injury, late development or controversy, the most famous test players packed their achievements into a career spanning less than ten years.
With that in mind, here is the greatest XI of players who ended their Test match careers playing the longest format for less than ten years.
Mark Taylor (1989-1999)
A solid left-arm opener who amassed 104 Test matches in his career – less than a month short of a decade – Taylor forms one half of the top two names on this team sheet. He took 157 catches in his Test career, no player has taken more in fewer matches, and finished with 7252 runs and 19 centuries. After inheriting the Australian captaincy from Allan Border, he led the side to a seismic victory in the West Indies. His final Test hundred equaled Don Bradman’s best for Australia (334*), followed by Matthew Hayden and David Warner.
Conrad Hunte (1958-1967)
Hunte was one of the most significant batsmen of his generation both on and off the field. His classy batting at the top of the West Indies order in the 1960s was an indicator of the kind of dominance to come. Along with Sir Garfield Sobers, he shared the 446-run stand at Kingston in 1958 and ended his career with eight centuries, one against each country he played for.
Michael Vaughan (1999-2008)
With the general narrative of him captaining England in the 2005 Ashes, it’s easy to forget just how good a batsman Vaughan was. Commanding and strong in his approach, he was English rock at the highest level before a knee injury ruined his post-2005 career. The England Test captain ended his career with the most wins before Joe Root surpassed him by one match in 2022.
Kevin Pietersen (2005-2014)
Maverick, freak, flawed genius – or simply the best batsman to ever represent England. Pietersen’s legacy is almost as controversial as his career. After exploding with an unforgettable hundred at The Oval in 2005, he finished his career among England’s top Test run-getters. Pietersen’s beauty lay in the emotion behind his most memorable innings.
Against South Africa at Headingley before the infamous post-match interview, against India in Mumbai after being reintroduced into the squad, and a double against Australia in Adelaide after a nearly two-year drought. Many argue, perhaps rightly so, that Pietersen could and should have played Test cricket for many more years than he did. But, runs, centuries and drama are enough for the story of a modern day legend.
Alvin Kallicharan (1972-1981)
Classy in the middle order for the West Indies in the 1970s, Kallicharan was a part of the leading Caribbean side during that time. His career was marked by controversy, including a run-in with Tony Greig at Port of Spain and Kerry Packer’s high Test score in cricket. His Test career was cut short when he was banned by the West Indies after agreeing to play in South Africa in 1981.
Tony Greig (1972-1977)
The England captain became a legendary commentator, Greig was a force of personality on the field. He scored runs against some of the most fearsome pace attacks ever built – centuries against the likes of Lillee, Thompson, Holding and Roberts. Although his off-field controversies will hang in the memory of his career, he is one of only 14 players in history to have taken more than a hundred wickets and scored more than 3,500 runs.
Adam Gilchrist (1999-2008)
Gilchrist’s indelible legacy in the Test game makes it hard to believe that he only played for just over eight years. At the time, he revolutionized the role of the wicketkeeper batsman and took an Australian side that was already considered the greatest of all time to even greater heights. Australia batted in all positions from one to eight during their career, but number 7 was theirs. He scored almost 1000 more runs than anyone else at No.7 with a strike rate of 83.87. His 57-ball century in Perth is still the fastest ever in an Ashes Test and fourth all-time.
Andy Roberts (1974-1983)
A pioneer of the fearsome West Indies attack of the 1980s, Roberts was not only a lethal bowler in his own right, but also shaped the future careers of the likes of Courtney Walsh and Malcolm Marshall. It was the variations that Roberts bowled, before a deceptively slower ball picked up speed, that made him so devastating. He was recognized as one of the most skilled bowlers in Test cricket along with the likes of Sunil Gavaskar and Ian Chappell.
Mitchell Johnson (2007-2015)
Johnson’s story is one of the great redemptive arcs in Test cricket. Piled and mocked by the traveling Barmy Army in the 2010/11 Ashes series, he bounced back three years later. His bounce terrorized England’s batsmen on the doomed 2013/14 tour, a permanent fixture in that series that marred Johnson’s image with his handlebar moustache. Although that summer at home and the subsequent tour to South Africa were his pinnacle, he ended his career among the top five Australian test players of all time.
Allan Donald (1992-2002)
Terrifying pace. Donald’s spell on Michael Atherton at Trent Bridge is still spoken of in hushed, shocked tones to this day. He was the first bowler to take 300 wickets for South Africa and became an international success after the Apartheid years. Now, he is transferring his vast knowledge to the current generation as a coach who is now the respected head of Bangladesh’s fast bowling cartel.
Saqlain Mushtaq (1995-2004)
A pioneer in off-spin changes, Saqlain’s 208 career Test wickets belies his truly significant legacy. He bowled with incredible control, taking 10 wickets in a memorable 12-run win over India in Chennai in 1999. While his career ended after just 49 Tests, his legacy for Pakistan – and on tour – was indelible. for future generations.