You may start your career as a trainee and go on to become the CEO of the company. Or, you may start your career as an engineer and go on to become an artist. Cricket too has many such examples whose roles have developed for the better and made them excellent & great cricketers. The recent example is Steve Smith of Australia.
Here are a few cricketers who had their role changed only for the better.
The Australian started his career as a leg-spinner and lower-order batsman. He batted as low as No 8 when he made his debut. But he gave up bowling altogether to focus on his batting. He tightened up his batting technique to conquer all types of bowling attacks on all surfaces. He became the world’s best batsman until a ball-tampering ban passed on that mantle to Virat Kohli. Smith recently made a fairytale comeback to Test cricket with twin tons in 2019 Ashes opener. He is set to challenge Kohli’s throne and looks set to do so.
He was always considered an under-achiever in limited-overs cricket when he batted in the middle-order for the 1st six years of his career. There was no space at the top as Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag occupied the opening slots. But after the Tendulkar-Sehwag era, the then Indian skipper MS Dhoni gambled with giving the opener’s role to Rohit in 2013 Champions Trophy and the move reaped rich rewards.
Rohit had just two tons batting in the middle-order in the 1st six years of his international career. Post his promotion as an opener in 2013 and till now, he has cracked 25 tons, including three double tons, an unprecedented record. He also made 4 T20I tons as an opener during this period. His promotion as an opener changed his career for the better.
Sehwag made his debut as a middle-order batsman in Test cricket. He even struck a ton on Test debut against South Africa in 2001. But there was just no room in middle-order with Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman occupying the slots. The only space available was at the top where India were struggling to find stable openers. Sehwag had never opened before in first-class cricket before.
But he took the challenge and then the rest is history. He destroyed the opposition with his attacking batting style. He made Test cricket entertaining with his carefree attitude and big hitting at the top. He went on to become one of the best openers in Test cricket, hitting a record two triple tons. He, in fact, redefined the art of opening in Test cricket. Sehwag slammed 23 tons in his 104-Test career.
Jayasuriya ended his career as a big-hitting opener in all formats. But the first half of his career, he was a slow left-arm bowler who could bat a bit. It was 4 years after making his ODI debut that he first opened the batting for Sri Lanka in the Hero Cup in 1993. In 1994, he struck his first ton in ODI cricket against SA as an opener.
The then Sri Lankan skipper Arjuna Ranatunga gave him the liberty to go after the bowling as World Cup loomed large. And Jayasuriya unleashed his talent, making a mockery of bowling attack across the cricketing world.
He and his fellow partner Romesh Kaluwitharna formed a lethal opening pair who made the best use of fielding restrictions in the 1st 15 overs and decimated the oppositions with big hits.
Jayasuriya cut and pull with disdain as bowlers struggled to find answers. His batting at the top helped Sri Lanka win their only World Cup so far in 1996. He was an equally handy bowler, taking 323 wickets in ODIs, apart from scoring 28 tons and 13430 runs in 445 ODIs.
When Irfan Pathan broke into the international scene, he was a specialist left-arm bowler who could get the ball to swing into the right-hander at a good pace to catch them in front of the wicket or eke out a gap between bat and pads to disturb the stumps. It was this skill that helped him earn a hat-trick in the first over of a Test match against Pakistan in 2006.
But then Indian coach Greg Chappell found a batsman in him and promoted him up the order to score runs. He did find success with the bat initially but lost touch with his first job of taking wickets. Soon, the runs too deserted him. And Irfan found himself out of international cricket. He never recovered and got lost in the history books of Indian cricket.