Name: Aftab Habib
Teams: England, Leicestershire, Essex
It was a heady one day game in 2001 and this young blogger was seriously smitten with a Pakistani maverick named Shahid Afridi. He offered everything a young cricket fan could ever want; a cocky swagger, an ability to bowl ten overs of wicket taking slow stuff and of course an inclination to hit every ball for six which made him a nice change from the style of Atherton that I had come to view as normal.
Unfortunately, on this occassion, Afridi was only able to lose the ball in the car park on two occassions before being ousted by the one bowler who was able to keep his nerve in the face of this howitzer. Leicestershire proceeded to collapse, the only man who could stop the rot was one Aftab Habib, a player who I liked because his name was easily memorable and because he always seemed to have runs to his name on the scorecard. Unfortunately on this occassion the limpit like application of Aftab was not enough as he failed to offer the flamboyancy and aggression required to win the game.
Habib’s career reflected the rather dull ending to this particular match. He had the qualities of a county accumulator but could never go beyond this. In fairness to him he played two Tests which is more than most of us can say but failed to contribute on both occassions. Thankfully, history has chosen to remember his first appearnce at Lords for the 99 not out scored by Alex Tudor rather than Habib’s 1 from 45 balls. In his second test, New Zealand won by nine wickets with Habib failing to shine and he was relegated to the garbage heap of test history.
Still, he was not to know this and his good form continued at county level. In 2001, he left the Foxes to further his test prospects at Essex. This bold move might have been the making of him but he struggled to hold down a place or dazzle and was released in 2004. No county would take Habib, except Leicestershire making it abundantly clear that his career was now moving backwards. He played a peripheral role at the county for 2 more seasons before calling it a day; not so much burning out but fading away.
Habib was not finished however and suprised us all in 2007 when he was named head coach of Hong Kong making him the oddest managerial appointment since Ruel Fox took charge of the Montserrat national football team.