Steve Smith, Mohammad Aamir, Ben Stokes: Cricket Stars Who Fared Well In Their First Test After Exile
(In pic from left: Steve Smith, Mohammad Aamir, Ben Stokes)
A Serious Accusation
Charged with: Ball tampering
Performance in first Test upon return: 144 and 142, three catches.
In March 2018, Australian Test captain Steve Smith admitted to tampering the ball while on tour in South Africa. Smith received a one-year ban from cricket, and made his return to international cricket in this summer’s World Cup. But the first Test he played upon return was the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston last week. It couldn’t have gone better for Smith.
Stripped off captaincy roles, he relished the responsibility. He hit a century in both innings, scoring 144 and 142, and almost single handedly earned his side a 1-0 lead. The best compliments came in the form of comparisons with the peerless Don Bradman, who had similarly taken on England in the 1948 Ashes.
No Acceptance For Assault
Charged with: Assault
Performance in first Test upon return: 0 and 66
English allrounder Ben Stokes was charged with assault following a brawl outside a nightclub in Bristol in September 2017. Footage released by the police showed Stokes punching two men, following which he was charged with “affray”. Pending the inquiry, he was also withdrawn from England’s Ashes series in Australia, which they went on to lose 4-0, while he also lost his sponsors. However, he returned to the cricket field after missing eight matches and took part in the tour of New Zealand in March 2018. In his first match upon return, he faced a marauding Trent Boult and was dismissed for a duck in the first innings, while getting his act together for a decent fighting 66 in the second. He didn’t bowl.
Charged with: Doping
Performance in first Test upon return: 23 and 0; 5/116, 5/43
On the eve of Australia’s 2003 World Cup campaign, Shane Warne was found guilty of consuming a prohibited substance and was suspended for one year. He wouldn’t play another ODI, but would make a successful return to Test cricket. He’d play 38 more Tests over a four year period, time in which he’d become the most successful bowler in Test history and also the first spinner to reach the 500-wicket mark.
Fittingly, the first Test upon Warne’s return would be in Sri Lanka’s Galle, where Muttiah Muralitharan, his only true rival, had an unparalleled record. And he returned in style, taking 10 wickets and inspiring Australia to a win.
Loss Of Appetite For The Game
Performance in first Test upon return: 107 and 80 not-out
Geoffrey Boycott, in what was the prime of his career in 1974, made himself unavailable for selection. He said he lost his appetite for the game, but his autobiography hinted that it may have been linked to the appointment of Mike Denness as captain.
But the time spent away from the pitch didn’t seem to have made impact on his game. In his first match upon return, aged 37, he batted on every one of the five days of cricket, scoring 107 and an unbeaten 80, as he saw England home by seven wickets. He would go on to play 45 more Tests, continuing to play until the ripe old age of 42.
Charged with: Spot fixing
Performance in first Test upon return: 3 wickets for 104 runs
Pakistani paceman Mohammad Amir was found guilty of spot fixing during the Lord’s Test against England in August 2010, and was suspended from all forms of cricket for five years. In poetic coincidence, he returned from his suspension in July 2016 at the same ground. But while captain Misbahul-Haq hit a fine century and spinner Yasir Shah spun his side to a massive victory, Amir flew under the radar. His performances of 2/65 and 1/39 in the two innings were signs that he hadn’t forgotten his art entirely in the five years that passed.