Gavin Hamilton: The only Test cricketer with no runs, no wickets and no catches

Alomoy Banerjee

Gavin Hamilton

Test cricket, as they say, is the closest equivalence to life. Just like life, Test cricket gives you one more chance to redeem yourself - especially if you were unlucky in the first innings of the match.

One of the silkiest stroke-makers in Indian cricket history, Gundappa Viswanath, scored 0 in the first innings of his debut Test. But he redeemed himself with a masterful knock of 137 in the second essay of the same game.

That said, cricket is not as kind and benevolent to every player as it was to Mr. Viswanath. And there was one man whose single professional mistake was enough to throw his entire cricketing career into disarray.

Born in Broxburn (Scotland) in 1974, Gavin Hamilton was a Scottish version of India's own Robin Singh. A lower middle-order pinch-hitter who would bowl a few overs of medium pace on green tops, Hamilton had an extremely promising domestic debut in 1993, where he took 5/65.

His consistent performance in age-group cricket resulted led to his county debut for Yorkshire in 1994. Hamilton's successful stint with the Yorkshire County Club made him an automatic choice for the Scotland cricket team in the 1999 Cricket World Cup.

There were rumors of him having a chance of getting selected for the England cricket team as well. Those rumors didn't materialize into anything though, except causing a delay in his selection to the Scottish squad.

While Scotland lost all their five matches in the World Cup, Hamilton's performance was a bright spot as he managed to score 217 runs at an average of above 40. His best performance of the tournament came against Pakistan, where he bowled a miserly spell of 10 overs and picked up two valuable wickets - those of Saleem Malik and Moin Khan.

He came back later in the match to score a brilliant 76 off 111 balls with the willow in his hand.

Scotland's early exit from the World Cup, however, prompted their then Director of Cricket Jim Love to famously state about Hamilton: "I hope that we lose him to England."

At the tender age of 25, Hamilton had to make a life-changing decision. Either he could continue to play for Scotland and become their ODI captain, or he could opt to play for England, which could give him the potential opportunity to play Test cricket.

Standing at a crossroads in his career, Hamilton chose the latter. And the turning point of his career came in November 1999: Hamilton got selected in the English squad for England's tour of South Africa. With a Test cap within his grasp, he happily left Scotland to join England.

What transpired after that, however, was utter misery. Hamilton got out on a duck in both the innings to Allan Donald, and gave away 63 runs without taking any wickets. He thus became the only player in the history of Test cricket to neither score a single run, nor take a single wicket, nor take a single catch in his entire career - which lasted a single Test. 

Hamilton was unduly penalized for the collective failure of the entire English team in that match, and was immediately taken out of the XI.

But kicking a player out of the squad after just one performance was very harsh, especially when you look at the leeway given to the other debutant in that. Michael Vaughan, who managed to score just 38 runs in two innings in the same match, was given time and opportunity to settle into the squad, unlike Hamilton.

This one Test proved to be too expensive for Hamilton. Since he had represented England in the playing XI, he had to play four years of Scotland domestic circuit to become eligible for selection in the Scottish national team again.

Hamilton thus spent his most promising years away from international cricket, in the wilderness of domestic county championships, because of that one-off Test for the English team. However, he came back into the Scotland team in 2004 and performed well for them.

The captaincy, which he had ignored in 1999, was finally handed to him a decade later in 2009, at the fag end of his career. He led Scotland for about a year, before retiring in 2010, at the age of 36.

Hamilton had the potential to be a Scotland cricket legend. But he finished his career in frustration and regret about that one decision, which proved to be too costly.