DateLine: 20th December 2005
The failure of Aftab Habib at Test level in 1999 was seen by many as being indicative of the malaise in English county cricket. Despite scoring a stack of runs domestically, his nasty habit of leaving a gap between his bat and pad was soon fatally exploited by the New Zealand pace attack. It also raised questions about the wisdom of selecting a player who batted at no.5 for his county (and so faced softer balls and less fresh bowlers) for the more rigorous technical examination of Test cricket. It may also have been forgotten that Habib had played club and List A cricket in New Zealand for many seasons before his debut, which would doubtless have given early scouting opportunities for the Kiwis. Despite scoring well for England A on subsequent tours, he never came close to the Test team again. After starting his career at Middlesex, Habib had won the Championship twice during his first spell at Leicestershire. Despite not experiencing the post Test career dip which many players do, he left to join Essex at the end of 2001, feeling a change of scene would allow him to better challenge for a return to the England team. However, after three steady, but unspectacular seasons at Southend he was released to make financial room for Grant Flower. Habib then returned to Leicestershire, where he remains a decent county batsman.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 Matthew Reed)