When 16-year-old tearaway quick bowler Naseem Shah made his debut for Pakistan against Australia in Brisbane last week, he became the ninth youngest debutant in Test cricket.
Naseem’s debut made me think about other teenagers who played Test cricket. One hundred and two cricketers have represented their country between the ages of 14 to 18.
The only 14-year-old Test cricketer was Hasan Raza of Pakistan. At 15, Mushtaq Mohammad of Pakistan and Mohd Sharif of Bangladesh played Tests. Eight 16-year-old boys have played Test cricket including a certain Sachin Tendulkar, while twenty-seven 17-year-olds including Gary Sobers debuted in Tests. Sixty-five 18-year-old teens have also played Test cricket. At 19, the number multiplies and hence they have not been taken into consideration.
I have compiled the all-time best teen XI to play Test cricket. I have considered players who went on to have a good career and not those who simply debuted at a young age. I have also kept the cut-off at 18, hence 19-year-old debutants like the great Kapil Dev and the irrepressible Javed Miandad miss out.
Openers: Hanif Mohammad and Majid Khan
Hanif played 55 Test matches for Pakistan and scored 12 tons. He has played what is still the longest innings in Test history when his 337 drew a match against the West Indies after being 473 runs behind.
Three of his brothers – Mushtaq, Sadiq and Wazir – also played Test cricket for Pakistan while another brother Raees was once 12th man in a Test match. His son Shoaib also played Test cricket. Hanif made his debut at 17 years and 300 days.
Opening with Hanif will be the dashing Majid Khan, one of only six batsmen to score a century before lunch on the first day of a Test match. Majid played 63 Tests and had eight tons. He had an amazing series in the West Indies in 1976-77 when he scored 530 runs against the dreaded Windies pace attack at their peak.
Majid’s father played Test cricket for India while his son played Test cricket for Pakistan. They are one of only two families to have three generations of Test cricketers, the other being the clan of George Headley, who along with his son Ron played for West Indies, while his grandson Dean played for England. Majid was just 18 years and 26 days when he made his Test debut.
Middle order: Gary Sobers, Sachin Tendulkar and Arjuna Ranatunga
This trio are at three, four and five in my team. Gary Sobers made his debut at 17 years and 245 days, and took time to showcase his batting talent. His first ton was a world record 365 when he was only 21. He scored more than 8000 runs at 57.78 with 26 tons along with 235 wickets, and is one of the most inspirational cricket players of all time.
Tendulkar, who debuted at 16 years and 205 days, is at number four while the canny Ranatunga – who was 18 years and 78 days when he made his debut – will come in to bat after Tendulkar.
All-rounder: Imran Khan
The Pakistan legend will bat at number six in my team. The current Prime Minister of Pakistan is one of the best all-rounders ever to play cricket. He was a deadly fast bowler who took 362 Test wickets and was also a highly competent batsman who had four Test tons. He had made his Test debut when he was 18 years and 241 days.
Wicketkeeper: Mushfiqur Rahim
The Bangladeshi is the only wicketkeeper to have two double centuries in Test cricket. He was just 17 years and 351 days when he made his Test debut and he already has more than 4000 runs in Test cricket.
Bowlers: Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, Harbhajan Singh, and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar
There are four slots for bowlers and we have a huge and pleasant selection issue since there is an embarrassment of riches to choose from.
When we come to spinners, we have Harbhajan Singh, Maninder Singh, Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, Saqlain Mushtaq, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Daniel Vettori and a few more as well.
Similarly, when it comes to fast bowlers, we have Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Aaquib Javed, Ishant Sharma, Chetan Sharma, Henry Olonga, Mohd Amir and many more excellent bowlers to choose from.
But the names above are the teens I have selected.
Imran Khan is the third terrific quick in the team. Gary Sobers will also bowl left-arm spin and the West Indies great will also be the captain of my team.