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Wisden’s Pakistan teenage Test XI

Pakistan teenagers
Aadya Sharma by Aadya Sharma
@Aadya_Wisden 5 minute read

Pakistan cricket is no stranger to early debuts: in their 70-year history of men’s Tests, as many as 54 players have made at least one Test appearance in their teens.

An early look-in doesn’t necessarily ensure a fruitful career – some of these went on to serve Pakistan cricket for years to come becoming superstars of the game, while others couldn’t capitalise on the early limelight, fizzling away for varying reasons.

Here’s a teenage XI, comprising of Pakistan’s top performers before they had turned 20. It’s a team that includes players from as far back as the Fifties, to some of the country’s more recent stars. Stats show each players’ numbers in Test cricket while they were teenagers. 

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Imran Nazir

5 Tests, 244 runs @ 30.50, 1 100, HS: 131

As a 17-year-old with a bit of a verve to his batting, Nazir debuted against Sri Lanka in the 1999 Asian Test Championship. He slotted in at three and made heads turn with a sparkling 87-ball 64, his back-foot play through the off side being one of the highlights. A year later, he stroked a third-innings 131 in Bridgetown, against Walsh, Ambrose & Co. The early gleam didn’t stay for long: Nazir played just eight Tests before being discarded, but had a longer limited-overs career at international level.

Hanif Mohammad (wk)

9 Tests, 468 runs @ 29.25, HS: 96

Pakistan’s first batting great, the ‘Little Master’ first walked out in Pakistan’s debut Test, against India, opening the batting and keeping wicket as an 18-year-old. The rest of the batting crumbled to Vinoo Mankad’s left-arm spin in Delhi, but Hanif played the lone-ranger act with a doughty 51. Hanif would go on to hit three more fifties in his teens [two more on the India tour, and another in Nottingham]. The volume of runs only got bigger from there.

Javed Miandad

7 Tests, 655 runs @ 59.54, 2 100s, HS: 206

The signs of greatness came early. A 19-year-old Miandad forced his way into a jam-packed middle-order when New Zealand toured Pakistan in 1976, and he made an impression to remember. An imperious 163 on debut, and a double century just weeks later [he’s still the only teenager to hit one] set the tone for two decades of stardom. Before he turned 20, Miandad had added two half-centuries in Australia to his CV. By 22, he was captain.

Saleem Malik

8 Tests, 261 runs @ 37.28, 2 100s, HS: 107

With several leading players unavailable due to an internal team dispute related to Javed Miandad’s captaincy, 18-year-old Saleem Malik got a chance to feature against Sri Lanka at home. Batting at four in the second innings, Malik – wonderfully stylish in his own way – stroked a third-innings hundred to set up a big win. In his next series, against India, he cracked a third-innings ton alongside the trio of Miandad, Zaheer Abbas and Imran Khan, and his place in their batting lineup was firmly sealed.

Umar Akmal

6 Tests, 578 runs @ 48.16, 1 100, HS: 129

Few Pakistan careers started off so spectacularly, and tailed off so dramatically. On debut, Akmal – filled with flair – smashed 129 off 160 balls in New Zealand (only the second Pakistani to score a debut ton away from home), following it up with a contrasting, doughty 75 in a fourth-innings chase. He hit two more fifties on the tour, and followed it with scores of 77, 27, 49 & 49 in his first four innings in Australia. It seemed clear that Pakistan had unearthed a generational talent, but a range of issues saw his Test career stall at the age of 21.

Mushtaq Mohammad

14 Tests, 868 runs @ 37.73, 2 100s, HS: 101

For four decades, Mushtaq Mohammad was Test cricket’s youngest centurion ever. It came two years after his debut, at 15 (the youngest Test player at that time), against India on their 1960/61 tour, a brilliant, come-from-behind century to help Pakistan recover from 89-4 to 225-4 in Delhi. A year later, he hit another century while following-on, helping his side save the 1962 Nottingham Test.

Shahid Afridi

6 Tests, 11 wickets @ 29.72, 1 five-for, 5-52

What’s a teenage XI without a mention of cricket’s Mr. Forever Young. Afridi’s Test debut came two years after his Nairobi mayhem, opening the batting alongside Saeed Anwar. It proved to be an inspired move: against India in 1999, he bludgeoned 141 in the famous Chennai Test – nearly half his team’s score – unfazed by the occasion or opposition. The bowling was not to be forgotten: on debut he razed through a starry Australian lineup to pick up a five-wicket haul (it remained the only one of his tumultuous 27-Test career). Still, he finished his playing days with a more than respectable Test batting average of 36.51.

Wasim Akram

8 Tests, 28 wickets @ 24.57, 2 five-fors, BBI: 5-56

In the 1985 Dunedin Test, both Pakistan and New Zealand decided to go with an all-pace attack. The hosts sneaked in a two-wicket win, but Pakistan unearthed a future blockbuster star, who picked up twin five-wicket hauls in the game, only his second Test. Against Sri Lanka at home soon after, he shared the new ball with Imran Khan and was regularly among the wickets. Then a wiry teenager, Akram just didn’t look back for the next decade and a half, ending with the most international wickets by a Pakistan bowler.

Saqlain Mushtaq

7 Tests, 24 wickets @ 36.45, BBI: 4-75

Success came early to Saqlain Mushtaq, who was 18 on debut and thrust into a five-star Pakistan bowling attack of the mid-Nineties. Even in his teens, Saqlain rarely faltered, picking up nine wickets from his first two Tests, at least one scalp in each of his first ten innings. By the end of the century, he had established himself as Pakistan’s frontline spinners, perfectly complementing their fast-bowling riches.

Waqar Younis

11 Tests, 55 wickets @ 19.49, 2 five-fors, BBI: 7-76

No bowler in Test history as picked up more wickets as a teenager. Before he had turned 20, Waqar had taken an astonishing five five-wicket hauls, running through lineups from India, Australia, New Zealand and West Indies. Against New Zealand at home, he collected back-to-back seven-wicket hauls. Batters limped out as toe-crushing yorkers and reverse-swinging gems continued for another decade and a little more.

Mohammad Amir

14 Tests, 51 wickets @ 29.09, 3 five-fors, BBI: 6-84

The Mohammad Amir story is well known, but it’s still fascinating to revisit how well he had fared early in his career. Amir was undoubtedly the ‘next big thing’, a nippy left-arm quick with tremendous control over early swing. As he progressed, he became sharper and smarter, picking up over 50 wickets – including five-wicket hauls in Melbourne, The Oval and Lord’s – before it all came crashing down with the 2010 spot-fixing scandal.

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