After picking out a late-starters XI – comprising players who made their debut after turning 30 – it’s now time to shine a light on those who made their Test entry as kids.
Yes, it’s time to pick out a Test XI that features players who made their Test debut as teenagers. However, it’s worth throwing a couple of caveats in there too. The side should feature no more than two players from one country and we’re not focusing on how these players performed as teenagers, rather assessing how their overall careers panned out, or in the case of a couple, still going.
Wisden’s Teenage Riot Test XI
An early confession: there aren’t any specialist openers in this XI, but with the illustrious names listed below, we’re sure you’ll forgive us. Neil Harvey spent most of his time at No.3, so a place up top doesn’t seem too out of line. Just 19 when he made his Test bow in 1948, the left-hander struck 153 in his second Test innings, against India at the MCG in February, and toured England later that year as part of The Invincibles. Still a teen, he made his Ashes bow in the fourth Test at Headingley and struck 112 in the second innings before joining Don Bradman at the end of a successful and historic fourth-innings chase of 404. A fabled career was up and running.
While more of an opening bat in one-day cricket, one of the greatest batsmen of all time can surely fit in here, too. The child prodigy was 16 when he faced off against Pakistan in 1989, and he kept going all the way till 2013, when he bowed out as the leading run-scorer in the history of international cricket.
One of England’s greats, a 19-year-old Compton began his Test career with a half-century against New Zealand at The Oval, and struck a Test century in his second innings 10 months later. But not long after he was named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1939, the Second World War put a pause on his career. Nonetheless, runs flowed when he returned, with 15 of his 17 Test centuries hit post-war.
New Zealand’s finest batsman of the 20th century, Crowe began his Test career with five consecutive single-figure scores before establishing himself as a world-class operator in the 1980s.
The sporting isolation of South Africa put to bed Graeme Pollock’s Test career when he was just 26, but in his 23 Test appearances he was still able to form a historic legacy. He struck hundreds in his third and fourth Tests and finished with seven in total and an average of 60.97.
Rated by many as the greatest cricketer to have played the game, Garry Sobers made only one fifty in his teens, but made his mark as a 21-year-old, scoring 365*, 125 and 109 in consecutive innings against Pakistan.
Still going strong at 33 years old, Mushfiqur Rahim already ranks as one of his country’s greatest cricketers. The diminutive, feisty wicketkeeper is the only gloveman to make more than one Test double hundred, and he has 60 per cent of all 200-plus scores by Bangladeshis to his name.
Imran Khan played just the one Test as a teenager, part of a slow start to life as a Test cricketer; after nine Tests, he averaged 22 with the bat and 43 with the ball. Thankfully, Pakistan stuck with him. In his last 53 games, he averaged an astonishing 53 with the bat and 19 with the ball.
Another to play only a solitary game before turning 20. With 619 Test wickets to his name, no one to start out as a teen has been more prolific with the ball.
Test cricket’s most prolific left-arm quick enjoyed a stellar start to his Pakistan career, taking 10-128 in his second game aged just 18 years old against New Zealand. He also helps bulk out an excellent tail, with a high score of 257.
The second of two current players to warrant inclusion. Pat Cummins enjoyed a stellar Test debut against South Africa as a teen, taking second-innings figures of 6-79 and hitting the winning runs in a nerveless cameo to seal a two-wicket win and the Player of the Match award. Few would have predicted then that he wouldn’t play another Test for more than half a decade. Fewer still, after five and a half years of injury hell, would guess he would go on to become one of Australia’s most clinical quicks. Only seven men in the history of the game have taken more Test wickets at a better average.
Wisden’s Teenage Riot Test XI
1. Neil Harvey
2. Sachin Tendulkar
3. Denis Compton
4. Martin Crowe
5. Graeme Pollock
6. Garry Sobers
7. Mushfiqur Rahim (wk)
8. Imran Khan (c)
9. Anil Kumble
10. Wasim Akram
11. Pat Cummins