While cricket has its fair share of super stars and titans, nothing gives greater satisfaction than seeing a young and upcoming player make his mark at the international level.
As such, there are now 12 Test playing nations in total including Zimbabwe whose board is currently suspended by the ICC. Here, we compile our best possible Test XI from these countries by including one player aged 23 or below from each side.
Country: Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankan opens the batting in our line up after his impressive World Cup 2019 which saw him register a sparkling ton against West Indies at Chester-le-Street. The right-hander is a free-flowing batsman of the highest calibre when on song and loves to score runs at a fast clip.
Having already made 13 ODI and six T20Is appearances for Sri Lanka, a Test debut cannot be far away for Fernando.
A cricketing powerhouse like India will always be spoiled for choices when it comes to youngster with the likes of Rishabh Pant and Prithvi Shaw making their marks in recent times. However, it is the talent of young Shubman Gill which seems to burn the brightest as of now with the top-order batsman all set to make his Test debut against South Africa.
The player-of-the-series in the 2018 U19 World Cup in New Zealand, Gill’s start to his senior first-class career has been immense with four tons already in just 15 appearances.
The Surrey youngster has been knocking on the doors of the England senior team for some time now after some excellent displays in the County Championship. Pope’s first-class average of over 57 after 30 appearances is particularly noteworthy after initially making his mark as an inventive T20 batsman.
The hype surrounding the Englishman saw him make his Test debut against India last year and there will be plenty of more appearances to come based on the evidence so far.
When former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting is clamouring strongly for his Test debut, you better believe the hype surrounding Will Pucovski is real. After a stunning start to his first-class career with Victoria, the right-hander was handed his maiden Australia Test call up for the home series against Sri Lanka earlier this year.
While he ultimately failed to get a single game in that series, Pucovski’s time is going to arrive soon with the batsman looking like a certainty to feature in the upcoming Australian summer.
Country: West Indies
It is hard to believe that Hetmyer is still only 22 with the left-hander already making 15 Test, 37 ODI and 14 T20I appearances for the West Indies so far in his career.
Having led West Indies to their maiden U19 World Cup title in 2016, Hetmyer has wasted no time in making an impact at the senior level with four ODI tons already besides his name. An explosive left-handed batsman by pedigree, Hetmyer possesses the ability to change the momentum of a match in the span of just a few overs.
Finn Allen (WK)
County: New Zealand
The Kiwi wicketkeeper batsman was the highest run-scorer for his side in the 2018 U19 World Cup on home soil after racking up a total of 338 runs as captain.
Along with Rachin Ravindra, Allen is one of the most promising young cricketers in the New Zealand domestic circuit currently and is poised for a big future at the senior level. His 19-ball fifty against Kenya last year remains the joint second-fastest half-century at the U19 level.
Mehidy Hasan Miraz
The Bangladesh youngster is no stranger to international cricket with 20 Test, 38 ODI and 13 T20I senior appearances already under his belt. The off-spinning all-rounder is another one to initially make his mark in the U19 World Cup after captaining Bangladesh to their maiden semi-final appearance in 2016.
A highly economical bowler who can also score some handy runs down the order, Mehidy Hasan Miraz will in all probability form an integral part of the Bangladesh squad over the course of the coming decade.
While Zimbabwe cricket might be in the doldrums at the moment, they do have some promising youngsters in their ranks including all-rounder Tony Munyonga. The 20-year-old was handed his senior debut recently in the ongoing T20I tri-series in Bangladesh and should get plenty more appearances in the coming years if Zimbabwe Cricket’s future can be resolved.
He is no mug with the bat in hand while he can provide a decent option with the ball with his off-spin.
The Afghanistan super star became the youngest Test captain in history when he led his side to a famous win over Bangladesh earlier this month. The leg-spinner did so in style as well by registering a vital half-century with the bat while picking up a total of 11 wickets across the two innings.
Rashid’s T20 prowess is already known with the youngster currently leading the ICC rankings for bowlers in the format with a whopping 70-point lead over India’s Jasprit Bumrah.
Country: South Africa
At 23 years and 177 days, the Proteas pacer is the oldest player in our XI. While injuries have hampered his progress of late, Ngidi’s start to life at the senior level has been electric with the pacer impressing one and all in his debut series against India last year where he picked up the man-of-the-match award in his very first Test.
He has claimed 15 wickets in just four Tests so far despite bursting on to the scene as a limited-overs specialist. His rapid rise has not gone unnoticed either with Chennai Super Kings shelling out the big bucks to secure his signature in the IPL.
Continuing Pakistan’s strong tradition of producing world-class fast bowlers is young Shaheen Afridi who has enjoyed a meteoric rise in senior cricket. He too, like many others, made his mark in the U19 World Cup in New Zealand last year and he has not looked back at all ever since.
Sixteen wickets in just five matches in his maiden senior World Cup campaign this year showed what Afridi is all about with the left-armed pacer thriving in English conditions. It is no surprise then, that the young bowler has already established himself as a frontline bowler in all three formats for Pakistan and the only way is up for the teenager.
Representing Ireland in our World XI is young Joshua Little who is among the five Irishmen to be awarded Emerging Player contracts by the country’s board for the ongoing season. He made his T20I debut for Ireland all the way back in 2016 as just a 16-year-old while he claimed four wickets against England including that of skipper Eoin Morgan on his ODI debut in May this year.
The Irishman is a left-armed pacer by trade which is always a good variation to have in any bowling unit.
The BCCI have replaced Zimbabwe with Sri Lanka as India’s opponents for the T20 series set to take place in January next year in the wake of the ICC’s suspension of the African side’s full membership.
India were slated to play three T20Is against Zimbabwe at the start of next year but the series had been thrown into doubt when the ICC decided to suspend the country’s cricket board with immediate effect in July in this year.
Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) became the first full ICC member in history to be suspended after the global governing body took cognisance to perceived interference by the country’s government in the running of cricketing affairs.
That suspension has now cost ZC dearly with the BCCI inviting Sri Lanka instead for a three-match series in January next year.
“In the wake of Zimbabwe’s suspension by ICC, the BCCI invited Sri Lanka to participate in the three-match series. Sri Lanka Cricket has confirmed their participation,” BCCI stated in a press release issued on Wednesday.
The three T20s will be held in Guwahati, Indore and Pune on January 5, 7 and 10 respectively according to the itinerary released by the BCCI.
While Zimbabwe’s board remains suspended, the men’s team did tour Bangladesh just recently for a T20I tri-series also involving Afghanistan. Zimbabwe coach Lalchand Rajput has termed the cancellation of the Indian tour as an unfortunate development for his men.
“The players were looking forward to the India tour. Our players are naturally disappointed with the development,” Rajput told the Sportstar.
“Playing against the best team in the world would have helped our players immensely. India has the best bowling unit at the moment and playing against them would have certainly helped us. It is quite unfortunate that we missed out on the opportunity.
“We are now playing tri-nation tournaments and that’s why, we thought that the India tour will be on as well. But we don’t know what exactly happened.”
The Zimbabwe team is currently in Singapore where they are due to take on the hosts and Nepal in another upcoming T20 tri-series.
Afghanistan skipper Rashid Khan has bemoaned his side’s lower frequency of matches against the top international teams in the world and believes that a change in that regard is a must if they are to continue making rapid strides in cricket.
The Afghanistan skipper’s comments came after his side were declared joint winners of the T20I tri-series along with hosts Bangladesh’s with Tuesday’s final being washed out without a ball being bowled.
The Afghans had previously beaten Bangladesh in the one-off Test clash at Chattogram to record their second win in three matches in the format. However, Rashid believes that a one-off Test isn’t really going to help matters for his side when it comes to the bigger picture.
“We should have longer series against Bangladesh, like have the main focus on 50 overs and Test matches,” the leg-spin sensation stated in the post-match press conference.
“Cricket boards should think about it. There should be a three-match Test series. There’s more room to learn and have different experiences. More 50 overs and Tests would be better for both nations.”
Afghanistan squad returned home today after completing a successful tour of Bangladesh where they beat the hosts in a one-off Test and subsequently shared the Tri-nation T20I Series.— Afghanistan Cricket Board (@ACBofficials) September 25, 2019
More: https://t.co/qupcqwayHq#Triseries #AFGvBAN #AFGvZIM pic.twitter.com/L9x6XRXaIE
The 21-year-old cited the example of Afghanistan’s dismal 2019 World Cup campaign in England where they finished bottom after losing all nine of their fixtures.
“We have played only twice against Australia, New Zealand and England in the last five years (in ODIs). If we played more against them, we could have known their strengths and weaknesses. It should be looked into,” Rashid said.
“The best example is Bangladesh. They played a lot against South Africa and ended up having the best result against them in the World Cup. If we want to be a good side, we should play more against the top sides. Not one match in four years.
“These teams have four fast bowlers who bowl 140-plus. We play against Scotland and Ireland, and they hardly have a 140-plus bowler.”
Afghanistan’s next international engagement will come later in November this year when they host the West Indies in three T20s, as many ODIs and a one-off Test in their adopted home in India.