Overs 2.1 - The new breed of cricketers with the world at their feet
With the ridiculous amount of cricket that is being played all over the globe, it is challenging to pinpoint which young players will enter the status of super-stardom. With the rigours of international cricket so closely scrutinized, most of the young cricketers do not survive the test of time. This could be due to a plethora of reasons. The consistency of performances, the pressure of being an international cricketer and the expectations associated with it and even poor discipline to name a few. But mark my words, these young cricketers will be the next superstars of the game. Some have already tasted success in their short time in international cricket. Some still have not been introduced to the sacrament of fire. Here are the eleven (21 years old or younger) that I feel will provide cricket lovers with a reason to enjoy the game for a little while longer.
1. Prithvi Shaw (India-18 years)
At the age of 14, Prithvi Shaw was given the highest praise in Indian cricket. He was touted as the next Sachin Tendulkar. The comparisons are not limited to Tendulkar's physical attributes, but the fearlessness of his batsman-ship. Shaw gained his first test cap against the West Indies earlier this year and became the fastest ever Indian to record a century in his debut match at the age of 18 years and 329 days and behind only Tendulkar as the second youngest century getter for India. Shaw was the captain of the successful India Under-19s team earlier this year. The upcoming Border-Gavaskar series will provide the cricketing world with a glimpse of his natural talent. Under the splendid tutelage of Rahul Dravid, Shaw understands that the game will always be larger than any individual and this grounding is a crucial ingredient for success.
2. Shimron Hetmyer (West Indies - 21 years)
The future of the West Indies looked very bleak, but with the aid of some excellent young batsmen in Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer, West Indies could still be very competitive. Hetmyer also captained West Indies to the Under-19 World Cup against India in 2016 and was fast-tracked into the ailing Windies line-up in both the Tests and the one-day internationals. After scoring his first ODI century against the UAE, Hetmyer highlighted his pedigree with a scintillating century against a very strong Indian lineup. If your first three one-day international centuries have come faster than the great Brian Charles Lara and the imperious Viv Richards, then there is something special about you.
3. Shubman Gill (India - 19 years old)
In my opinion, Shubman Gill will become the next Virat Kohli. Not in his personality or intensity, but more so in his batsman-ship and hunger for runs. The 2018 Under-19 player of the tournament has all the recipes to be the next true superstar batsman. Although Gill has not cracked into the India team yet, it is only a matter of time with impressive performances for India A and B both home and abroad. The common link with both Gill and Shaw improving every outing is due to the presence of Dravid. Gill has stated previously that Dravid is the best thing that has happened to his batting. What is it with India creating elegant, classy and technically superior batsmen?
4. Jason Sangha (Australia - 19 years old)
Kerry O'Keefe has said that Jason Sangha is the "best since Ponting". Talk about high praise. Sangha is a stylish batsman and captained the Australian Under-19 World Cup squad in 2018. Sangha scored his maiden first-class century against England last summer against a bowling line-up that included Stuart Broad, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes. He became the second youngest after the great Tendulkar to register a first-class century against England. Sangha continues his impressive rise after putting on a record partnership with fellow gun Jack Edwards in NSW Blues Sheffield Shield match against Tasmania.
5. Ollie Pope (England - 20 years old)
Ollie Pope has had a very quick transition from grade to first-class to test cricket. Pope played for Campbelltown/Camden in Sydney's southwest in 2016 and two years later he made his test debut at Lord's for England against India in the exciting series played earlier this year. Alec Stewart has mentioned that Pope has what it takes to be an international star. Pope reminds me of former English batsman Ian Bell with his compact technique and has the intensity of captain, Joe Root. To model his game on these two legends of English cricket is not a bad start. Pope is also a decent wicket-keeper, but that spot is reserved for our next selection.
6. Rishabh Pant (India - 21 years old)
Rishabh Pant's second ball six to get off the mark in test cricket paints a perfect picture of who he is as a cricketer. Pant is a fearless cricketer, however, for him to take the next step, he needs to improve on two aspects of his cricket. The first is his shot selection and the other is his wicket-keeping. Pant started his test career by grabbing seven catches, but his wicket-keeping has a lot of room for improvement. When Pant's on, pun very much intended, he is a very dangerous cricketer as highlighted by his maiden test hundred against England off 117 balls and his IPL exploits. India has lost MS Dhoni but may have unearthed another potential match-winner.
7. Sam Curran (England - 20 years old)
While most nations struggle with finding that important all-rounder spot, England keeps delivering quality in this department. Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and now the impressive Sam Curran. Already in his short career, Curran has shown his tenacity with the bat and his skill with the ball at crucial times. The left-arm swing bowler from Surrey was named joint Man of the Series against India and was so impressive that Indian coach, Ravi Shastri went on to say that it was Curran and not England that hurt India. In Curran and Pope, England has two excellent cricketers to build their team around for the future.
8. Rashid Khan (Afghanistan - 20 years old)
Rashid Khan is already a superstar and it is absolutely incredible to think that he is only 20. Khan has put Afghanistan truly on the cricket map after becoming the youngest cricketer to top the ICC one day bowlers' ranking and is currently the best T20 bowler in the world. Khan has bamboozled batsmen all over the world, whether in the BBL, IPL or in international cricket. The great Jason Gillespie only has positive words for Khan. Khan is to Afghanistan what Shane Warne was to Australia. The king of leg-spin has already heaped praise on the young spinner by saying that he is the type of bowler that loves the big stage and the pressure cooker situations.
9. Lloyd Pope (Australia - 18 years old)
Who doesn't like a cheeky redhead? Lloyd Pope burst onto the world scene with his record-breaking 8 for 35 against England in the U-19s World Cup. Recently, Pope became the youngest person in the 126-year old history of the Sheffield Shield to take seven wickets in a first-class innings. Predictably, he has drawn comparisons with Warne, but I feel that it is unfair to place such a huge responsibility on his young shoulders. Pope needs time to mature and develop. The "Wizard" as he is known as, has an outstanding wrong-un and excellent control of his deliveries. It is great to see some quality leg-spinners coming through the system. With Lloyd Pope and Ollie Pope, the world will be a better place.
10. Oshane Thomas (West Indies - 20 years old)
Over 6 feet tall and shaped as a colossus, Oshane Thomas is the new West Indies fast bowling sensation. Bowling at searing pace which has registered past 150km/h consistently, Thomas recently showed his promise by continuously troubling the top three of the Indian batting line-up. His impressive start to his international career has drawn comparisons with the great Michael Holding from his captain. Now it is still a long way to be discussed in the same breath as Holding or Joel Garner, but Thomas has all the ingredients to be the talk of the cricketing fast bowling cartel. The game has become predominantly a batsman's game, but nothing excites me more than a fast-bowler making them jump.
11. Kamlesh Nagarkoti (India - 18 years old)
Such is the strength of young Indian cricket currently, Nagakoti joins Shaw, Gill and Pant in this list. Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi wreaked some serious havoc during the 2018 Under-19 World Cup and in the process crushing the idea that India can not produce genuine fast bowlers. In Nagarkoti, India has someone who can bowl at 150 km/h and has a tight technique to complement it. The former West Indian fast bowler, Ian Bishop has high hopes for Nagarkoti and believes he can add another five kilometres per hour to the speed gun if he keeps his body fit and works hard on his fitness. Along with the speed and action, it is Nagakoti's control which makes life difficult for most batsmen and it is only a matter of time before he gets exposed to the international arena.
Honourable mentions:- Jack Edwards, Raynard Van Tonder, Finn Allen and Shaheen Afridi