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If a cricketer is good enough, a young age should not be an obstacle where international cricket is concerned. Here are the youngest players to have represented their respective countries.
Youngest Debutants in International Cricket
Hasan Raza – Pakistan, 14 years 237 days vs Zimbabwe
The youngest player in the history of international cricket was Hasan Raza who made his debut for Pakistan against Zimbabwe before his 15th birthday. Having shown promise in domestic cricket, Raza was thrown in at the deep end and he responded with a respectable 27 in his first innings.
The promise was there, but Hasan Raza never really delivered on his obvious potential. He retired having played just seven tests and 16 ODIs which produced just 477 runs and a highest score of 77.
Mushtaq Mohammad – Pakistan, 15 years 124 days vs West Indies
Before Hasan Raza, Mushtaq Mohammad held the record as the youngest international cricketer. He was selected to play against the West Indies just 124 days after his 15th birthday and he would go on to enjoy a productive career in tests and ODIs.
Mushtaq had come from a notable cricket family that featured five brothers who would all play for Pakistan. He made his first class debut at the age of 13 and might have even been picked for his country a little earlier.
As it was, that debut game against the West Indies saw the teenager make just 18 runs in two innings in a heavy defeat. Things certainly improved and, by the time he’d played his last test 20 years later, Mushtaq Mohammad had 3852 international runs with ten centuries and a highest score of 201.
He also took 79 test wickets and is still the only Pakistani player to make a hundred and take five wickets in a test on two occasions.
Mohammed Sharif – Bangladesh, 15 years 128 days vs Zimbabwe
Bangladesh’s youngest international cricketer is Mohammed Sharif who was four days older than Mushtaq Mohammad when he made his debut against Zimbabwe in 2001. While it’s fair to say that injuries didn’t help his career, Sharif was another player who failed to deliver on his obvious potential.
He was primarily a bowler who could make useful runs in first class cricket, but he had a debut to forget, taking 1/112 and scoring eight runs in two innings.
Things never really improved. Mohammed Sharif played in just ten tests and nine ODIs, making 175 runs and taking 24 wickets.
Aaqib Javed – Pakistan, 16 years 189 days vs New Zealand
The Pakistan selectors took a punt on Aaqib Javed when he was just 16 and their faith would ultimately be rewarded. At a time when Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram combined speed and swing, Aaqib was a very useful first change.
He had genuine pace and could swing the ball both ways, but he had another difficult debut, returning figures of 0/103 against New Zealand in 1989. Aaqib Javed played just 22 tests, but he was more effective in ODIs where he became part of the team that won the 1992 World Cup.
When he retired, Aaqib had taken 236 international wickets with best figures in ODIs of 7/37.
SR Tendulkar – India, 16 years 205 days vs Pakistan
India’s selectors could obviously tell that Sachin Tendulkar was going to be a special talent, because they made him their youngest ever international cricketer. Years later, he would retire having broken a number of records across test matches and One Day Internationals.
Tendulkar would famously score 100 international centuries. He became the first man to score a double ton in ODIs and he eventually retired with over 34,000 international runs to his name.
That debut as a 16-year-old in 1989 against Pakistan didn’t offer too much of a hint as to what would follow as Tendulkar made just 15 in his only innings.
Aftab Baloch – Pakistan, 16 years 221 days vs New Zealand
Aftab Baloch was a Pakistani cricketer who played in just two tests that were almost six years apart. His debut came against New Zealand in 1959 when he was just 16 and he made 25 in his solitary innings.
Baloch’s second game came against the West Indies in 1975. He showed some character in this match, making an undefeated 60 against an attack that included the fearsome Andy Roberts, but he was never picked again.
Talha Jubair – Bangladesh, 16 years 223 days vs Sri Lanka
Talha Jubair was another fast bowling hope whose career was affected by injuries. He had pace and a whippy action and he showed some promise on his debut against Sri Lanka in 2002. As a 16-year-old, he removed Marvan Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardene in his first spell, but that was a high point in his career.
Jubair also took four wickets in his second ODI but, by the time the 2003 World Cup came around, he was beset by injuries.
Talha Jubair played in seven tests and six ODIs. He took just twenty wickets with best figures of 4/65.
Nasim-Ul-Ghani – Pakistan, 16 years 248 days vs West Indies
He may not be a familiar name among the new generation of cricket lovers, but Nasim-ul-Ghani enjoyed a decent career after making his debut as a 16-year-old. His first test was against the West Indies in 1958 and he improved after going without a wicket in that game.
A left arm spinner who could also deliver some medium pace, Nasim-Ul-Ghani played in 29 tests and a single One Day International between 1958 and 1973. He took 52 wickets with best figures of 6/67 and also hit a test century from the lower order.
Naseem Shah – Pakistan, 16 years 279 days vs Australia
All readers here will surely know about Naseem Shah and he may well go on to enjoy a long and productive career. He made his international debut for Pakistan at the age of 16 years and 279 days, and he’s shown enough to suggest that he’ll be a part of the set up for some time.
Naseem is a bowler with some serious pace. His first test came against Australia at Brisbane in 2019 and he returned figures of 1/68 in the Aussies’ only innings. At the time of writing, his most recent test was against New Zealand at the beginning of 2023.
At that point, Naseem Shah had played in 15 tests and 21 limited overs internationals, taking 74 wickets with best figures of 5/31.
Enamul Haque Jr – Bangladesh, 16 years 320 days vs England
A more familiar Bangladeshi cricketer completes this list. Enamul Haque Jr first featured in a test match against England in 2003 and he was in and out of the side for much of the ten years that followed.
His debut figures were a respectable 2/53, but the slow left armer couldn’t deliver the consistency that his team needed, Haque played in just 15 tests and 10 ODIs, taking 58 wickets with best figures of 7/95.
While it should ultimately be about a player’s quality, there is an element of a gamble in picking them when they are so young. They obviously have talent, but will they have the kind of temperament needed to succeed in international cricket?
Not every player on this list has gone on to enjoy a great career. There are obvious exceptions such as Sachin Tendulkar and Mushtaq Mohammad, but many more have failed to deliver. Were they picked too soon, or were they never really good enough?
It’s also interesting to note that all of the players in this top ten list are from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. England, in contrast, have just made Rehan Ahmed their youngest test cricketer at the age of 18.
Should countries such as England, Australia, West Indies, South Africa and others, trust their younger players or are they simply not good enough? There’s a lot of questions thrown up by this particular list and a number of discussions to have moving forward.