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Thursday, July 1, 2021

youngest to make debut in Cricket !

On 16th of June 2021, a couple of days earlier to World Test Championship, Indian women played English women in a Test match at Bristol.  That was Test no. 141.  The first women's Test was played between England and Australia in 1934.  However, India did not play Test cricket until 1973 when the Women's Cricket Association of India was formed. The Indian women's team played their first Test match in 1976, against the West Indies at Bangalore.  India has thus far played 36 Tests, - heir most recent one, prior to this one at Bristol   was in 2014!   

At Bristol, the match ended as a  draw at 6.13pm local time with India 344 for 8 in their second innings following on, a lead of 179 runs, after Sneh Rana and Taniya Bhatia had combined for an unbroken stand of 104. Sophie Ecclestone's four wickets earlier in the day had England in prime position to push for victory before an eighth-wicket partnership worth 41 runs between Rana and Shikha Pandey had India clinging on to the prospect of a draw at tea.

The debutants were : Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Shafali Verma, Sneh Rana, Taniya Bhatia for India and Sophia Dunkley for England. 

Mithali Raj, India's Test and ODI captain, has expressed surprise at how their one-off Test against England ended last week. According to her, the visiting side wanted to continue batting when play was called off on the final day with 12 overs still left to be bowled. In response to this assertion from Raj, England captain Heather Knight explained that bad light was the reason for the premature close to proceedings in Bristol.  Though no result other than a draw was possible at the time, two of India's five Test debutants, Sneh Rana and Taniya Bhatia, were batting on unbeaten scores of 80 and 44 respectively, their rearguard ninth-wicket stand having swollen to 104.

Today at the same venue, Bristol, Indian women played England in the ODI no. 1198 and lost by 8 wickets.  A combined eight wickets from Sophie Ecclestone, Anya Shrubsole, Katherine Brunt, and Kate Cross consigned India to a below-par performance with the bat in the first ODI against England in Bristol. The visitors made just 201 for 8 after losing the toss, with Mithali Raj scoring 72 of those. Under overcast conditions, on a fresh pitch with decent carry and movement, five-over opening spells in the powerplay from Brunt and Shrubsole denied India any room to make an early imprint on the proceedings. In an exemplary display of discipline and reliance on scrambled-seam variations, the fast-bowling tandem parched India of scoring opportunities.

This post is on Shafali Verma - Verma, 17, made 96 and 63 on Test debut last week in the tour-opening one-off Test against England, becoming the youngest batter to score twin fifties on debut in women's Tests. Prior to that, she had played only in 22 T20Is, having debuted in September 2019.  Today making debut in ODI,  at 17 years and 150 days old, Shafali  became the youngest player - male or female - to represent India in all formats of the game.  She  fell to a failed pull while backing away to a Brunt offcutting bouncer. The over, fifth in the innings, had begun with two Verma fours - one lofted over mid-off and the other carved behind point - but ended with India losing their first wicket with just 23 on the board.

There have been many young players for Team India .. .. despite being associated with the Indian team for ages, leg-spinner Piyush Chawla is just 32 years old and is a few days younger than Indian skipper Virat Kohli. Days after the conclusion of the 2006 Under-19 World Cup, Chawla was drafted into the national squad as he made his Test debut against England in March 2006 at the age of 17 years and 75 days.

In Indian Test Cricket history – for sometime the youngest player was AG Milkha Singh who debuted against Ausgralia in Jan 1960 when he was 18 y and 13 days young; Maninder Singh made his debut at Karachi in Dec 82 and he was 17Y 193 days; overtaken by L Sivaramakrishnan in Apr 1983 17Y 118D – only to be outsmarted by the evergreen Sachin Tendulkar at 16Y 205 days at Karachi on 15th Nov 89 under the captaincy of Krishnamachari Srikkanth.  The youngest player to play for India record in One dayers is also held by Sachin Tendulkar, who played his 1st ODI at Gujranwala on 18th Dec 1989 at the age of 16Y 238D.

At International level, there are a few who have upstaged Sachin…. The youngest is Hasan Raza whose debut in Tests came on 24th Oct 1996 against Zimbabwe and followed up with ODI debut on 30th Oct 1996 at 14 years and 227 days and 233 days respectively………thus far the youngest player !!  (doubts about his birthdate and medical tests later resulted in the PCB withdrawing the record claim - his actual age was uncertain, but was around 15 at the time of debut).

Of course, it is not the debut alone that matters – form is temporary and class is permanent.    In Dec 1988 -   Alan Nanik Sippy now 50+  played alongside Shisir Hattangadi and Lalchand Rajput – both were acclaimed as good prospects.  Sippy scored 127 against Gujarat ; Rajput made 99; and a small boy of 15 made a century on debut.  That was young Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.  He did not have to wait long and in Nov 1989 made his debut at Karachi Test……. Salil Ankola, Shahid Saeed and Waqar Younis all made their debut in the same test alongside Sachin.  For Salil Ankola and Saeed that was to be their only test.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
27th June 2021.


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