India have a rich history of producing the best cricketers the world has seen. Many of these players have gone on to top the record charts after enjoying glittering carers that have, in some cases, started before they have finished school. Why then have the Indian selectors been so eager to let their young stars grace the world stage when they probably still haven’t stopped growing? The norm in other cricketing nations is to ease their players into competitive international cricket as they are left to cut their teeth at domestic level before making the step up. India differ and for good reason.
The population of India is 1.3 billion. Making the grade at international sport is incredibly hard (in any country) given the competition a player must overcome to get to the top. The journey from school cricket to international has many hurdles with hundreds of thousands of people trying to compete for a limited number of spots. In India, it is more a case of hundreds of millions of people vying for a few spots. When a younger player sticks out of the masses competing there is good reason to believe they are more than just a bit special.
Of the 12 ICC members in world cricket, all of their national populations put together don’t come anywhere near the population of India. Collectively the 12 members have 600 odd million people living in their countries as opposed to India’s 1.3 billion. The rest of the world don’t have as much faith that their younger players are ready for the challenges of international cricket and Australia’s selection policy will prove it.
Pat Cummins has been the youngest Australian player in 58 years to play when he was given his debut aged 18 against South Africa in 2011; before that, one had to go back to 1953 when Ian Craig was given his debut against South Africa in Melbourne at the age of 17. The young Cummins hasn’t had the opportunity to learn his trade at International level like his Indian counterparts have and, instead, has had to toil on the domestic circuit. At 24, he has received his break and is now part of the ongoing Ashes duel after eyeing up his home debut for so long; he has now been able to achieve that, and it’s part of the reason Australia are so well backed with odds of 3/25 to regain the Ashes when you bet online.
It is sightly different in India when a younger player comes on the scene. When Sachin Tendulkar emerged, the selectors had no doubt he was good enough to play for India and gave him his debut aged 16 against Pakistan. Kapil Dev was 19 when he made his first run out on the world stage against Pakistan in 1978. Anil Kumble was 19 when he sent down his first bit of legbreak in Manchester against England. The list goes on and, in most cases, the Indian selectors were right to back these young stars.
Handing an Indian player his debut at a young age isn’t so much a show of faith but a recognition of achievement. In the eyes of the Indian selectors, it is completely justified as these young players have overcome much greater odds than those of other competing nations.