Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Young Blood

Fantasy Bob has recently concluded that his own youth was wasted on one so young.  He achieved nothing.  He could well have waited to be young when he was a bit older.  Of course, he may well be a late developer. A very late developer.  There might still be some potential locked away in those creaking limbs.  He can only dream

For tales of youthful achievement are all around.  The world has now gone Cummins crazy.  Patrick Cummins made his Test debut for Australia against S Africa and collected the man of the match award following his 6-79 in the second innings and sterling 13 not out including Australia's winning runs.  In that innings he more than doubled the number of runs he had scored in First Class cricket.  He was 18 years 192 days old on the first day of the Test.  No doubt his autobiography can be expected for the Christmas booklists.

Fantasy Bob wishes Patrick Cummins' well for his future career.  He will also had his voice to all those who are expressing great disappointment that there is no more action in this series.  Even without young Cummins, this match has been the real thing.

Ian Craig
Cummins is Australia's second youngest Test player, the youngest was Ian Craig who debuted at the age of 17 years and 239 days in 1953.  Craig was also the youngest ever captain of Australia when, against expectations, he led them to victory in the 1957-58 tour of S Africa.  However he played no more than 11 Tests and averaged only 19.88 before poor form, illness and other commitments forced him to retire from the game at the early age of 26.  When he was first capped he inevitably was seen as the heir to Bradman - too big a challenge for any youngster even though he was the youngest ever double centurion. 

His rise has some parallels with England's youngest ever Test player - the one and only Brian Close.  Close made his Test debut against New Zealand at Old Trafford in 1949 when he was 18 years and 149 days old.  However unlike Ian Craig Close's his career went on and and on - he finally retired from First Class cricket in 1977, with a fearsome reputation as a hard bitten competitive leader. He seemed to relish getting hit - whether by bouncers or at short leg where he fielded kamikaze short in the days before helmets, pads, life insurance and all the other protection today's pros expect.   Close also batted hard off the field against bouncers of all sorts and controversy of all sorts followed his career. That's for another day.

 Brian Close
ducking bouncers in 1976
Close's Test career was limited.  His first Test innings was a bit of an anti climax - out third ball.  His last Test match was almost 30 years later in 1976 against the W Indies also at Manchester.  Only one player has played Test cricket at a greater age than Close in this match. This was one of the most brutal Tests ever.  There was no respect for age by Holding Roberts and Daniel.  Close opened England's innings and was subjected to a relentless barrage of short pitched fast bowling.  He made 20 off 108 balls in 162 minutes.  Close played only 22 Tests in all and averaged 25.34.  He celebrated his 80th birthday earlier this year.

Close and Craig confirm that early promotion to the top level can be its own challenge.  there were many voices which counselled against the early selection of Close who had demonstrated his outstanding potential by doing the double in his first season in First Class cricket.

Blooding very young players seems to be a greater success for India and Pakistan with the likes of Mushtaq Mohammed (15 years 124 days) and Sachin Tendulkar (16 years 205 days)  going on to true greatness..  However even with them there are some who have not fulfilled absolutely that early promise -   Hasan Raza is the youngest ever playing his first test for Pakistan in 1996 when he was not yet 15 but has managed only 7 Test appearances.  Like Fantasy Bob, he still has time.

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