Sport loves its stars; the heroes whose performances light up the world. But what sport – just like in the movies – adores the most is the child star, the young prodigy who, seemingly out of place amongst the giants of the game, produces performances that add to the growing stock of legend, of myth, that surrounds every sport. Here is a short list of the prodigies cricket – particularly the World Cup – has thrown up[MOU1] :
Sachin Tendulkar, 1992 World Cup: Tendulkar was 19 when he debuted on the world stage. And he was both – the teen prodigy and a seasoned campaigner who was already into his third year in international cricket, having debuted at 16. In the 1992 edition, the baby-faced destroyer ended up as the second highest run-getter for India with 283 runs at 47.16 including three fifties, one of which came against arch-rivals Pakistan, who had an attack consisting of Wasim Akram, Imran Khan and Aaqib Javed. Other storied knocks included a blistering 77-ball 81 against Zimbabwe and an 84 against New Zealand, albeit in a losing cause.
His batting lit up the arena, his bowling made the audiences smile the ‘awww, how cute’ smile. His part time leg spin produced a couple of wickets, including the crucial wicket of Aamer Sohail for 62.
Aaqib Javed, 1992 World Cup: Aaqib Javed got to open the bowling alongside Wasim Akram only because the legendary Waqar Younis got injured – and the youngster (HOW OLD WAS HE?) filled Younis’ big shoes with room to spare. His 11 wickets was third best by a Pakistani bowler behind Akram (18) and Mushtaq Ahmed (16); his control over reverse made observers sit up and take notice. Old timers still talk of the over he bowled to Dermot Reeve, the 41st in a run chase (OF? WHICH TEAM? DON’T ASSUME THE READER KNOWS, BOSS), was a masterclass of how to bowl with the old ball, and it produced just one run. By any yardstick, he was as much a reason for Pakistan’s success in the tournament as the more storied Akram.
Abdul Razzaq, 1999 World Cup: Like Tendulkar, Razzaq debuted at 16 and strode onto the world stage aged just 19, taking his place in a formidable quartet of fast bowlers which included Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar and Azhar Mahmood. His skill and adaptability meant that he could be used anywhere – from first change behind Akram and Akthar, to fifth bowler. And every time, he produced, his spells of 3/32 in the opener against West Indies and 3/38 against Scotland being particularly memorable. Initially, he was even used as a number three batsman; his inability to score quick meant that he lost the spot to Ijaz Ahmed, but he did produce an innings of 60 against Australia in the group stage that saw Pakistan win by 10 runs.
James Anderson, 2003 World Cup: James Anderson was 21 when he played his first global tournament. England performed to par – which is to say, badly – but Anderson’s bowling, combining pace with great swing and seam movement, was a silver lining. His 10 wickets included spells of 4 for 25 and 4 for 29, against Netherlands and Pakistan respectively. Anderson last played an ODI in the 2015 World Cup, but to this day he remains England’s leading wicket-taker in one day format with 269 scalps.
Shakib Al Hasan, 2007 World Cup: Having been tipped as the next big thing, Shakib was just 20 when he played the 2007 World Cup and played with the composure of a veteran. It was the year Bangladesh sent shock waves through the tournament with wins over India and South Africa, and Shakib was instrumental in the team’s stellar show, finishing as Bangladesh’s second highest run-getter in the tournament with 202 runs. That he also took seven wickets at an economy rate of 4.96 was just the icing on the cake.