The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Age of the young and restless

London: Current fashion suggests the 38-year-old Steve Waugh will be consigned to his slippers in the near future, while England may look to blood a schoolboy.

After years of worshipping at the altar of experience, international cricket is awash with young talent at the moment.

England, that most conservative of cricketing countries, finds itself in the vanguard for once, with James Anderson first in the queue.

Anderson, still only 20, was the teamís most successful bowler at the World Cup at the start of the year.

Since then, he has taken five wickets in his debut Test innings and become the first England player to take a one-day international hattrick.

Last year he had yet to establish himself in Lancashireís side and now he is first name on the England team sheet.

Pakistan are being as bold, with 22-year-old quick bowler Mohammed Sami in particular catching the eye, while West Indies have blooded the impressive 21-year-old quick Fidel Edwards ó who has been likened to Waqar Younis and Jeff Thomson ó against Sri Lanka after a single first-class game.

The World Cup, it seems, represented a line in the sand for many selectors as they ushered out the old in favour of the baby-faced.

Pakistan, indeed, showing a startling lack of respect for the elder statesmen, pensioned off their entire team. Englandís embracing of the trend, however, is perhaps the most remarkable.

This is not a country prone to rashness. It took 211 years, after all, to allow women into the Long Room at Lordís. Evergreen experience has always been valued ó ask the dependable Alec Stewart ó and the vigour of youth treated with the greatest suspicion.

Look at the youngest players to play Test cricket and the top 14 all come from Asia. There, if you are good enough, you are old enough.

Look at the most rickety of Test practitioners, however, and the list is dominated by white-whiskered Englishmen, Wilfred Rhodes, WG Grace and Jack Hobbs among them. There is only one Asian player in the top 20.

Rhodes was well into his 53rd year when he played his last Test against West Indies in 1930.

History suggests England have taken a long time to learn the lesson that youth can be trusted (if, indeed, they really have, for at Andersonís age, many Asian prodigies are already well into their careers).

Pakistanís Mushtaq Mohammed, who went on to average just under 40 in Tests, was first capped at 15 years and 124 days.

Sachin Tendulkar first appeared aged 16 and 205 days, while Hanif Mohammed, Waqar Younis and Gary Sobers were all playing before their 18th birthdays. Not that things always work out.

Batsman Hasan Raza first played for Pakistan in 1996, at the record age of 14, but has featured in only four more Tests in the intervening years. Batsman James Troughton, meanwhile, one of Englandís new wave, lasted three one-dayers this month before he was sent back to finishing school.

The trend, however, is clear and a welcome breath of fresh air. Young is beautiful.

And everyone, after all, can get bored of a weathered face, even one smiling all the way to the winnerís rostrum.

Waugh and his battered, 160-Test baggy green cap should watch out.

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