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The XI: Selecting a Test Team from the Best Players Aged 23 and Under

Tim CollinsFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2013

The XI: Selecting a Test Team from the Best Players Aged 23 and Under

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Test cricket is currently undergoing a significant generational change, unearthing dozens of elite talents that are set to shine on the international stage in coming years.

    As the limited overs formats continue to provide increasingly early exposure for bright youngsters, the immense crop of potential future Test players is being thrust upon the incumbents.

    Yet cricket's landscape is paving way for that process too.

    The great Australian era has well and truly finished; India's famous side is experiencing rejuvenation. Pakistan and the West Indies are continually looking to the future, while the England and South African teams are in the latter stages of their current incarnations.

    Consequently, the next wave of Test players is ready to embrace the spotlight. 

    But who are those players? Who are the standout candidates for the best Test team for players aged 23 years and under?

    That team is revealed on the following slides.

1. Kieran Powell

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Team: West Indies

    Age: 23

    Playing Role: Opening batsman

    Tests: 15

     

    An exciting opening batsman, Kieran Powell is the ideal candidate for the first opening position in this team.

    The powerful left-hander owns an aggressive mentality that is perfectly suited to the modern game, and has shown glimpses of his potential during his brief Test career to date.

    The young West Indian already has three Test hundreds, as well as an 81 against India in Mumbai, which is unquestionably one of world cricket's most intimidating environments. 

    His current average of 30.33 is modest at this stage, but given his already impressive start, one would expect that to significantly rise in the coming years.

     

2. Joe Root

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    Gareth Copley/Getty Images

    Team: England

    Age: 22

    Playing Role: Opening batsman

    Tests: 11

     

    One of the brightest young batting talents in world cricket, Joe Root appears destined for a long England career.

    The baby-faced 22-year-old is already the owner a two Test hundreds, the second of which was a sparkling 180 against Australia during the second Ashes Test at Lord's in 2013.

    A calm temperament combined with a sound technique have impressed the game's onlookers, with many believing Root is a potential captain-in-waiting.

    His rise into the England team is somewhat reflective of Michael Clarke's journey, jumping ahead of a number of more experienced candidates to grab an early start to what could be a very fruitful career.

3. Kithuruwan Vithanage

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    Martin Hunter/Getty Images

    Team: Sri Lanka

    Age: 22

    Playing Role: Middle-order batsman

    Tests: 2

     

    A slightly left-field choice, Kithuruwan Vithanage looks capable of a prolific Test career.

    At just 22 years of age, the left-hander already owns a first class average of 45.46, which recently earned the youngster from Colombo his Test debut against Bangladesh.

    His lively half-century in his opening performance was an indication of his talent, giving a glimpse into his potential to be a long-term cog in Sri Lanka's middle order.

    With the team needing to find support for the great Kumar Sangakkara, Vithanage may be ready to help relieve some of that burden.

4. Gary Ballance

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Team: England

    Age: 23

    Playing Role: Middle-order batsman

    Tests: Nil

     

    Although he's yet to make his Test debut, Gary Ballance has already made a significant impression.

    The 23-year-old Zimbabwean-born batsman has been selected in England's squad to tour Australia this winter, after completing a stellar domestic and England Lions campaign.

    The left-hander has already compiled 18 first class hundreds at an average of 54.51 in his short career so far, while he put together four hundreds in five innings during the middle part of the summer.

    As England look to finalise their top six for the upcoming Ashes series, Ballance looks like a serious contender.

5. Dinesh Chandimal

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    Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

    Team: Sri Lanka

    Age: 23

    Playing Role: Middle-order batsman

    Tests: 7

     

    Dinesh Chandimal is perhaps the best-performing young batsman in world cricket.

    The Sri Lankan youngster owns a classic technique and textbook strike-play, which has seen him put together a stellar Test record in seven short matches.

    In just 12 innings, Chandimal has struck two hundreds and four fifties at an average of 58.30, securing his place in Sri Lanka's middle order.

    Yet although he's also a fantastic wicketkeeper, he finds himself in this under-23 Test team as a specialist batsman.

6. Ben Stokes

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Team: England

    Age: 22

    Playing Role: All-rounder

    Tests: Nil

     

    An all-rounder of the future, Ben Stokes has been identified as a long-term prospect for the game's biggest stage.

    His tantalising combination of aggressive batting and hostile bowling has seen the Durham-based 22-year-old put together an impressive first-class career to this point.

    A bowling average of 27.82 is a fantastic early mark, made all the more impressive by his average of 36.00 with the bat.

    Selected for England's Ashes tour of Australia, Stokes appears close to an entrance into the Test arena.

7. Umar Akmal

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Team: Pakistan

    Age: 23

    Playing Role: Wicketkeeper-batsman

    Tests: 16

     

    Oozing class since his Test debut, Umar Akmal is a certainty for this team.

    The young keeper-batsman already has 1,000 Test runs at a clip of 35.82, which included a sumptuous 129 on debut against New Zealand in 2009.

    His ability to play on both sides of the wicket has been his hallmark during a short career to date, while his impressive strike rate is a reflection of his pure scoring capacity.

    While his Test career has been temporarily put on hold with selectors believing a long stint in domestic cricket will aid his development, it's unquestionable that we'll see Akmal shine in the Test arena in years to come.

8. Ashton Agar

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    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Team: Australia

    Age: 19

    Playing Role: Spin bowling all-rounder

    Tests: 2

     

    No one will ever forget his blistering 98 on debut against England at Trent Bridge in 2013, the highest-ever score recorded by a number 11 in Test cricket.

    That one innings has propelled Ashton Agar into the spotlight as Australia continues to look to the future in the aftermath of the country's golden generation.

    While his batting took centre stage in Nottingham, it's his left-arm orthodox bowling that Australian selectors hope will become Agar's true asset.

    In just 13 first class matches so far, the 19-year-old has impressed with his knack for getting to ball to bounce as well as turn, his height proving to be an immense asset.

    As a hard-hitting, spin-bowling all-rounder, Australia have a tantilising prospect for the future.

9. Bhuvneshwar Kumar

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    Team: India

    Age: 23

    Playing Role: Fast-medium bowler

    Tests: 4

     

    Capable of swinging the ball around corners, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has forced his way into this team through brilliant early performances for India.

    The young right-armer famously worked over Sachin Tendulkar for his first-ever domestic duck when he was just 19 years of age, which earmarked the seamer as a bowler of the future.

    While he's only appeared in four Tests at this stage, his ODI average is an outstanding 21.96 from 17 matches, and his 4-8 from six overs against Sri Lanka the standout performance of his career so far.

    With India's team undergoing a period of rejuvenation, expect this talented seamer to feature prominently in the coming years.

10. James Pattinson

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    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Team: Australia

    Age: 23

    Playing Role: Fast-medium bowler

    Tests: 12

     

    Tall, strong and fast, James Pattinson looks like a potentially lethal bowler for Australia.

    His opening 12 Test appearances have produced 47 wickets at an average of 26.42, impressing the game's observers worldwide with his powerful action and hostility.

    Yet bowling isn't Pattinson's only asset. The 23-year-old has proved immensely useful with the bat, scoring 331 runs at an average of 30.09, showcasing a surprisingly classic technique and sense of poise.

    Although stress fractures in his back have temporarily put the fast bowler's Test career on hold, expect Pattinson to be a stalwart of Australia's attack for a decade.

11. Junaid Khan

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    Christopher Lee/Getty Images

    Team: Pakistan

    Age: 23

    Playing Role: Fast-medium bowler

    Tests: 11

     

    Quick, full of stamina and offering variety via his left arm, Junaid Khan has put forward an impressive case in the early stages of his career.

    Thirty-eight wickets in 11 Tests so far have come at an impressive clip of 26.63, with his ability to sustain his pace and move the ball in the air particularly impressive.

    Those skills have seen the young quick regularly trouble the best of batsmen, even on the flat and unrewarding pitches found in the sub-continent.

    As Pakistan continues to explore the country's youthful options, Junaid Khan looks to be a certain component of national side for years to come.

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