T20 cricket is the shortest format of the game and the fast-paced nature of proceedings in which the outcome is decided within a space of 3-4 hours means the players have to be on the money pretty much all the time. The fate of the match can be decided in the space of a few deliveries and the balance can swing in favour of one team easily.
Unlike the Test and ODI formats, T20 cricket, ever since its inception, has been tailor-made for the younger generation as senior players often fail to adjust to the pace and energy associated with the 20-over format. Indian cricket fans would know that pretty well considering how the Big 3 – Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid – opted to not be considered for selection for the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, which an energetic Men in Blue side won under the captaincy of MS Dhoni.
The very next year, the IPL was born, and ten years down the line, the cricket extravaganza has grown considerably in stature and is undoubtedly one of the most sought after T20 competitions in the world with cricketers from all across the globe making their presence felt.
The success of the likes of Brad Hogg and Pravin Tambe notwithstanding, IPL has essentially served as a platform for young cricketers to prove their mettle against the best in the business.
With franchises digging deep into the talent pool at their disposal, many aspiring international cricketers have got their chance to impress at a very young age. The latest to join the party is Tamil Nadu youngster Washington Sundar who made his IPL debut for Rising Pune Supergiant against reigning champions Sunrisers Hyderabad on Saturday, aged just 17 years and 199 days.
For those who are wondering whether he is the youngest player to make his IPL debut, the answer is no as he is only third on the list of youngest IPL debutants. Here we list the top 5 debutants in IPL history.
#5 Ishan Kishan
One of India’s brightest young prospects, Ishan Kishan has already had several ups and downs in his short career so far. Named as the skipper of the Indian side at the 2016 ICC U-19 World Cup, Kishan was disappointing with the bat at the tournament where the Rahul Dravid-coached side ended up on the losing side in the final against West Indies.
However, his fantastic form leading up to the tournament persuaded new IPL entrants Gujarat Lions to spend Rs 35 lakh to secure Kishan’s services at the 2016 IPL auctions and the youngster went on to make his IPL debut against Kings XI Punjab on April 11, 2016, aged 17 years and 268 days, making him the third-youngest IPL debutant at the time.
He had a disappointing IPL campaign though as he scored only 42 runs from five matches but made up for the disappointment with a stellar domestic campaign which saw him score 799 runs for Jharkhand in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy, which also included a knock of 273 against Delhi, the highest individual score in the state’s history in India’s premier domestic competition.
With the swashbuckling duo of Australia’s Adam Gilchrist and Jharkhand's very own MS Dhoni as his idols, Kishan has his ideology clearly worked out and we witnessed his shot-making skills recently when he nearly guided his IPL side to victory against RCB with a knock of 39 off just 16 balls, making a certain Virat Kohli lose his bearings.
As of now, Kishan is No 5 on the list of youngest IPL debutants and he is someone whom India have high expectations from in the future.
#4 Rahul Chahar
The promising leg-spinner from Rajasthan is the younger brother of pacer Deepak Chahar and the 17-year-old will be hopeful of better handling the expectations that seem to have weighed down Deepak ever since his stunning first-class debut when he picked up 8 wickets conceding just 10 runs.
He has made steady progress through the various age levels for Rajasthan and made his first-class and List A debut for the senior state side during the 2016-17 domestic season. He was picked up by Rising Pune Supergiant for his base price of Rs 10 lakh at the 2017 IPL auctions.
He made his IPL debut against Kings XI Punjab on April 8, 2017, picking up the prized wicket of South African Hashim Amla, aged just 17 years and 242 days. What is more significant is that it was Rahul’s first-ever T20 game having not played a part in the Syed Ali Mushtaq T20 tournament that preceded the IPL.
It's still early days for Rahul in the IPL having been in and out of the side so far, but he sure looks destined for a bright future.
#3 Washington Sundar
The promising Tamil Nadu all-rounder became the third youngest IPL debutant ever when he was named in the Rising Pune Supergiant playing eleven against Sunrisers Hyderabad at the expense of Rahul Chahar. The confidence that skipper Steven Smith had to hand Sundar his debut aged just 17 years and 199 days against the reigning IPL champions just shows how much is expected from this talented youngster.
Having represented India at the U-19 World Cup in 2016, Washington came to prominence with his splendid performances for Tuti Patriots in the inaugural edition of the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) picking up 11 wickets from 9 matches at an average of just 12 with his off-spinners. He also scored 140 runs with the bat proving his usefulness as a lower middle-order batsman.
Having made his first-class debut for Tamil Nadu during the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy, it was surprising that none of the IPL franchises decided to take Washington under their wing during the 2017 IPL auctions. However, luck was on his side as his state teammate Ravichandran Ashwin was ruled out of the tenth edition of the IPL, thus allowing him to be roped in as the replacement.
#2 Pradeep Sangwan
Apart from being the second youngest IPL debutant at 17 years and 179 days, Pradeep Sangwan holds the distinction of being the first Under-19 pick at the inaugural IPL draft when he was picked up by Delhi Daredevils.
The Delhi pacer was a part of India’s victorious U-19 side at the 2008 World Cup contributing significantly to the Virat Kohli-led side with 8 wickets, including a 5-wicket haul against South Africa in the group stages which shot him into prominence.
Heading into the 2008 IPL on the back of an impressive debut campaign for Delhi in the 2007-08 Ranji Trophy, where he picked up 33 wickets, including 9 in the victory against Uttar Pradesh in the final, Sangwan’s debut season turned out to be a big disappointment as he picked up only 5 wickets from 7 matches.
In fact, Sangwan’s career has only taken a downward trend since and came to a screeching halt when he was found guilty of doping during the 2013 IPL when he was representing KKR. Having served the 18-month ban, Sangwan is back playing cricket but the now 26-year-old is yet to get back to his form of yesteryear.
He is a part of the Gujarat Lions squad but is yet to make an appearance for the side in the 2017 IPL.
#1 Sarfaraz Khan
The Mumbai-born youngster took the IPL by storm with his unbeaten knock of 45 from just 21 balls for RCB against Rajasthan Royals during the 2015 IPL. It was just his second game after becoming the youngest ever debutant in IPL history when he was picked to play at the age of 17 years and 177 days against Chennai Super Kings.
Sarfaraz Khan also holds the record for the most number of half-centuries (7) in the history of the U-19 ICC World Cup having scored 211 runs during the 2014 edition and was India’s standout player at the 2016 edition as well scoring 355 runs, finishing as the tournament’s second highest run-getter.
Though he has impressed with a few cameos littered with innovative shots, Sarfaraz fell down the pecking order at RCB during the 2016 IPL after being a regular in the side during the previous campaign and it was not due to cricketing reasons alone.
Nicknamed ‘Panda’ for his love of food, Sarfaraz Khan has had disciplinary issues in the past and courted controversy with his move to Uttar Pradesh from Mumbai ahead of the 2015-16 Ranji Trophy season. He was dropped from the RCB side by skipper Virat Kohli based on his lack of agility on the field. Injury on the eve of the 2017 IPL has ruled him out of the ongoing edition with Harpreet Singh named as the replacement.