Strongest debutant XI of 2018 in international cricket


The captain of India's U19 CWC winning team made his international debut in 2018

2018 witnessed plenty of fresh and brimming talents making their international debuts. Many of them grabbed the opportunity with both hands and left a good impression. However, a few failed to make a mark. Some of the youngest debutants of 2018 include Sandeep Lamichhane, Shaheen Afridi, Prithvi Shaw who made their debut at ages 17, 17 and 19, respectively.

All of these young talents kickstarted their careers and are expected to achieve new milestones in the coming future and to play a huge role for their respective teams.

There were other debutants as well who surprised the world with their majestic display on the cricket field. These include Sam Curran of England and Khaleel Ahmed of India. 20-year-old Curran was the star of India-England Test series during which he took 11 wickets and made 272 runs in four matches.

On that note, let's get straight into analyzing the strongest possible playing XI of the cricketers who made a debut last year and are capable of giving a tough competition to any side.

*Please note in these XI players are considered irrespective of the format.

#1 Openers: Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal

The duo of Shaw and Mayank can be seen as a future Test opening pair for India

At the beginning of 2018, Prithvi Shaw made his nation proud by bringing home the U19 Cricket World Cup. He later cemented his place in the IPL team Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals).

However, the highlight for the youngster in 2018 was when he got his first Test cap and represented India in the bilateral Test series against West Indies. The 19-year-old smashed a hundred in the first innings of his debut Test match. Shaw also bagged the Man of The Match and Man of The Series title in his debut match and series, respectively.

The right-hander scored 237 runs at an average of 118.5 in three innings of his debut series.

Being called for the India-West Indies Test series and not ending up in the playing XI was very disappointing for Mayank Agarwal.

However, the 27-year-old Mayank finally got the Test cap and made his debut for India in the series between India and Australia which started in December 2018.

The failure of KL Rahul and Murali Vijay also worked in the favour of Mayank and he finally got his opportunity in the third Test match of the series. He made the maximum out of it by scoring 118 runs and playing a major role in India's victory in Melbourne Test. He smashed another half-century in his 2nd Test at SCG.

#2 Middle-order & Wicket-keeper: Hanuma Vihari and Ben Foakes

The English wicket-keeper batsman took the opportunity with both hands

Hanuma Vihari was given the opportunity to appear for his national team in the Test series against England. India was struggling in England conditions and no batsman other than the skipper Virat Kohli was able to handle the English bowlers in their favourable conditions-- thus Vihari got a chance in the final test match.

Vihari along with Jadeja rescued India in the first innings by scoring his maiden fifty and becoming 26th Indian debutant to score fifty in the debut match. In the second innings, he failed with the bat as he was dismissed for a duck but then he shone with the ball and picked 3 crucial wickets.

The 25-year-old played a total of 3 tests in 2018 and managed 125 runs which include a half-century and also scalped 5 wickets at an average of 26.

Ben Foakes is an English wicket-keeper batsman who is known more for his wicket-keeping skills. The 25-year-old first became part of the English squad as a backup option for Jonny Bairstow during the 2017 Ashes but didn't make it to the playing XI in Australia.

He was again picked in the squad for the Sri Lanka tour and finally got a chance when Bairstow was injured. In his debut, he came out to the crease when England were in trouble, struggling at 103-5 against the Lankan bowlers.

The Essex player handled Sri Lankan spinners pretty well and scored his maiden Test hundred in his debut innings. And in the second innings, he managed a quickfire 37 runs. In total, he made 277 runs at an average of 69.25. He also took eight catches besides effecting two stumpings in the series.

#3 All-rounders: Sam Curran, Marnus Labuschagne, Krunal Pandya and Keemo Paul

Sam Curran delighted with the wicket of Indian skipper

Sam Curran is the another Englishman in this XI. He was the star for England in the bilateral Test series against India which they won by a 4-1 margin. The Northampton-born player made his debut against Pakistan but didn't impress much.

It was the series against India where he showed his talent with the bat and scored 237 runs in seven innings. With the ball, Sam picked crucial wickets for England throughout the series and scalped a total of 11 wickets.

The youngster was awarded the joint Player of the Series award. In 2018, Curran played seven Test matches in total, scoring 404 runs and picking 14 wickets.

South Africa-born Australian all-rounder Marnus Labuschagne was named in the suspension and injury-hit Australia squad for the Test series against Pakistan. He played both the Tests against Pakistan and scored 81 runs and also nailed 7 wickets at an average of 22.43.

After waiting for months, India's Krunal Pandya finally got a place in the playing XI in the first match of the T20 bilateral series between India and West Indies. He was also part of India's playing XI for the T20 matches against Australia. Krunal played 6 T20s last year -- making 23 runs in 2 innings and picking up 6 wickets.

The 20-year-old Keemo Paul made his debut in all three formats of cricket in 2018. The Caribbean all-rounder first made his international appearance in an ODI match against Afghanistan.

The Guyana-born player played a total of 11 ODIs in 2018 and scored 115 runs and nailed 11 wickets. He also played 2 test matches for his national team but could only manage 45 runs and 3 wickets. His biggest success was the T20 format in which he debuted in April 2018 against Pakistan. The youngster played 13 T20s and scored 124 runs, picking up 17 wickets as well.

#4 Spinner: Sandeep Lamichhane

Sandeep Lamichhane was the youngest debutant in 2018

Sandeep Lamichhane came from a country not known much for its cricket prowess and still made his name in the biggest T20 leagues such as the Indian Premier League and Big Bash League.

The leg break bowler was part of Nepal's U19 cricket team and made his international debut at the age of 17 years -- playing for the ICC World XI against West Indies in a T20 match on 31st May. He played only 2 T20Is but unfortunately failed in both.

Sandeep, who is now 18-years-old, also debuted in ODIs and played 3 matches -- nailing 8 wickets. Before getting to play for his national side he was picked by Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals) in season 11 of IPL and also got the opportunity to shine in 3 games.

Later, in 2018, Sandeep was also picked by Melbourne Stars in the latest edition of Big Bash League. The right-arm leg-break bowler played 15 T20s in 2018 and picked 21 wickets at a phenomenal average of less than 17.

#5 Seamers: Khaleel Ahmed and Shaheen Afridi

Khaleel Ahmed made a good impression

India had quite a few debuts in 2018 and Khaleel Ahmed was one of them. He made his debut at the Asia Cup -- in the match between India and Hong Kong -- and scalped 3 wickets. It won't be surprising if he makes it to India's squad for the 2019 CWC as the 21-year-old speedster has made the good use of the limited opportunities he was given. He featured in 6 ODIs and picked 11 wickets. In T20s, he appeared in 6 matches and nailed 6 wickets.

Shaheen Afridi, who was an important cog of Pakistan's U19 CWC team, made his senior team debut in the match against West Indies. The 18-year-old made his debut in all three formats of cricket in 2018.

The left-arm fast bowler became famous before U19 World Cup through a YouTube video titled 'Pakistan's Mitchell Starc' and was offered to play in BPL and T10 league -- to which he refused because of his U19 CWC preparation camp. Shaheen played 7 T20s in 2018 and picked 11 wickets while in 6 ODIs, he picked 13 wickets at an average of 17.62. The young talent also played 2 Tests and picked 8 wickets.