We hoped the time would never come.
But it’s here.
We’re now in a world where cricket is without Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Ricky Ponting, Sourav Ganguly, Jacques Kallis, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Shoaib Akhtar, Muttiah Muralitharan, Virender Sehwag, Inzamam Ul Haq, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Mahela Jayawardene, Graeme Smith, Glenn Mcgrath, Adam Gilchrist, Kevin Pieterson (!), Andrew Flintoff, Steve Waugh…the list goes on.
The only remnant from this golden generation: the timeless Shivanrine Chanderpaul, who is only inches away from becoming West Indies’ highest test-run scorer.
There’s also the run machine Kumara Sangakkara, who shows no signs of slowing down as he marches on to become one of the greatest Sri Lankan batsmen ever. But as these two—the Last of the Mohicans—soldier on, it’s time to accept the inevitable and move on to a new generation.
There are current superstars in their own right: AB De Villiers, Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla, Alastair Cook, Chris Gayle, James Anderson, Younis Khan, Misbah Ul Haq, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, Rangana Herath, Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson.
In this spirit, here is a short list of future superstars—not quite the next statistical giants—but with the potential to take cricket to the next level:
VIRAT KOHLI (IND)
He is already an ODI great at age 24, with 18-odd centuries to his name. But he has just endured his leanest period ever in India’s tour of England—going without a 50 for the entire period. This will be a true test for the future Indian captain, who has no doubt raised the bar in limited overs cricket. The golden doors of test cricket await him.
SANJU SAMSON (IND)
He is yet to play an international match for India, but he has already become the talk of the country because of his IPL performances for the Royals and Ranji performances for Kerala. What’s more, he is a wicketkeeper too, but can walk into most teams on strength of his effortless stroke-making skills. He is only one Dhawan-failure away from entering India’s limited overs team, and I suspect he won’t be dropped for a very long time.
JOS BUTTLER (ENGLAND)
England’s gen-X wicketkeeper, replacing a weakened Matt Prior in all formats by now, has already displayed his audacious batting skills after a whirlwind Lords century against Sri Lanka recently. His consecutive attacking test 50s against India further sealed the deal, and that memory of being bowled in the Champions Trophy Final against India in 2013 for a duck is a distant memory.
QUINTON DI KOCK (SA)
Another attacking keeper-batsman with a baby face, who no doubt grew up watching Adam Gilchrist change the role of batting keepers. He is already the joint-fastest to reach 1000 runs in ODI cricket (21 innings), and is gradually feeling his way into test cricket. Gone are the days of curly-haired 16 year olds being thrown into the test arena against arch-rivals; it takes longer for T20-bred batsmen to mature in whites.
STEVE SMITH (AUS)
Already an Ashes great (3 centuries), Steve Smith continues to astound with his transition from blond bombshell leg-spinner to Australia’s most resourceful middle-order hustler batsman. He is the right-handed Michael Bevan, always busy at the crease, and one of the greatest fielders of the modern era. Also, future captain.
DARREN BRAVO (WI)
Lara’s alleged successor started his test career in uncanny fashion—averaging the same as the legend after his first 10 tests. He lost his way a bit after that, but is back at no. 4 after a hiatus that will have put the spring-crouch-slash back into his exaggerated back-lift. Temperament aside, he is always a blast to watch when on song.
MITCHELL MARSH (AUS)
After a couple of years in ‘talent, no temperament’ wilderness, the younger Marsh is finally fulfilling the potential he showed while leading the Australia U19 team to World Cup glory. He recently stole the show in the South Africa/Zimbabwe tri-series with the bat, and is well on his way to becoming the attacking all-rounder they so badly need, because of the inconsistency of the next man on this list…
GLENN MAXWELL (AUS)
An improved version of Shahid Afridi if anything, at least with the bat. He isn’t very effective with the ball, but can field like a jaguar. He can play classical shots, but often chooses the opposite, mostly with stunning results. He is capable of playing test cricket with little more patience, and you’d be hard pressed to find a cleaner striker (for a little man!) in cricket right now. He began IPL 2014 in unprecedented fashion, getting his little-fancied Kings XI team to the finals before fizzling out.
KANE WILLIAMSON (NZ)
He started his ODI career at age 19 with two consecutive ducks. The 24-year-old is currently in the middle of the purplest of purple patches in the most unlikely format. He is ruling the current CLT20 tournament as part of the Northern Knights, with the fastest century and a couple of opening 50s to boot. He terrorized India and West Indies (3 Test centuries) when they visited this year, and is finally living up to his initial promise.
PAT CUMMINS (AUS)
Finally, a bowler on the list. And what a bowler, when not injured or recuperating. He is yet to play a test after his stunning match-winning debut against South Africa at Johannesburg (6-79), and is slowly making his way back from injury while playing for the Knight Riders—on and off—in the IPL. He is 21, and yet to mature into a fast bowling body machine, but oh boy, it’ll be fun when he does.
MANAN VOHRA (IND)
The next Sehwag, many say, and who would disagree? Especially when he opens with his idol for Kings XI Punjab, and actually overshadows him. The 21 year old has been blazing away for three years now, and is bound to make an appearance soon after the 2015 World Cup.
JAMES MUIRHEAD (AUS)
A blond Australian leg spinner, who can actually spin the ball while being pretty darn accurate. Where have we heard that before?
PRITHVI SHAW (IND)
He is now 15, and the holder of pretty much every junior world batting record there is. The Virar resident is a prodigy—many say he is better than Tendulkar at the same age—and there is no doubt that he will be one of India’s youngest debutants very soon. Obviously, sponsors have noticed this, and SG has just signed him for 30 lakhs, while a host of mentors, politicians, well-wishers continue to help him and his (jobless) father achieve a dream they’ve shared together for a decade.