Making your international debut, irrespective of format, is an irreplaceable high for any cricketer. No matter what happens later, the first match remains etched in the player’s memory forever.
In the game of cricket, there have been numerous instances when two players, who went on to become big names in the sport, made their debut in the same match. Indian duo Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid making their famed entry at Lord’s in 1996 is the most famous among the cases.
Further, famous South Africans Jonty Rhodes and Hansie Cronje made their one-day debut in the 1992 World Cup clash against Australia. Another Indian duo, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan, entered the international cricket scene together during the ICC Knockout in Kenya in 2000. Proteas legends Dale Steyn and AB de Villiers also made their Test debut in the same match, against England at Port Elizabeth in December 2004.
But, did you know that there have been instances of three players, who would go on to become legends, all making their debuts together? Take a look.
1. Sir Clyde Walcott, Sir Everton Weekes and Jim Laker (Bridgetown Test, January 1948)
Two of the famous Ws of West Indies cricket, Sir Clyde Walcott, Sir Everton Weekes, made their Test debut together, in the Bridgetown Test of January 1948. Neither managed to make much of an impression in their first game. While Walcott managed only 8 and 16, Weekes was dismissed for 35 and 25.
In the years to come, both would go on to become legendary batsmen, and would combine with Sir Frank Worrell to form the famous three Ws of Windies cricket. Walcott finished his career with 3798 runs in 44 Tests, at an average of 56.68 (15 hundreds) while Weekes finished with 4,455 runs in 48 Tests at an average of 58.61 (15 centuries).
The third cricketer to make his Test debut in the game was none other than Jim Laker -- the first man to take all ten wickets in a Test innings. The late off-spinner made a brilliant first impression, claiming 7 for 103 from 37 overs in the first innings. He clean bowled Walcott and opposition skipper George Headley before returning to clean up the tail.
Laker would go on to prove that his debut success was no fluke. He finished his Test career with 193 scalps in 46 Tests at an average of 21.24 (9 five-wicket hauls). While most people remember him for claiming all ten wickets in the second innings of the 1956 Old Trafford Test, it is an equally incredible fact that he also claimed nine wickets in the first!
2. Sir Vivian Richards, Sir Andy Roberts, Duleep Mendis (Manchester, 1975 World Cup)
The 4th match of the 1975 Prudential World Cup marked the one-day entries of Sir Vivian Richards, Sir Andy Roberts and Duleep Mendis. All of them would go on to play for their country with great distinction. Roberts made an impactful debut finishing with 2 for 16 in 12 overs. The figures included as many as five maidens. While Mendis managed only eight on debut, Richards did not have to bat as Windies chased down a paltry 87 with ease.
In the years to come, Richards would make a name for himself as one of the most destructive batsmen in world cricket. Roberts, on the other hand, was deadly dangerous with the ball for most of his career. While Mendis played in an era where Sri Lanka were predominantly weak, he was considered the best Lankan batsman of his time.
Richards finished his one-day career with 6,721 runs in 187 ODIs at an average of 47, including a best of 189 not out against England at Manchester in 1984. Roberts claimed 87 scalps in 50 games at a measly average of 20.35. Both had highly accomplished Test careers as well.
Mendis' one-day figures pale in comparison to Richards. But, he had a significant role to play in Sri Lanka’s rise as a cricket-playing nation. He scored 1,527 runs in 79 ODIs at an average of 23.49. Mendis scored a quick half-century in Sri Lanka's upset win over India in the 1979 World Cup.
However, he is best remembered for his Test feats after Sri Lanka were granted status to play the longer version of the game. He scored 105 in each innings against India at Chennai in 1982 and 111 and 94 at Lord’s a couple of years later.
3. Graham Gooch, Sir Ian Botham and Michael Holding (Scarborough ODI, 1976)
The first ODI of West Indies’ tour of England marked the one-day debuts of English greats Graham Gooch and Sir Ian Botham as well as Windies legend Michael Holding. While Gooch and Holding did reasonably well, Botham had a forgettable debut.
West Indies elected to field first in the game, and Holding was among West Indies’ successful bowlers with 2 for 38. He had Bob Woolmer caught for 3, and also dismissed the other debutant Botham, for 1. Later, Botham also struggled with the ball. While he sent back Lawrence Rowe, he was taken for 26 runs in his three overs. Coming into bat at number six, Gooch made a credible 32 from 69 balls with four boundaries.
All three would go on to have impressive one-day careers. Holding claimed 142 wickets in 102 ODIs at an average of 21.36. He earned the nickname Whispering Death for his quiet approach to the bowling crease. Botham, on the other hand, scored over 2,000 runs and claimed 145 wickets in one-dayers. He was part of England’s 1979 and 1992 World Cup final XI.
As for Gooch, he finished with 4,290 runs in 125 one-day matches with eight hundreds to his credit. He is best remembered for ‘sweeping’ defending champions India out of the 1987 World Cup, with a sublime hundred in the semi-finals at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.