It's that time of year again, as I choose my annual World Under-25 XI, my selection of the best players in the world at Test level born on or after 1 January 1979.
My selections, in batting order and including nationality and date of birth:
1 Graeme Smith SAF 01/02/81 capt 2 Taufeeq Umar PAK 20/06/81 3 Chris Gayle WI 21/09/79 4 Ramnaresh Sarwan WI 23/06/80 5 Jacques Rudolph SAF 04/05/81 6 Abdul Razzaq PAK 02/12/79 7 Tatenda Taibu ZIM 14/05/83 wk 8 Daniel Vettori NZ 27/01/79 9 Harbhajan Singh IND 03/07/80 10 Mohammad Sami PAK 24/02/81 11 James Anderson ENG 30/07/82 12 Mark Vermuelen ZIM 02/03/79
Smith is the obvious choice for captain of this group, having bolted out of the blue to captain South Africa in 2003. It should be noted that no Australian within this age category played Test cricket in 2003, although Michael Clarke's time cannot be far away.
Honourable mentions include: Danish Kaneria, Ashish Nehra, Parthiv Patel, Alok Kapali, Mohammad Ashraful, Fidel Edwards, Daren Ganga, Douglas Hondo.
Players from my 2003 eleven reappearing in this year's team: Gayle, Sarwan, Razzaq, Vettori, Harbhajan. (Of the other players from the 2003 team, Virender Sehwag, Daryl Tuffey and Zaheer Khan are too old, while Robert Key, Marlon Samuels and James Foster did not reappear.)
Vettori first appeared in my World Under-25 XI in 1998. Six years later, he appears for the last time, as he turns 25 on January 27.
Previous World Under-25 XIs:
2003: Chris Gayle, Virender Sehwag, Ramnaresh Sarwan (capt), Robert Key, Marlon Samuels, Abdul Razzaq, James Foster (wk), Daniel Vettori, Harbhajan Singh, Daryl Tuffey, Zaheer Khan. (Shahid Afridi 12th)
1999-2002: no teams selected
1998: Adam Bacher, Jacques Kallis, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ricky Ponting, Shaun Pollock, Mark Boucher, Saqlain Mushtaq, Daniel Vettori, Jason Gillespie. (Herschelle Gibbs 12th)
1997: Sachin Tendulkar (capt), Saurav Ganguly, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Stephen Fleming, Ricky Ponting, Pankaj Dharmani (wk), Shaun Pollock, Heath Streak, Chaminda Vaas, Saqlain Mushtaq, Muttiah Muralitharan. (Nixon McLean 12th)
1996: Ajay Jadeja, Sachin Tendulkar (capt), Vinod Kambli, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ricky Ponting, Adam Parore (wk), Dominic Cork, Chaminda Vaas, Heath Streak, Muttiah Muralitharan, Waqar Younis.
1995: Michael Slater, Vinod Kambli, Sachin Tendulkar (capt), Alistair Campbell, Imzamam ul-Haq, Michael Bevan, Adam Parore (wk), Darren Gough, Muttiah Muralitharan, Anil Kumble, Waqar Younis. (Basit Ali 12th).