Dubai, Jan 15 IBNS | 7 months ago

With 30 days to go to before the start of the 10th edition of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup, former stars of the tournament have hailed it as the best platform for budding cricketers.


The ICC U19 CWC 2014 is scheduled to take place across seven venues in the UAE, and will feature the 16 leading Under 19 teams.

Venkatapathy Raju, who had played in the first edition of the tournament in Australia in 1988, went on to represent India in 28 Tests and 53 ODIs and was also a national selector, said: "As selectors, we always tried to push those youngsters that had performed well in the ICC U19 CWC into the senior squad, since they had proved themselves in a truly world event.

"I still talk about our U19 days whenever I catch up with the likes of Narendra Hirwani and Aqib Javed. The ICC U19 CWC has become a much more important tournament now than it was in our days, thanks to the efforts of the ICC, and every young cricketer wants to be a part of it now," he said.

South Africa Test captain Graeme Smith, who was the leading scorer of the 2000 edition in Sri Lanka with 348 runs at an average of 87, said: "Playing the tournament was a big step up for me as a young cricketer. It was seen then as the pinnacle for all aspiring cricketers.

"At that level, I felt the important element was to go out there and to enjoy your cricket, make lasting memories and friendships," he said.

"My advice to those playing this tournament: Have fun! There are many young cricketers around the world that would love to have the opportunity of playing in such an elite event. Remember you are representing your country, so it's important to have pride in your performances on and off the field," Smith said.

Indian cricketer Mohammad Kaif, who led India to the ICC U19 CWC 2000 title, said: "Our winning the crown changed the landscape of age-group cricket in India forever, and for the best."

Reflecting on the impact of that success on cricket in India, he said: "We were recognised much more thanks to the media coverage, and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) started investing a lot more in youth cricket by sending youngsters to foreign academies and giving budding cricketers much more international exposure at all levels. It also started a proper youth development programme after the ICC U19 CWC 2000, the results of which India is reaping now."

"Making it to even the Uttar Pradesh Ranji Trophy team was very difficult in those days, so I would never have played first class or international cricket so quickly had we not won the tournament. And that says it all, really," Kaif said.

Indian batting sensation Yuvraj Singh was the Player of the Tournament of the 2000 edition.

Agreeing with Kaif, he said: "The ICC CWC 2000 was a tremendous stepping stone in my career. It gave me the confidence to do well in future global ICC tournaments such as the ICC World Twenty20 2007 and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, in which I contributed to India's title-triumphs. I had been there, done that."

"Beating Australia in the semi-finals was one of my happiest memories from the ICC U19 CWC 2000. And what a happy coincidence it is, that in 2007 we managed to beat Australia in the semi-finals and in 2011 we got past them in the quarter-finals," Singh said.

Sri Lanka Twenty20 International captain Dinesh Chandimal, who kept wickets for the country in the ICC U19 CWC 2008, said: "I thoroughly enjoyed playing that tournament, since it gives young players a great chance to test not just their skills but also their temperament, against players from other countries that are at a similar stage of development."

"Winning the Man of the Match award against Australia during the ICC CWC 2008 gave a tremendous boost to my confidence and self-belief, and told me I belonged to the big stage," Chandimal said.

"I will follow the ICC U19 CWC UAE 2014 as keenly as I can, and look forward to spotting some exciting stars of the future," he said.

Junaid Khan, who was a member of the Pakistan squad for the 2008 edition, said: "The fact that so many of my peers from my U19 days - the likes of Ahmad Shehzad, Umar Amin, Umar Akmal, Shan Masood, Mohammad Amir and Usman Salahuddin - have also worn national colours, stands as a true testament to the ICC U19 CWC as a breeding ground for future stars."

"The bonds we have formed and the experiences we have shared during our transition to the senior team have all been lasting and memorable. We've grown together, learnt with and from each other, and can all say that playing the ICC U19 CWC went a long way in making us the players we are today," he said.

"I'm personally thrilled for our U19 boys that they're getting a chance to open their campaign against arch-rival India at the ICC U19 CWC UAE 2014. That's where you feel the most pressure as an Indian or as a Pakistani, and it will be a baptism by fire for many of the boys in both teams," Khan said.

The ICC U19 CWC UAE 2014 will be staged across seven venues from Feb 14 to Mar 1.

A total of 48 matches will be played, with India looking to defend the title it won in Australia in 2012.

(Posted on 16-01-2014)