The Under-19 Cricket World Cup 2008 has commenced in Malaysia and will feature 16 teams. This is a high profile event which will be viewed by thousands of people worldwide. The U-19 Cup, played every two years, provides a key platform for national cricket boards and national public to identify players for the future.
In my view one of the biggest advantages of such a platform is that will help identify mentally strong players, the types who have learned from an early age to not let pressure get to them. This type of tournament will especially benefit players from less developed cricketing nations such as Pakistan and Bangladesh because they will get a chance to compete with players from teams like Australia and England who have benefited from a high level of technology in their training as well as top quality coaching. What countries like Pakistan and India are also looking for are players who can play their natural game in foreign conditions, massive stadiums, against players from more privileged and developed backgrounds.
Following is a list of the past U-19 Cup finalists, with the winning team mentioned first, in bold:
1988- Australia vs Pakistan
1998- England vz New Zealand
2000- India vs Sri Lanka
2002- Australia vs South Africa
2004- Pakistan vs West Indies
2006- Pakistan vs India
Many players who featured in an U-19 Cup have gone on to become superstars in the international arena. Brian Lara, Sanath Jayasuria, Chris Gayle etc are all high profile players who started from the U-19 Cup. From Pakistan and India’s point of view, the following players played in the U-19 Cup and went on to become international superstars:
Inzamam, Mushtaq Ahmed, Harbhajan, Sehwag, Kaneria, Razzaq, Yuvraj, Malik, Kaif etc.
The key players that feature in India and Pakistan’s squads at present are:
1) Virat Kohli– attacking right handed batsman, highly respected player with a cool head
2) Ravindra Jadeja– left handed all rounder who scored a 50 on his first class debut
3) Perry Goyal– highly regarded wicketkeeper who was also once touted to play for the national team, when Dhoni was not discovered
4) Iqbal Abdulla– highly regarded left handed all rounder who was also once reported to have impressed BCCI for an international assignment
1) Imad Wasim– Welsh born left handed all rounder who is the captain of the team
2) Ahmad Shahzad– attacking top order batsman, right handed
3) Umer Akmal– right handed batsman, younger brother of disgraced wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal, and averages 78 currently in first class cricket
4) Ali Asad– an admirer of Sourav Ganguly, Asad is an attacking wicket keeper batsman who has been knocking on the doors of international selection for some time
Pakistan and India are not scheduled to play in the preliminary matches, but may well contest in the quarter finals. Both of these teams contain some very talented cricketers who may represent their country in Test cricket, in the not too distant future. Pakistan have won the last two Cups and will look to carry the same momentum this Cup as well.