Darren Bravo: “It helped me step up to the big stage, was a great eye-opener and taught me what it means to our people and how we can be good ambassadors”
Junaid Khan: “In Pakistan, it is considered the first step towards being recognised as a future senior team player”
Steven Smith: “Playing in it has inspired me in many ways, and I’m now aspiring to play the even bigger version – the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, at home in Australia
Ross Taylor: “It gives an insight into what’s needed for an international cricketer, and teaches you how to deal with high-pressure situations against the best at that level”
Current international stars Darren Bravo of the West Indies, Junaid Khan of Pakistan, Steven Smith of Australia and Ross Taylor of New Zealand have all praised the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup (ICC U19 CWC) as the perfect finishing school for budding international cricketers.
Bravo topped both the batting and bowling averages for the West Indies at the ICC U19 CWC Malaysia 2008. He scored 165 runs from five matches at an average of 55 and also took three wickets at an average of just seven.
Remembering his time at that event, Bravo said: “We had a wonderful time in Malaysia. Our team was a strong one, but we didn’t manage to win the tournament.
“I remember the opening ceremony, where all the teams were present and where we got to meet a lot of our opponents and ‘talk cricket’ – I made some friends that day and we remain good friends still”, he added.
The half-brother of West Indies limited overs captain Dwayne Bravo, Darren is also the cousin of the illustrious Brian Lara, who himself featured in the inaugural edition of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup in Australia in 1988.
Revealing Lara’s advice to him before he left for Malaysia, Darren Bravo said: “I spoke to Brian a few times before the tournament since he had also featured in it, and he simply told me to back myself and go out there and play the way I know. I found that bit of advice useful in Malaysia, and follow it till date.”
Since then, Bravo has gone on to achieve big things at the senior level as well, posting the highest score by a West Indies batsman when following on in a Test Match (218 v New Zealand in the first Test at Dunedin) in December 2013.
Mentioning how the ICC U19 CWC helped prepare him for the big stage, Bravo said: “It was a good eye-opener, and I was delighted to represent the West Indies for the first time.
“For most of my team-mates, it was the first time we were representing the people of our region. So we got to understand how much it meant to the people and also what our responsibilities are. Significantly, we learned to enjoy the game and be good ambassadors”, he added.
Stressing on the importance of the ICC U19 CWC as a finishing school for young cricketers, Bravo said: “The facilities in Malaysia were really good, as they usually are at an ICC U19 CWC.
“That helped me and my team-mates then - the likes of Adrian Barath, Kieran Powell, Devon Thomas, Veerasammy Permaul and Nkrumah Bonner – who like myself have gone on to play for the West Indies senior team.
“We had a great team-spirit, and were able to have a really enjoyable time, playing some good cricket and also getting to see a bit of the host nation”, said the 24-year-old Bravo.
Junaid Khan was a member of the Pakistan side that went on to reach the semi-finals of the same edition. Reminiscing about his time in the ICC U19 CWC Malaysia 2008, he said: “It was a very important event for me since I was, like any other youngster, striving hard to step into professional cricket.
“I took it as a learning opportunity where I would be competing with players from other Test-playing nations. In Pakistan, it is considered as a first step to be recognized as a future talent for the national team. So I was very happy to be the part of this tournament and, at the same time, it also put me through some tough learning curves which helped me not only as a cricketer but also as a human being.
Junaid made history by becoming the first cricketer to make it to the Pakistan national team from the Swabi District of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region, and is currently ranked 12th in the current Reliance ICC Player Rankings for ODI Bowlers.
When asked what his advice would be to the pacers who will take part in the ICC U19 CWC UAE 2014, Junaid said: “The first thing I would advise them to do would be to set their own goals as fast bowlers according to their roles in the team.
“They need to be physically fit due to the tough conditions they may face in UAE. The art of using the new ball to take early wickets will be very important in the first 10 overs. But after that, in later stages of the game if they know the art of reverse swing, the use of variations such as yorkers and bouncers will help. The pitches in the UAE are not very helpful for fast bowling, but if someone puts in a whole-hearted effort, he will get the rewards”, he added.
Like Darren Bravo and Junaid Khan, Steven Smith too featured in the ICC U19 CWC Malaysia 2008. In that edition, Smith scored 114 runs from four matches at an average of 28.50. And with the ball, he took seven wickets at an average of 17.
Looking back at it, Smith said: “It was a great tournament, and I got to face the best young players from around the world. It was also great to play in different conditions and on different wickets. It was an opportunity to experience playing international cricket at a developmental stage of my career.”
Smith recently scored two centuries against England in the Ashes series. He also became, at the age of 24 years and 81 days, the youngest Australian Ashes centurion since Ricky Ponting in 1997.
Discussing how playing the ICC U19 CWC helped shape him into the player he is today, Smith said: “I think it was a great chance to be exposed to different players from around the world. A lot of these players have gone on to play at the elite level in international cricket, so being able to face these guys in Under 19 cricket was great.
“It also gave me the experience to prepare for other tournaments and I now have aspirations to play in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 when it is here in Australia”, he added.
His advice to those playing the 10th edition of the ICC U19 CWC: “I think as a part of any team you should be trying to win - that's why we play the game. Go out with a positive mindset, and do your best to get your country over the line. Continue to learn, while you're doing that.”
Ross Taylor, who played at home in New Zealand in the ICC U19 CWC 2002, said he looks back fondly at the tournament: “I was 17 and the captain of New Zealand at home, which was nice.
“We had a pretty strong side, and a few players from it have gone on to play international cricket, like Neil Broom, Jesse Ryder, Rob Nicol and a few others. The tournament went by pretty quickly, but it was just nice to represent your country in an ICC U19 Cricket World Cup at home and to look back on it, to see a few other stars that are playing for other countries, and dominating world cricket at the moment as well.”
Taylor had a disappointing tournament by his high standards in 2002, scoring 85 runs from six matches at an average of 21.25 and with a highest score of 58 not out. Reflecting on his performance there, he said: “In judging yourself against the best age-group players at that time, it was great.
“I think the World Cup concept had only been around for probably two or three tournaments before that, and it was nice to get on and play and see these guys go on. We didn’t go as well as we would have liked, but it was definitely a good insight into what I wanted to do as an international cricketer, and gave me a little bit of a taste of it as well.
“Playing against a lot of different opposition – playing against countries that probably play against a little bit more spin and faster bowlers – that was the biggest thing, and I think the pressures that come with playing in high-pressure situations did help me when I started my international career, and in First Class and List A matches”, said the former New Zealand captain.
Taylor, who is currently third in the Reliance ICC Player Rankings for Test Batsmen and has 11 centuries to go with 21 half-centuries in the game’s longest format, signed off with the following advice for ICC U19 CWC UAE 2014 players: “Just embrace it, and enjoy every moment of it – as you go into it, it’s a pretty good time in your life, when you’re playing for your country at a pretty young age, and I’m sure all the experience that you get, regardless of whether you do go on to play international cricket, will always be a highlight for you.”
The following releases will go out later this fortnight:
29 Jan – Shikhar Dhawan, Tamim Iqbal and Quinton de Kock remember their time at the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup
30 Jan - Excitement the name of the game at the ICC U19 CWC – a look back at some classic, thrilling encounters
2 Feb – Statistical review of players and teams participating in the ICC U19 CWC UAE 2014, as teams and players set their sights on existing ICC U19 CWC records
3 Feb – ICC U19 CWC UAE 2014 umpire and match referee appointments
5 Feb – Group A and Group B captains share their excitement, expectations and approach
6 Feb – Group C and Group D captains discuss their preparations and build-up to the event
7 Feb – Form guide – how the participating teams have fared in the tournaments prior to this, who have been their star performers and how they’ve trained specifically for this edition