Cook: “U19 World Cup is a great opportunity for players to test themselves against the best in the world and hopefully create some lasting memories”
McCullum: “No doubt there will be some stars of the future playing this time around too”
Azhar Ali: “The ICC U19 Cricket World Cup gives young players the feel of international cricket in a highly competitive environment”
O’Brien: “A tremendous tournament which we still talk about in the Irish dressing room”
With just 15 days to go before the first ball is bowled in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup Bangladesh 2016, current stars Alastair Cook of England, New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum, Azhar Ali of Pakistan and Ireland’s Kevin O’Brien recall how their participation in this tournament has helped them develop as cricketers.
The upcoming tournament will take place in four Bangladesh cities from 27 February to 14 March and will feature nine Test-playing nations and seven Associate and Affiliate members – Afghanistan, Canada, Fiji, Ireland, Namibia, Nepal and Scotland.
Cook, the England Test captain who played in the 2004 edition in Bangladesh, said it’s a special feeling to take part in a global event.
“Representing your country at a World Cup is a huge honour and a special occasion for players, coaches and families,” he said.
“Getting selected is down to a lot of hard work and sacrifice. An ICC U19 Cricket World Cup is a great opportunity for players to test themselves against the best in the world and hopefully create some lasting memories.
“Very best of luck to all involved and in particular the England team led by Brad Taylor.”
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum, who played in the 1998 tournament in South Africa, agreed with Cook that the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup was a great learning experience.
“I look back at the tournament as a step up from anything I had played in beforehand,” said McCullum. “It’s an opportunity to test yourself against the world’s best and no doubt there will be some stars of the future playing this time around too.”
McCullum said his senior team will be closely following the performance of the young New Zealand cricketers in Bangladesh.
“Good luck to all the players lucky enough to be attending and especially the New Zealand team”, he said. “The Black Caps will be keeping a close eye on how you go.”
Pakistan’s one-day captain Azhar Ali, a frontline batsman who played in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2002 as a wrist spinner, said it was an important tournament for any ambitious youngster.
“This tournament is taken seriously by all because it affords an opportunity to throw the young ones in the deep end and assess their future potential,” said Azhar.
“It is a great platform to showcase talent and make a mark. Those who do are often noticed by their respective selectors, which is why so many of us who first featured in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup have gone on to become senior pros.
“The ICC U19 Cricket World Cup gives young players the feel of international cricket in a highly competitive environment. It also makes one realise the importance of representing the nation and aware of the expectations of the team and the nation.”
Kevin O’Brien of Ireland, who played against Cook in the 2004 event in Bangladesh, hoped the current cricketers will make the most of the opportunity of taking part in an ICC event.
“It was a learning curve for us both as individuals and as a team,” the all-rounder recalled. “As youngsters we learnt what life on tour was all about.
“It was a tremendous tournament to play in and we still talk about it in the Irish dressing room.
“The best piece of advice I can give to players travelling to Bangladesh is they should try and embrace the local culture, try the local cuisine and not just stay in their hotel rooms. They will grow as cricketers.”