Former England captain Nasser Hussain has thrown his weight behind the forthcoming ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2012, to be staged in Queensland, Australia, from 11-26 August.
Hussain himself represented England at the inaugural ICC U19 Cricket World Cup in Australia in 1987/88 and cracked four half-centuries (68 v ICC Associates XI, 50 v West Indies, 61 v New Zealand and 58 v Australia in final). He went on to represent England in 96 Tests and 88 ODIs in an illustrious 15-year career from 1989 to 2004.
"My suggestion and advice to the cricketers will be to focus and make optimum use of the time they will be in Australia. In life, you don't get too many opportunities. I would say make use of it and grab the opportunity," said Hussain, who is now one of the most respected voices in the sport.
Hussain admitted that he learnt a lot from his time in Australia during the same event 24 years ago. "I just think any cricket that you can play in against different countries in different conditions does a world of good to your skill and experience. I had never been in Australia before, I had never played in such a heat before, conditions were so different and alien to what we were used to.
"We played Pakistan in one game and saw how their spin bowlers were as we had never played spin bowling like that before. Then we played against Australia on their home turf and saw the front foot techniques of their batsmen.
"I think just playing in different conditions against high-class players at that age and then you realise that is actually the pinnacle. At that age you weren't going to play against anything better than that.
"If you were playing against Pakistan, Australia or India, you knew that they were the highest standards and if you could cope with those standards and do well, then you realise that you probably have a future in the game."
Hussain was delighted that the youngsters, apart from excellent cricket environment, were also receiving education and training on anti-doping, anti-corruption and media. "It is a finishing school for future stars and I am glad that they are getting all this education because it is a young age.
"Especially now with countries are playing players at a very young age, you could be in that tournament (ICC U19 Cricket World Cup), do well and a year later you are playing for your national side. And then all the bonus plus pitfalls of the game come to you," he concluded.
Inzamam had a modest ICC U19 CWC 1988 when he managed scores of 33 v ICC Associates XI, five each v Sri Lanka and West Indies, 39 v India, 43 not out v New Zealand, nine v England, 25 v Australia, 27 v West Indies (in semi-final) and 37 v Australia (in final). But he retired in 2007 after 16 years of international cricket after scoring 8,830 Test runs (average 49.6) and 11,739 ODI runs (average 39.52).
"The ICC U19 Cricket World Cup was probably the right opportunity for me at the right time. That tour helped me clearly understand where I stood in my age group and what I needed to do if I was keen to pursue my career in cricket," said Inzamam, who captained Pakistan in 31 Tests, 87 ODIs and one T20I.
"The ICC U19 CWC is an event where opportunity meets talent. Cricketers of the same age group from around the world get together to compete for the biggest prize in that category. If you have little bit of talent and spark, then this is the event from where you can only get better and make a name for yourself.
"We all know how well ICC runs and organises its events and when these events take place in a country like Australia, I don't think talented teenagers can ask for anything better or more.
"I think from now until the last ball is bowled in the tournament, the players should think nothing but cricket as only those who will put their hearts and souls in their preparations will reap the rewards in the long run."
Inzamam hoped some of the cricketers from the ICC U19 CWC 2012 will return to Australia for the ICC CWC 2015. "I have no doubts that a lot of coaches will be following the ICC U19 CWC 2012 and I'm sure that a number of players, who will excel this August, will get preference over players who may be equal in talent but may not have the experience of playing in Australia when teams are finalized for the ICC CWC 2015.
"I, along with Mushtaq Ahmed and Aqib Javed, got the selectors' nod ahead of some more talented players in the Pakistan squad for the ICC CWC 1992 because we had the experience of playing in Australia. And I am glad that we were able to justify the selectors' faith in our abilities and played for a very long time for Pakistan."
Inzamam advised the teenagers to value this tournament and make it count. "My advice to these players will be to respect this opportunity and make maximum use of it. And if they succeed in Australia, then sky is the limited for them."
Like Inzamam, Sanath Jayasuriya also played in the ICC CWC 1992 after having represented Sri Lanka in the ICC U19 CWC 1988. At that event, Jayasuriya's highest score was 53 against India but the explosive left-hander retired from international cricket after playing 586 interntional matches for his country in which he scored 21,032 runs, including 6,973 runs in Tests, 13,430 runs in ODIs and 629 runs in T20Is.
Jayasuriya said he cannot forget the ICC U19 CWC as it was the first of his many trips to Australia. "That was my first tour actually. I had never been out of the country before and it was good to be part of the system. Most of my team-mates were from Colombo and just a couple of us were from outstations. It was a massive experience.
"I remember I had language and food problems. It was a unique experience in every sense and it would be fair to say that the event is Australia gave us a taste of what to expect in our careers."
Jayasuriya believed the ICC U19 CWC was a perfect stage for promising cricketers to make a name for themselves. "This tournament provides a lot of opportunities to young and promising players. If you see, most of our cricketers who have played in ICC U19 CWCs have gone on to do well at the big stage.
"The inaugural event produced some of the real stars of world cricket in Brian Lara, Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain, Inzamam-ul-Haq etc. All these guys went onto have successful careers and most of them even captained their countries as well.
"That was a great tournament and I was privileged to be there as a member of the Sri Lanka side," Jayasuriya