South Africa's Test captain Graeme Smith has said the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup is an important event on the ICC calendar and has hoped players appearing in the ninth edition in Queensland, Australia...
Smith, who played at the ICC U19 CWC 2000 in Sri Lanka where India won the title, further said that this event helps the teenagers to understand what will be expected of them after they have established themselves at the highest level.
"This event has become a regular fixture on the ICC calendar that many young cricketers look forward to and aspire to take part in. The ICC U19 CWC helps teenagers understand what will be expected from them after their careers take flight," said Smith, who was the leading run-getter in Sri Lanka in 2000 with 348 runs at an average of 87.
"The ICC U19 CWC teaches you a lot of discipline that goes a long way in helping youngsters. This event teaches you how to handle stress when you are away from home and your close support group, educates you how to adjust to different countries with different cultures and customs. And more importantly, it teaches you that you have to be responsible for the way you behave, both on and off the field during the tournament.
"This event is a great way of learning about anti-corruption, anti-doping etc and what will be expected of you on the bigger stage. It gives you a taste of how it is like on the bigger stage.
"Apart from cricket, it is a great opportunity to build your character as nothing can replace what you learn on a tour," said Smith, who scored a half-century in the Plate Championship final against Bangladesh.
Reflecting on the 2000 tournament, the left-handed opener said: "I was a young and eager cricketer in 2000 in Sri Lanka. I remember the excitement and honour I felt for having the opportunity to represent my country.
"It was a very enjoyable tournament as I made new friends, some of whom I am currently playing with or against on the international circuit," Smith concluded.
Another cricketer to emerge from the ranks of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup is Sri Lanka's all-rounder Angelo Mathews.
Though the 25-year-old from Colombo had a quiet tournament in 2004 in Bangladesh, when he played in just two matches and took two wickets, he understands the importance of this event in the development and growth of future stars.
"As a 16-year-old I was very excited and nervous going into the World Cup because it was my first ICC event. And though I played in two matches only, it gave me tremendous amount of courage.
"Initially, I started off as a bowling all-rounder and I batted lower down the order. But I graduated slowly and steadily into a batting all-rounder. I think it was the turning point of my career," said Mathews.
Mathews, a product of Colombo's prestigious St Joseph's College, said the event this August will be different to the one he played in about eight years ago. "It will be a new experience for the U19 guys as they will be playing on harder and bouncier tracks of Australia as compared to the low and slow tracks of the sub-continent.
"When you come to Australia as an international cricketer, you suddenly find bouncy and seaming conditions and are expected to adapt really quickly. The bounce is very true which is comparatively easy for the batsmen but still they have got to adapt to the conditions quickly. The fast bowlers will always enjoy bowling in Australia because the conditions are such. I think they will enjoy more than the batsmen.
"I think cricketers assembling in Queensland next month should be very excited because they are the best 15 chosen in their age group to represent their countries. They should be willing to grab every opportunity that comes their way.
"The future of cricket lies in the hands of cricketers who'll be appearing in Queensland next month. Whoever has come through the U19s has always done well. Look at Upul Tharanga, Farveez Maharoof and others. All those who have done well at the U19 level, have more often than not gone onto represent their countries at the highest level.
"I think our young side has got tremendous talent and potential. It is just that they need to work harder and try to reach the final somehow. Whenever we get a chance, we try and talk to these players and help them out. So, we always look at the U19s very carefully and always offer our fullest support towards them becoming good players," Mathews concluded.