The ICC U19 Cricket World Cup provides the experience of playing in a top-level international competition to participants and its importance is felt most by cricketers from the associate sides. Afghanistan and Ireland are now full members, but their players too have found this tournament very useful over the years.
Kenya’s Collins Obuya was a prominent player of the side that made the semifinals of the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup while George Dockrell featured in the 2011 edition of the senior tournament. Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan is presently ranked second among bowlers in the MRF Tyres ICC T20I Player Rankings and eighth in the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Player Rankings.
Rashid Khan, Afghanistan (played in 2016): “The U19 World Cup was very important for me because that is the only stage where you can improve yourself. The pressure is like a World Cup, I learnt a lot from that. My best memories were when we beat Zimbabwe and New Zealand. It’s a great opportunity for those nations who don’t play Tests, to show their cricket, to play teams like India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, which are the good sides in U19 World Cup.”
Nitish Kumar, Canada (played in 2010): “Although I believe the talent level at that age is not much different compared to other full member countries, apart from a few players who will probably be playing for their national team in a year or so after the (U19) World Cup, I believe it’s important to test your skills against guys just as good or better to see where you are as a cricketer, and how much more you need to improve.”
George Dockrell, Ireland (played in 2010, led in 2012): “It’s the first real test of playing against the best in the world at your level, it’s important to get into that competition mentality. You have your own games into the group and trying to find a peak within the group and carrying that momentum into the knockout cricket afterwards. It definitely helped me when I broke into the national team and played in the 2011 World Cup, it felt like I had been through that whole World Cup process.”
Collins Obuya, Kenya (played in 2000): “It made me believe in myself and have the desire to play on the big stage. The exposure was fundamental because it prepared me on what to expect in future, if I went on and played in bigger stages. It’s a great exposure for players, especially from associate nations because that’s the first point to gauge their game against Test teams. Most of our players who played in the under-19 World Cup and performed well took those lessons to the national team. The experience at that level goes a long way in building a player.
Gerhard Erasmus, Namibia (played in 2012, led in 2014): “When you get to the under-15 and under-16 stage, then there really is a gap sometimes between men’s cricket and the club and representative cricket you play below. The Under-19 World Cup – having played two of those – showed me where I am and whether I can play.
Mahuru Dai, Papua New Guinea (played in 2002 and 2004): “It was all a learning experience, both on and off the field. Travelling overseas to a new environment and playing against the best cricketers in the world was inspiring for me. It was the best atmosphere that I have ever played in early in my career. The facilities were great both on and off the field with big crowds attending matches in big stadiums.”