Thursday, November 22, 2007

Intriguing Case of the U-19 Cricketers

In one of my blogging conversations with Soulberry, he mentioned that it would be a great story to write about cricketers who have started from a young age representing their countries in the different age groups, i.e. U-19, U-15, and others. Since that discussion I have been thinking about doing a piece on this story. This morning when I read about the launch of the under-19 World Cup to be played in Malaysia in February 2008, I thought this would be the perfect time to do so.
The first such tournament was played in 1988 and was won by Australia, who beat Pakistan in the final. Stuart Law was part of the Aussie team that beat a Pakistan side including future stars Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mushtaq Ahmed, and other internationals like Basit Ali and Zahoor Elahi. For some reason, the U-19 World Cup then disappeared for the next 10 years before it was held again in 1998, and since then it has been held every 2 years.

The last edition was held in 2006 in Sri Lanka and was won by Pakistan in a thrilling final against India. Pakistan's captain from that tournament, Sarfraz Ahmed, made his international debut against India in the 5th ODI of the series that just ended. Rohit Sharma, India's star from the 20-20 world cup, and Piyush Chawla, part of India's U-19 side of 2006, have also made their international debuts. Pakistan in fact successfully defended the title in 2006 - they had won the U-19 World Cup in 2004, beating West Indies in the final. Fawad Alam, who played his 2nd ODI against India in the 5th match of the recent series, was part of the victorius U-19 team in 2004. Pakistan go into the U-19 World Cup in February looking for a hatrick of titles. Some achievement, don't you think?

The other 3 editions have seen England beating New Zealand to win the title in 1998, India beating Sri Lanka in 2000, and Australia beating South Africa to become U-19 champs in 2002.

It is interesting to note that there are a number of current international cricketers, who have represented their countries at the U-19 level. There maybe more than shown in the table below, which only lists international players to have played U-19 world cups. Two examples that spring to mind are Andrew Flintoff and Shahid Afridi, both of whom have played at the U-19 level but not in a world cup. I have also included players from the U-15 Lombard Challenge that was played in 1996 in England.

You will have to 'click' on the picture to see the table clearly in full size. Some intriguing points:

1. Australia and South Africa have blooded the least number of U-19 players. Why do you think this is?

2. Alan Mulally and Andrew Caddick, both of whom played international cricket for England, represented Australia and New Zealand respectively in the 1988 U-19 World Cup.

3. Pakistan's international team seems to be comprised of players who have represented them at the U-19 level. They have blooded the most number of U-19 cricketers, followed by India.

4. While all countries seem to have produced several international stars from the U-19 cricketers shown above, for Australia there has been only one - Micheal Clarke. Again, I wonder why? Where all the Australian U-19 cricketeres - still playing the Pura Cup?

5. A number of cricketers were identified as future captains while playing at the U-19 level: Micheal Atherton, Lee Germon, Micheal Clarke, Salman Butt, Ian Bell, Owais Shah, Mohammad Kaif, Reetinder Sodhi, Faisal Iqbal, Dinesh Ramdin, and Hashim Amla.

6. The most interesting case of an U-19 cricketer not making it, is that of Reetinder Singh Sodhi. He captained India to the title in the U-15 Lombard Challenge in 1996, and was also man of the match in the final against Pakistan, and the man of the tournament. Sodhi was vice-captain of India's U-19 team in the 1998 world cup. He was also vice-captain of the team in 2000, and man of the match in the final that India won by beating Sri Lanka. Sodhi was considered to be India's brightest youngest prospect in the late 90s - after helping India win the U-19 world cup in 2000, he mentioned that his aim was to play for India in the 2003 world cup. Sodhi made his ODI debut in 2000 and played 18 ODIs between 2000 and 2003 without much success. His Indian career seems finished and he will now be seen representing the Chandigarh Lions in the ICL.
While India and Pakistan have banked on a number of U-19 cricketers, Australia and South Africa haven't. The latter two are the leading international teams today. Does this tell you something? Should the U-19 cricketers be given more time to develop in India and Pakistan? Should they learn more about cricket structures and development of players from Australia and South Africa?
Let me know what you think.

Make your pitch on this post...



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5 Pitched:

  1. Miriam said...
     

    Bangladesh would have been an interesting study as well - their whole squad seems to consist of players in their early twenties.

  2. Q said...
     

    As Obaid mentioned - people from Bangladesh will have to visit this blog to make us consider them as a major cricketing nation.

    But you are right, they are an interesting study. Very interesting for that matter.

    Bangladesh are the plate winners of the 1998 and 2004 U-19 world cups.

    The U-19 players that have gone on to play for the senior side include:

    1998: Manjural Islam
    2000: Rajin Saleh
    2002: Aftab Ahmed, Nafis Iqbal, Talha Jubair, Mohammad Ashraful, Mashrafe Murtaza
    2004: Nafis Iqbal, Talha Jubair, Enamul Haque Jnr, Aftab Ahmed
    2006: Tamim Iqbal, Sakib ul Hasan, Mushfiq ur Rahim, Mehrab Hossain Jnr.

    The reason I say interesting is that their current captain, Mohammad Ashraful was a part of the U-19 team in the 2002 world cup.

    And whats very interesting is that 3 players who played in the U-19 world cup in 2006: Tamim Iqbal, Sakib Ul Hasan, and Mushfiq ur Rahim also played for Bangladesh in the 2007 world cup in the Windies. Moreover, the same 3 players scored 50s in their victory over India in the WC. All 3 were 18 at the time - imagine, being dumped out of a WC by 18 yr olds.

    Mohammad Ashraful, Rajin Saleh, Aftab Ahmed, and Mashrafe Murtaza are the other former U-19 cricketers who were part of the Bangladesh squad in this years World Cup in the WI.

  3. obaid said...
     

    q, will any of these bright young talents be eligible to play in the U19 world cup next year? If thats the case, would that be a first, i.e. to have played in the regular world cup first and then to play in the U19 world cup?

  4. Miriam said...
     

    Tamim Iqbal might be - I think he might even have been 17 when Bangladesh beat India this year. He's in the u19 squad at the moment touring Pakistan.

  5. Q said...
     

    Tamim Iqbal will still be eligible to play next years u-19 world cup. He will not turn 19 till end March next year and the world cup gets underway in February.

    In fact Tamim Iqbal is playing in the u-19 4-day match against Pakistan, which is going on as we speak. (http://content-gulf.cricinfo.com/pakistan/engine/match/318660.html)

    Barring injury or a senior team tour, Tamim Iqbal will definitely turn out for the Bangladesh U-19 team at next years World Cup, which will in fact make it a first for any player to play in one after playing in the senior team world cup. WOW!

    The other two, Mushfiq ur Rahim and Sakib ul Hasan have turned 19, thus making them ineligible for next years world cup.

    Another very interesting point is that Hasan Raza, Imran Nazir, Shoaib Malik, and Abdul Razzak are the only players that have played in U-19 world cups after having made their international debuts.

    Abdul Razzak made his ODI debut in 1996 and played in the 1998 U-19 WC, while Imran Nazir and Shoaib Malik made their ODI debuts in 1999 and played in 2000 U-19 WC.

    Imran Nazir had also played a few tests for Pakistan in 1999.

    Hasan Raza made his debut for Pakistan in tests and ODIs in 1996 at the age of 14! And went on to play the U-19 world cups in 1998 and 2000.

    Another thing that I found interesting was that all the other members of the Pakistan U-19 squad that played the 2000 U-19 World Cup made their international debuts between 2000 and 2001, i.e. within a year after the U-19 WC. These players were: Faisal Iqbal, Imran Farhat, Taufiq Umer, Danish Kaneria, Mohammad Sami, Kamran Akmal, Humayun Farhat, and Yasir Arafat.

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