England Under-19s v Pakistan Under-19s July 25, 2007

Hamilton-Brown defends Under-19 cricket

Rory Hamilton-Brown defends Under-19 cricket: "If you do well, people take note" © Getty Images
England's Under-19 captain Rory Hamilton-Brown has leapt to the defence of junior international cricket after Adil Rashid was removed from the squad to continue playing for Yorkshire.

Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire's coach, said earlier in the week: "I asked whether it was better for Adil to be bowling against the likes of Stuart Law and Brad Hodge and batting against Muttiah Muralitharan or playing Under-19s cricket?"

Hamilton-Brown agrees with the decision to keep Rashid playing for his county - but he says this is an exception to the rule. "It's a massive thing to play Under-19s, the next step up is playing for the A-team. He's already done that, he's already at the next level. He's a special case."

And, of course, Rashid's absence gives someone else a chance to impress: U-19 has a definite value as a shop window, not to mention the representative honours it entails. This year, for example, Hamilton-Brown's opportunities at Surrey have been limited to the extent where he can't even get a bowl in the seconds now that his fellow slow bowlers Ian Salisbury, Steven Smith and Simon King are all featuring.

Giving up his second-team spot for a month means that his first-team chances are ever decreasing. But with first-class opportunities looking unlikely in the foreseeable future, Hamilton-Brown knows that it's a shrewd move - not to mention an honour - for him to play youth international cricket in the interim.

"There may be no first-team opportunities anyway, and the Under-19s is a fresh and enjoyable period of the summer. If you do well, a lot of people take note."

And then, of course, is the challenge presented by the visitors. He welcomes the stiff test that Pakistan, the World Cup holders, will present: "It will be a massive challenge. I'd expect them to be a very, very, very good side."

After India gave them a sound working over last year, he says that lessons have been learnt. "The India series helped massively," he said, putting a positive spin on England's failure to win a game against them in either Tests or one-dayers. Then again, age-group cricket is about learning for the higher game.

Hamilton-Brown will be too old for next year's U-19 World Cup, but he still hopes to be a part of laying the foundations. Even so, the emphasis this series won't be on the one-dayers alone. The emphasis will be on victory. "It's about winning every match, getting the younger players into the winning mentality. Tactics will be important of course, for the one-dayers, as will the game-plan."

This is his first series as captain, after a shoulder operation prevented him from taking up the reins in Malaysia last winter. With that previous announcement - and the fact that he's captained England U-16, Surrey seconds and Surrey at all age groups - his appointment this time shouldn't have come as any revelation, but he takes nothing for granted. "I was a little bit surprised."

He's pleased with the side. "I'm very happy with it, it's a strong squad." Opportunities for them to practise together will be few and far between, but he's not fazed: "Everyone's been playing a lot of first and second team cricket. It's a case of getting together and seeing what we need to achieve as a unit."

The first Test begins on August 4 at a yet-to-be-determined venue after New Road's floods

Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo