Under-19 World Cup 2012

Giant leap on road from boys to men

The Under-19 World Cup will be a stepping stone for some, the pinnacle for others; this tournament is not so much about winning the trophy as it is about developing as as players and as people

George Binoy in Brisbane

August 9, 2012

Comments: 34 | Text size: A | A

The captains of the 16 Under-19 teams pose with the World Cup trophy, Brisbane, August 6, 2012
True success at the Under-19 World Cup is revealed later, depending on how many of these cricketers have lasting careers in cricket © ICC/Matt Roberts

In the lead-up to the 2012 Under-19 World Cup, Alastair Cook, captain of the England team in the 2004 tournament and now leading their one-day international side, said the competition would be "just a start to people's careers rather than a pinnacle". He was both right and wrong.

There are 240 players from 16 countries spread out over three cities in Queensland. For most of them, irrespective of whether they are Indian or Nepalese, English or Namibian, this will be the grandest stage they play on. Most are unlikely to be part of another global tournament, to have exposure to the ICC's policies - on issues as diverse as racism and bat sticker size - and their education on corruption and doping, to have the opportunity of playing in front of a global audience, to be contenders for a World Cup. For many of these boys being in Australia's sunshine state will be the pinnacle of their cricket careers.

That, however, is no mean achievement. From the far corners of the world they have travelled to a storied cricket country at such a formative age. Several of the Zimbabweans, for example, are so young they could play the next Under-19 World Cup in 2014. What was your most determining adventure at 17?

"A lot of these boys haven't ever been away from their parents," says Zimbabwe's coach, Chris Harris, of his team. "In this environment they get what we call 'meal money' or allowances, and they get to buy their own lunches and dinners. So even those little things are great experiences for people who haven't done it before. And I guess it shows you, at a pretty important age, how the real world works."

The players will experience life in a high-pressure global event, without the comforting support of family and friends, away from the familiar surroundings of their home countries, where one does not have to think about how to use the transport system or the self-checkout at the supermarket. They will interact with and learn from cultures they haven't even read about, and begin lasting friendships with people they would have otherwise never met. Not many of us knew about life in Port Moresby or Port Elizabeth at 19, or had a friend from Kabul or Wellington at that age. Walking the streets of Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and Townsville, these boys will have the experience of a lifetime. As people on the cusp of their adult lives, they are starting from the pinnacle of their cricket careers. It will help give them perspective for a life outside the game.

"It's a fantastic experience and already we've seen the players interacting from knowing each other from previous tours," says England coach Tim Boon. "We wholly encourage our players to integrate, we think it broadens their horizons and they make life-long friendships."

There will of course be cricketers for whom this is not the pinnacle of their sporting lives, those who will go on to have successful first-class and international careers, or even just extremely well-paid Twenty20 gigs. They could even be the ones reminiscing before the tournament in 2020 about how instructive and seminal such an experience was. They may or may not be the success stories of this World Cup: runs, wickets and a trophy now, or a lack of them, is no guarantee of success, or failure, over the next five years.

"We wholly encourage our players to integrate, we think it broadens their horizons and they make life-long friendships." England Under-19s coach Tim Boon

"There's a huge difference between the maturity of an 18-year old and a 22-year old," says New Zealand coach Matt Horne. "And along that journey other things do come along. There are guys at U-19 level who don't cut the mustard at a higher level. There are others who miss this team but catch up and overtake."

The winners of the future, though, are likely to be the ones who take most out of today. "They are the kids who stand up, they are the ones who learn, they might listen a bit more," says Stuart Law, Australia's coach. The ones who were most attentive at an ICC seminar about what substances to not put in your body and whom not to speak to. The ones who picked up skills by watching the Australians play bounce, the English handle swing, the Indians use their feet to spin, the Pakistan and Sri Lankan spinners flight the ball, and the joy with which the West Indians play. The ones who made a note of what sort of food to eat, of doing the right exercises at the right time, and of how much sleep to get. The ones who leave Queensland having assessed their games in comparison to others and are determined to bridge or extend the gap. The ones who can deal with triumph and failure, and treat them the same.

Without undermining the achievement of winning the Under-19 World Cup, true success here is revealed later, depending on how many of these cricketers have lasting careers in cricket. The coaches drive the point home: this tournament is all about development of their charges, as players and as people. Most would gladly choose producing a greater number of future international cricketers over winning the trophy.

"My job is to produce Proteas cricketers," says South Africa coach Ray Jennings. "Winning World Cups at this level is important, but not as important as producing future Proteas cricketers."

It's a common goal and to achieve that most of the Under-19 sides go through the same pre-match, post-match and off-day drills that a senior team would. "You're trying to prepare them for a professional life in cricket," says Roddy Estwick, who's been involved in West Indies' youth programme for three World Cups. "Once you do the right things here, it helps them in the long run. So when they break into the senior team, it's nothing new, they are accustomed to the set-up, they are accustomed to the regime."

In a couple of years, a few of these Under-19 players will have given up cricket, fewer will have broken into their national sides, and most will be striving towards their international debut. The hope is that several of the boys competing for this trophy will be back in Australia as young men for the real deal in 2015.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

RSS Feeds: George Binoy

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by ejsiddiqui on (August 10, 2012, 15:29 GMT)

All the best everyone, especially Pakistan they Just beat Aus 2-1 in the series.

Posted by AK_25 on (August 10, 2012, 8:06 GMT)

The ones who picked up skills by watching the Australians play bounce, the English handle swing, the Indians use their feet to spin, the Pakistan and Sri Lankan spinners flight the ball, and the joy with which the West Indians play.......its tell the all story..........

Posted by gtzshotta on (August 10, 2012, 5:53 GMT)

West Indies have a strong team as well. The captain has already played a bunch of tests.

Posted by KiwiRocker- on (August 10, 2012, 5:16 GMT)

India needs to win this tournament...They have lost 15-0 in England And Australia, but it does not matter even if India wins as Sehwag, Tendulya and co AKA non performers are not going to retire and no youngster will ever get a chance to play for indian senior side...

Posted by Meety on (August 9, 2012, 23:19 GMT)

@huttse96 - I want Oz to win, but would be stoked if the Kumuls got up!

Posted by   on (August 9, 2012, 21:49 GMT)

Great words by Jennings....this is probably the only world cup these kids play where winning should not be the ultimate goal. Its about experience, growing and developing not only as a cricketer, but also as a human being.

Posted by Pratchett on (August 9, 2012, 19:46 GMT)

@ Halios - Wow! I'm surprised to hear Jayasuria is about 150 years old! Who won that u/19 tournament in 1887?

Posted by   on (August 9, 2012, 19:15 GMT)

Wish you all the best Pakistan!

Posted by   on (August 9, 2012, 19:12 GMT)

Pak will win INSHAALLAH.

Posted by   on (August 9, 2012, 18:47 GMT)

Come on Nepal !!!! I seriously doubt whether we will be able to watch you live at action but that does not mean you do not have our blessings.

Comments have now been closed for this article

Email Feedback Print
George BinoyClose
George Binoy Assistant Editor After a major in Economics and nine months in a financial research firm, George realised that equity, capital and the like were not for him. He decided that he wanted to be one of those lucky few who did what they love at work. Alas, his prodigious talent was never spotted and he had to reconcile himself to the fact that he would never earn his money playing cricket for his country, state or even district. He jumped at the opportunity to work for ESPNcricinfo and is now confident of mastering the art of office cricket
Tournament Results
Aust U19 v India U19 at Townsville - Aug 26, 2012
India U19 won by 6 wickets (with 14 balls remaining)
NZ U19 v S Africa U19 at Townsville - Aug 25, 2012
S Africa U19 won by 8 wickets (with 212 balls remaining)
Afghan U19 v S Lanka U19 at Brisbane - Aug 24, 2012
S Lanka U19 won by 7 wickets (with 66 balls remaining)
B'desh U19 v Pakistan U19 at Townsville - Aug 24, 2012
B'desh U19 won by 5 wickets (with 22 balls remaining)
England U19 v W Indies U19 at Townsville - Aug 24, 2012
England U19 won by 13 runs
Ireland U19 v Scot U19 at Brisbane - Aug 24, 2012
Scot U19 won by 5 wickets (with 50 balls remaining)
More results »
News | Features Last 3 days
News | Features Last 3 days