IND in ENG (1)
SL v AUS (1)
IND-W in SL (1)
ENG v IND (1)
NAM T20 (3)
Vitality Blast (8)
RHF Trophy (3)
WI v BDESH (1)
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in general and former test player Nasim ul Ghani the ICC Development Officer for Asia in particular, deserve felicitations for staging the ICC Under-17 Asia Cup with such a thundering success. As predicted by most cricket observers, Pakistan and Sri Lanka the top teams in the circuit cruised into the finals after clean sweep over other teams in their respective pools. Although the two teams were thought to be evenly balanced and equally favourite, Sri Lanka eventually proved superior defeating Pakistan by 57 runs in an exciting finish to clinch the trophy.Had India also participated in the tournament, the competition would have been more tough.
Under-17 is the most important tier to discover and groom the talent. From here the budding youngsters jump to Under-19 the internationally recognized age group and then take a leap forward to join the national teams. After conquering the unwieldy summits of tests and one-day cricket, the top among them finally emerge as the stars and super stars on cricket's horizon.
The championship held at the prominent cricket centres of Karachi, Hyderabad, Quetta and Thatta brought to light the standards of junior level cricket in Asia. By holding similar tournaments in other regions, the ICC can determine the standards of junior cricket in the world, the knowledge essential to hold the Under-17 World Cup. Three or four teams from each region can be invited for the event. The results of such competitions will help the participating countries in the formulation of their coaching plans for juniors with emphasis and orientation to eradicate their glaring weaknesses.
Discussing the merits and demerits of each team, people with slightest knowledge of the game could forecast the finals between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, in defiance of the myth that one cannot predict the result of a match till the last ball is bowled. Though the prowess of individual players was not known, the prediction was based on the overall standard of cricket in the two countries.
Bangladesh the 10th member of the ICC and a fast emerging force in cricket had the game in its roots. As a part of Pakistan till 1971 Dhaka was a test match centre. Though the Pakistan team playing against the foreign teams at Dhaka comprised mainly of players from the Western provinces of the country, their influence on the local youth was immense. Bangladesh got prominence by organizing the 9 Nation Tournament in 1998 and the Asia Cup this year. Its journey to the semi final of this tournament was thus quite legitimate.
UAE the other semi finalist was also a genuine competitor. Sharjah having emerged as one of the leading one-day match centres in the world dishing out two delicious tournaments a year, its influence on the youth of UAE was overwhelming. The population comprising of expatriates from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other countries, its team was a blend of talented youth from the best of Asia. What they lacked was experience, coaching and practice on turf wickets.
The other teams of Arab origin the Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia also had the Asian blood in them. The countries lacking even the basic infra structure of the game, their very participation in the championship was heartening. As for Nepal, it is a mountainous country, which despite lacking basic facilities is taking fast strides to get into the main stream of Asian cricket. With tremendous Indian influence, guidance and coaching available to them, they will not take long to improve their standards.
Malaysia and Singapore are well on the road as far as the organization of tournaments is concerned. The game in the region is, however, still in its infancy having bright prospects of improvement with efforts and hard work. The participation in few more competitions of this nature will bring them at par with other Asian teams.
Despite the fact that the competition failed to attract big crowds, some of its matches were highly exciting. The opening encounter between Pakistan and Bangladesh which Pakistan won in the last over with a hit to the boundary by the last man could have been any body's game. Though Pakistan was a superior side, the fighting spirit displayed by Bangladesh caused the big brother lot of anxious moments. Another exciting finish came in the pool match between UAE and Saudi Arabia. In reply to UAE's 126 Saudi Arabia fought to climb up to 117, thus losing by only 9 runs.
A glance at the score cards of the tournament would show a remarkable disparity in the strength of the teams as well as the match scores. While Bahrain's total of 42 runs against Nepal was the lowest, Kuwait's 294 against Bahrain was the highest total of the tournament. In 4 matches the winners triumphed by 10 wickets, Pakistan defeated Nepal in the pool match and UAE in the semi final while Bangladesh achieved the distinction both against Kuwait and Bahrain. The matches that ended in victory by 9 wickets were Sri Lanka defeating UAE and Bahrain trounced both by Pakistan as well as Nepal.
The other exciting events were a last round match between UAE and Malaysia ending in a nail-biting tie, the only century of the tournament (102) scored by Mohammad Ashraful of Bangladesh against Nepal and an awe inspiring hat trick by Wijesiriwarkdena of Sri Lanka against Saudi Arabia.
The ICC sponsored Under-17 Asia Cup, apart from its cricketing values, was the most wonderful event for bringing the Asia's youth together to foster a healthy spirit of friendship, amity and cooperation. Let such events be periodically held in different countries of Asia, the pace of advancement of youth cricket will rise beyond expectations.