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Feature

Is this the next batch of Australia's golden generation?

Some are around the state first-team or BBL systems already and have shown plenty of promise

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
12-Feb-2024
Before Sunday, the last player to captain Australia to the Under-19 World Cup was Mitchell Marsh in 2010. He has just won the Allan Border Medal and will highly likely lead the senior team at this year's T20 World Cup. Josh Hazlewood was Player of the Match in the final, Kane Richardson was also in the side and Adam Zampa part of the squad.
Two years later, when they lost to India in the final the team included Travis Head along with Ashton Turner and Cameron Bancroft. From the 2018 side, also beaten by India in the final, Will Sutherland and Xavier Bartlett have recently made international debuts and Nathan McSweeney is highly tipped to follow. From the 2020 group, Todd Murphy, Tanveer Sangha and Jake Fraser-McGurk are already capped by Australia.
There have been others, too, who have gained a handful of matches at the top level and many others who have played, and continue to do so, professionally at domestic level. However, it is not a straight line from being an Under-19 international to then forging a full career.
It's hard to say where all the current Australia U-19 side, victorious over India by 79 runs in Benoni, will be in 10 or 12 years' time, but there is a feeling it could be something of a golden generation in terms of those who do kick on with their cricket careers.
A number are already around the state first-team or BBL systems: Sam Konstas has made his Sheffield Shield debut for New South Wales, Player of the Final Mahli Beardman (who is highly regarded by Marsh) has appeared in one-day cricket for Western Australia, Harry Dixon has a BBL contract with Melbourne Renegades as does exciting quick Callum Vidler with Brisbane Heat and captain Hugh Weibgen holds a rookie Queensland contract.
"If they can all keep working hard on their games there's plenty who can make a career out of the game," Australia Under-19 coach Anthony Clark told ESPNcricinfo the morning after the final. "Where they go and how far will depend on how hard they work, but the raw ability is certainly there for a lot of them.
"My message after the game was obviously congratulations and enjoy the win, but the most important thing for all your guys now is when you go back and the next game you play is as important as this one and you need to keep getting better."
Dixon finished as the team's leading run-scorer with 309 at 44.14 and believed his time with Renegades played a key role. Though he didn't play, just being able to practice in that environment was priceless.
"Think it definitely helped with all the coaches they had around there and all the players, taking stuff from them, the likes of Aaron Finch, just soaking up as much as possible," he said. "With the training there's a lot of fielding stuff which is mostly what helped me develop a bit more which I think has helped the team."
However, while some already have their foot in the professional door, for others there are more mundane things awaiting when they get home. Oliver Peake, an injury replacement in the squad who made a vital 46 off 43 balls in the final, will be back at school in a few days.
"He's sucked the marrow out of cricket tournaments over the summer break," his father, Clinton, told cricket.com.au. "But he'll need to go to school and get ready for assessment tasks and normal world stuff."
But a cricket career looks to be in the offing. "He's bit of a student of the game, loves batting and is just a really good kid," Clark said. "As someone so young, the future looks bright for him."
It was Australia's pace attack that took most of the headlines with Beardman's 3 for 15 in the final following Tom Straker's 6 for 24 against Pakistan while Vidler, 14 wickets at 11.71, caught the eye with his pace regularly above 140kph.
"With the bowling attack we have it's pretty much a luxury," Dixon said. "With all the boys being so good we don't need to get as many on the board. We backed our bowlers in and they were fantastic throughout the whole tournament so credit to them."
The quicks were supplemented by offspinner Raf MacMillan who took 3 for 43 in the final. "He was really important," Clark said. "Almost the final cog in the wheel and has gone a bit unheralded just because the other four boys are really exciting to watch…he's very good at what he does.
"You never know when you go into a tournament how it's going to pan out but though we had most bases covered from a skills point of view across out 15. We had seven really good batters, couple of wicketkeepers, couple of spinners with real talent and the five fast bowlers. But you don't know how it all gels together until it starts happening but really came together nicely as we went through the tournament."
The time the group spent together over the past year has been cited as a key reason behind their success. "They play hard for each other and really care about each other," Clark said. "When it's like that it comes together nicely on the field. Obviously, the talent part is the major ingredient but the other stuff is really helpful, too."
The nature of Under-19 cricket means this team won't play together again, but the class of 2024 will always be World Cup winners. "It's a massive achievement," Dixon said. "Just really nice to make some lifelong friends."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo