'It was a stepping stone to Test cricket'
U19 build-up release -
Some of the biggest and most respected modern day cricketers in Michael Atherton of England, Aminul Islam of Bangladesh, Lee Germon of New Zealand and Australia’s Stuart Law take a trip down the memory lane and reflect on their experience of playing in the inaugural event which took place in South Australia in February-March 1988.
These four cricketers, about a quarter of a century ago, wore their national colours as teenage rookies. But today, history remembers them as one of the icons of the game and role models for millions across the globe after having served the game with distinction, respect and honour.
Atherton represented England in 115 Tests (54 as captain) and 54 ODIs (43 as captain) in which he scored 7,728 and 1,791 runs, respectively. Aminul played in 13 Tests and 39 ODIs for Bangladesh and became his country’s first century-maker in Tests when he scored 145 against India in the inaugural Test in Dhaka in November 2000. Germon played in 12 Tests (all as captain) and 37 ODIs (36 as captain) for New Zealand between 1994 and 1997. Law played a Test and 54 ODIs for Australia, and will coach his country’s U19 side in the ninth ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2012 from 11-26 August in Queensland after having coached the national sides of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Atherton, who captained England in the ICC U19 CWC 1988 and scored 197 runs with two half-centuries, said: “I am grateful that we had the opportunity to play in the first one. We had a good team actually and a lot of England cricketers in that U19 team went on to represent England.
“I think it is a very important thing to expose young cricketers to competition at that level, take them out from the comfort zone and expose them to different conditions.
“I was certainly very grateful for the opportunity which helped me develop as a cricketer. What it made me actually realise that I had a fair way to go. We were soundly beaten by Australia in the semi-finals and I thought, yeah, they were better than us and we have a fair way to improve.
“And also playing against all the best players of your age group, so you can realise where you are, how good or not good you are when compared to the players around you.
“We played against Narendra Hirwani after he had taken 16 wickets on his Test debut against the West Indies. So, we got a chance to play against somebody who had actually played Test cricket. So, it made you feel that actually it might not be that far away as well.”
Aminul, who represented the ICC Associates side in the tournament and scored 88 runs in the tournament, attributed his success at the Test level to the experience he gained by playing against the best players of his age group in the 1988 event. “I do believe that my confidence of playing and serving my nation as a cricketer for a long time was raised from that tournament,” he said.
Aminul continued: “I started my journey as a national cricketer right after that tournament and kept playing for 17 years without any break. Scoring 145 in the inaugural Test match is a bright part of that journey.
“The experience of playing that tournament definitely developed my skill as a batsman which kept bringing good results throughout my career.
“I can still remember that we had to stay with an Australian family during that tournament. As a young player, it was a great experience to communicate with the people whose living style and culture were completely different from mine. Besides, the experience of playing with such talented players who became very famous in the long run is unforgettable.”
Germon, now Chief Executive of Canterbury Cricket Association, said: “The ICC U19 CWC 1988 was a very big event for us in New Zealand as we did not play many fixtures against international teams in those days. I remember being particularly excited and nervous as it was the first ICC U19 CWC.”
Germon also recalled the first time he played against Brian Lara who scored 64 in the match. “I remember with great clarity playing against Brian Lara,” he said, adding: “We had Chris Cairns in our side who was very fast for that age group. We saw a slight left-handed batsman take guard against Chris with no helmet on and Chris bowling with a strong wind behind him. Chris bowled a number of short-pitched deliveries and you can imagine our great surprise when he hooked and pulled with great courage and skill.
“It was a great pleasure to play against some of the great names in world cricket and it was amazing that many of the players I played against at the ICC U19 CWC, I would also play against at the senior international level, such as Michael Atherton, Brian Lara, Nasser Hussain and Stuart Law.”
According to Germon, the ICC U19 CWC was an important event for future stars as it provided them with an opportunity to represent their countries and assess where they stand amongst their age group. “It provides a wonderful opportunity to represent your country which must be every cricketer’s dream and enables these future stars to get a taste of international cricket.
“The event is, of course, much bigger now than when I played, so it also provides the players with experience of an ICC cricket event which will bode well for their future. It tests them against the best players of their age in the world and, therefore, provides them a benchmark for where they are in comparison to the very good players.”
Law was one of the most consistent performers in the ICC U19 CWC when he scored 17 vs West Indies, 72 not out v India, 30 vs Sri Lanka, 89 vs England, 67 vs New Zealand, 22 vs Pakistan, 11 vs England (in the semi-final) and 44 vs Pakistan (in the final). Remembering that event, he said: “Well, being the first one, it was something new to all of us.
“It was the first opportunity as a young player to gain experience in a world tournament. To play against young Sanath Jayasuriyas, Nasser Hussains and Brian Laras was an amazing experience. It was something that stands fondly in my memory.
“It provided us an opportunity to understand what different cricketing abilities from other parts of the world were coming at us. It opened your eyes a little bit as you had the spin of Narendra Hirwani and you had the pace of Chris Lewis from England, and guys like that.
“We did actually win the cup, so we had a pretty good time. It was quite memorable because of that. The most important thing in your career is to represent your country - the number-one team in your country - and U19s was a stepping stone towards that.
“So it does stand out in that regard. It will always sit well with me as it was a great tournament to get involved in.”