Captain Cook convinced ICC U19 CWC

Dubai, July 29, 2012: The ICC U19 Cricket World Cup received a big thumbs-up from England’s One-Day International captain Alastair Cook who said the event was undoubtedly a launching pad for future stars.

With 13 days to go before the event kicks-off in Queensland, Australia, on 11 August, the elegant left-handed opener advised players appearing in this event to play with “no regrets”.

“Without a doubt the ICC U19 CWC is a launching pad for future stars. You can see how many people have played U19 cricket and are now playing full international cricket,” said Cook, adding: “It is not a guarantee or anything but it’s just a start to people’s careers rather than a pinnacle. But it was a really good experience for me, one I look back with fond memories and I really think it helped my career.”

Cook captained England in the ICC U19 CWC 2004 in Bangladesh and finished as the second most successful batsman in the tournament behind India’s Shikhar Dhawan (505) with 383 runs from seven matches with an average of just under 77. England reached the semi-final of the Super League where it lost to the West Indies by 94 runs. In that match, Cook was his side’s second best batsman after Tim Bresnan (41) with 33 runs.

Reflecting on the tournament and his time in Bangladesh eight years ago, Cook said: “Us personally, we reached the semi-finals. We were disappointed that we didn’t get to the final as we had a very good team.

“What is really good value is it gives you some exposure to conditions outside your country. Our World Cup was in Bangladesh and it was my first tour to the sub-continent. So, the tour gave me the opportunity to experience what pitches are like and also a different way of life. As a whole, the learning curve and experience was fantastic.

“When you are playing U19 cricket for your county or state side, there is no media, there is no public interest. And suddenly, you are thrown at the world stage where people can make a name for themselves. After the matches, you have to do media interviews and you get to play in matches which are being broadcast live.

“Experiences like these can only help you develop as a player and realise what future you have, if you are lucky to play full international cricket,” said Cook.

The 27-year-old Essex batsman advised the teenagers to enjoy their cricket in Australia and play with no regrets. “Well certainly, they have to enjoy it, without a doubt. Obviously, it is a very important time of their lives. They should enjoy competing against other people of their age and try to find out how good they are, both individually and as a side.

“Certainly enjoy cricket, as cricket should be enjoyed no matter what level you are playing at and play with no regrets.”

Pakistan’s middle-order batsman Azhar Ali, who was shortlisted for ICC Emerging Cricketer of the Year Award in 2010, played as a bowler in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2002 in New Zealand. Today, he has blossomed into a batsman on whom Pakistan can rely upon.

“It was certainly one of the highlights of my career. Playing in an U19 Cricket World Cup was my biggest dream at that point and I am fortunate that I was able to fulfill my dream,” said Azhar, adding: “I didn’t play in many games in New Zealand but it was good to be part of a global event and be in an environment where everyone was talking about cricket, and how to excel, improve and do something special for their country.”

Azhar said the ICC U19 CWC helped him overcome his fears. “I was a bit scared about doing and trying different things. But this event helped me overcome this, as evident from the fact that I shifted my attention to batting and today I am playing in the Pakistan side as a middle-order batsman.

“The ICC U19 CWC can help you with plenty of things. I think the players need to evaluate pre-event what they want to achieve out of this tournament and then work on those things. It’s not necessary that if you have been a top performer in the event, you are a complete cricketer. There are still plenty of grey areas that need to be improved and if you are an organised and committed cricketer, you will review the event and work on those areas to become a better cricketer.

“Teenagers vying for glory in Queensland next month will have a great advantage not only because of the excellent playing conditions they will get in Australia, but also because of the fact that if you play in countries like Australia and England, then your performances are noticed and taken seriously. This fast-tracks your entry into international cricket and with the ICC Cricket World Cup three years away, who knows some of the performers from this event may return in 2015 to become real heroes.” —- ICC

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