From the moment I started watching Cricket, my favourite player has always been Wasim Akram. I loved the way he ran in and made the ball move in 3 different directions before it reached the batsman. And I always got excited when he came into bat, in hopes that he would start launching sixes over the mid-wicket boundary.
Then Shahid Afridi came along. It’s hard not to catch ‘Boom-Boom’ fever anytime he strolls in to bat. After leading Pakistan to the T20 world cup finals victory with outstanding performances in the semi’s and final, he’s shown the world that he might just be able to reign in his natural aggressiveness and become a more mature player.
But, now I have a new favourite player. His name is Rizwan Cheema and although the rest of the world might not know him (…yet), he is an entertainer just like the above mentioned Afridi and Akram. His raw talent and ability to smash the ball all over the field have earned him the praise and respect of the international players he has played against. He also bowls some handy medium pace and has a habit of picking up timely wickets.
The National team is preparing to head to New Zealand for the U-19 World Cup. Unfortunately, being in Canada means limited coverage, but in the major cricket playing nations this tournament is big news.
Many of the best players in world cricket represented their Countries at U-19 level. Some, especially in the sub-continent, get a chance to play in the Senior team even before the U-19 team, for others, it’s a first chance to shine against other top players from around the cricket world and a chance to show the national team selectors that you have what it takes to perform at international level.
In late 2003, I was in Pakistan when Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India were visiting with their respective U-19 squads to play in an Asia Cup ODI series taking place in Lahore. One young man on the Indian team dominated the tournament taking 18 wickets at an average of 7.38 including a match against Bangladesh when he took 9-16. Absolutely phenomenal numbers for a young Irfan Pathan. He led India to victory against Sri Lanka in the finals and after that series he was fast tracked into the senior Indian side. He was immediately, unrealistically, compared to the great Wasim Akram. Although, he has been in and out of the Indian team since then, he’s had some great performances for them in big matches. Unfortunately, he’s also had some entirely indifferent tours when he hasn’t made much of an impression at all. But, he took his chance at the U-19 level and flourished.
The kids that are participating know that this might be their only chance. It’s something they’ve been working towards for their whole cricket playing life. The teams will be watching these kids closely to determine if they have the right attitude, temperament and most of all the talent to perform at International level.
The tournament begins on January 15th. The full schedule is available here.
Canada will play Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and hosts New Zealand. How do you think they will do?
The tournament gets underway on January 15th, 2010. I hope to speak to some of the players and management before they depart. For now, check out our interview with U-19 Canadian Fast Bowler Manny Aulakh.