Leave a mark, Zim U-19 urged

HARARE – The Zimbabwe squad at the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup in New Zealand should cherish the opportunity and use it as a stepping stone to a professional career according to current senior players.

Stephan Mangongo’s side will have to negotiate through a tough Group B that comprises Australia, India and Papua New Guinea (PNG)when the tournament commences on January 13.

Zimbabwe’s first match will be against PNG in Lincoln on January 13 followed by the clash against the Aussies four days later at the same venue.

The final group game will be against India at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui on January 19.

Speaking with the ICC website, Zimbabwe opening batsman Hamilton Masakadza, who represented the junior national team at the U-19 World Cup in 2000 and 2002, feels the youngsters in Mangongo’s squad will gain a lot of experience from the tournament. 

“It’s important (for a cricketer) all through the levels — under-14, under-16, but under-19 is most important because it is the last stage before you graduate into senior cricket,” Masakadza, who has gone on to core 2084 Test runs for Zimbabwe in 36 matches, said.

“From the angle of learning different conditions, different cultures and different people it was really good for me.

“It’s never too early to start making friends and learning more about other people, so they make friends they will meet for the rest of their lives playing cricket for Zimbabwe.”

Former Zimbabwe middle order batsman Stuart Matsikenyeri, who played in the 2002 U-19 World Cup, feels it will the first time the youngsters are exposed to the demands of international cricket.

“It was a massive experience. You get to play youth internationals at that age, with really good cricketers,” Matsikenyeri, who is now the Rising Stars coach, said. 

“You are exposed to players that play a different brand of cricket, they come through a different type of coaching, you obviously learn quite a lot from the different countries that you play against — the Asian nations, the English guys.”

Former Zimbabwe captain Prosper Utseya who represented the country at the 2004 tournament before going on to take 133 ODI wickets in 164 matches believes the U-19 World Cup gave him a good platform for an international career.

“It gives an opportunity to challenge yourself, see where you are as a cricketer. To win against Australia is something that I cannot forget,” Utseya said.

“We also won against New Zealand in 2004. At that age, I did not think I would end up as a national captain but that is where I believe I made my mark — coming through the Under-19 World Cup.”

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