Dravid lauds `fantastic` ICC U-19 WC

Dubai, Jan.21 (ANI): Indian great Rahul Dravid has lavished praise on the upcoming ICC U19 Cricket World Cup, saying that the tournament will provide great exposure to the youngsters and help them to grow as per the demands of the international level.

The 11th edition of the tournament will be played across four cities in Bangladesh, featuring nine Test-playing nations and seven Associate and Affiliate Members – Afghanistan, Canada, Fiji, Namibia, Nepal, Ireland and Scotland.

Dravid, a veteran of 164 Tests and 344 one-day internationals with more than 10,000 runs in both forms, lauded the tournament even though he himself never participated in one.

“It is a great opportunity for young players to be able to get exposure to the demands of international cricket,” said Dravid, who will coach the India side at the tournament.

“The event provides an opportunity to grow and learn, meet cricketers from other countries who you may go on to play against at the senior level for many years,” he added.

Former England skipper Michael Atherton, who played in the first edition in Australia in 1988 alongside the likes of team-mate Nasser Hussain, West Indies great Brian Lara, Pakistan’s Inzamam-ul-Haq and Sanath Jayasuriya of Sri Lanka, also expressed his views on the same.

Describing the upcoming tournament as a `fantastic competition`, Atherton said that it would allow the young players to test to test themselves against the best of their age-group.

Echoing similar views, former South African batsman Graeme Smith, who played in the 2000 event in Sri Lanka and emerged as the top scorer in the tournament, said it was a “wonderful platform” and a “stepping stone into international level”.

“When you are under-19, you are inexperienced, so it is a real opportunity for you to gain the experience of playing against different players from around the world. A chance to learn how they play and think about the game. Try to put yourself in the pressure environment of a World Cup and see how you go as a player and as a team,” Smith said.

Both Dravid and Atherton said the fact that Australia and India had won the title three times each and Pakistan twice spoke highly of the growth of age-group cricket in these countries.

“There are so many young people playing cricket in these countries.There is obviously a good system to unearth talent. In India, these youngsters get to play a lot of matches each year which helps to develop their game. But the last tournament was won by South Africa, which shows other nations are catching up too.”

Atherton held a similar view. “Australia would have some of the strongest youth cricket, particularly when young players are given a chance to play against men in grade cricket,” he said.

“India has more young cricketers than anywhere else where it is to an extent a numbers game. Pakistan could be among the most natural and instinctive. Beyond that, who knows,” he added.

Atherton said he had fond memories of the inaugural event in 1988, which was then called the Youth World Cup.

“It was also good to measure ourselves against the best young players in other parts of the world like Lara and Inzamam. I think we all enjoyed our experience, although it would have been better to have gone beyond the semi-final!”

Smith also recalled his appearance in the 2000 tournament, saying it was a “wonderful experience.”

“It was my first opportunity to be involved in anything around international cricket,” he said. “I really enjoyed the event and though the wickets spun a little bit more than what we got in South Africa, I certainly enjoyed at the top of the order.

The tournament will be held from January 7 to February 14. (ANI)

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