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|Volume 11 |Issue 26| June 29, 2012 ||
Having met an early exit from the Asian Cricket Council's under-19 Cup, many have raised questions regarding the youth development structure in Bangladesh. Former cricketers, however, believe that the current U-19 side is in good hands.
The strength of the Bangladesh under-19 cricket team is a substantial reflection on the number of promising cricketers available in the pipeline to represent the national team in the near future.
But the losses to Afghanistan and Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur last week do undermine this team's credentials. However, the interest in this team hasn't waned as yet; especially with the Under-19 World Cup to be held in Australia in August. Bangladesh has been placed in Group D along with Sri Lanka, South Africa and Namibia in the 16-team competition.
It's not the rate of success that matters with regard to this team, but what it produces. Wicketkeeper-batsman Anamul Haque and Abul Hasan have been the latest additions to the national team who have been selected from the junior side, as both the players played the 2010 World Cup held in New Zealand.
The World Cup will definitely be the biggest prize for these junior cricketers. The preparation began one and a half years ago with a group of talented players, filtered through a long process that included many hours of training and several trial matches.
The previous under-19 teams received a lot of attention during international tournaments. This time though the traditional clamour rose only after Soumya Sarker hit a double-hundred and Abu Haider claimed all the nine wickets against a lowly Qatar in Bangladesh's first game, thereby, setting a rare feat in Bangladeshi cricket.
Unfortunately, not many have noticed this team. Jalal Ahmed Chowdhury, a former coach and currently the Bangladesh Cricket Board's development committee member, stated that the shortage of star-players, lack of practice matches against strong opponents and the increasing attention towards the national team, as some of the reasons behind the new trend.
Sajjad Ahmed Shipon, a member of the junior selection committee and a former national cricketer, shares Chowdhury's views. Both of them strongly suggested that, under the leadership of Asif Ahmed, the current side has the ability to surprise the country's cricketing fraternity. They claim that Asia Cup in Malaysia is giving the youngsters an opportunity to observe the strengths of their opponents and is still a great build-up to the World Cup. Despite the early elimination, they were happy with the development of the players and have high hopes in them.
“Unlike previous occasions, there might not be many big names in the squad but I can assure you that it's a very talented side. Undoubtedly they are the future of Bangladesh cricket,” says Chowdhury.
He believes that the team has the ability to spring surprises against the likes of South Africa and Sri Lanka in the upcoming tournament. “These guys have been together for almost two years now, and they have a very good sense of understanding among themselves. What we desperately missed is some international matches before the Asia Cup, but I still have faith in this team,” he adds.
He firmly believes that at least 80 per cent of cricketers from this squad will push for a place in the national team in the future. “The way the team has been finally shaped up is excellent. The whole development process is encouraging for our cricket. I don't want to mention any names but I believe at least five players from this squad will represent the national team in the future,” says a confident Sajjad Ahmed, who himself played two one-day internationals back in the 1990s.
“The Under-19 team is a frequent source of exciting talents and this team is no different," he adds.
The selector, however, maintains that the team has its share of weaknesses. "Naturally, we are weak in the pace bowling department, but I still think that it's a balanced side. There might not be much hype but they can pull off a surprise despite the foreign conditions in Australia,” he claims.
Sajjad however requested everybody not to judge the team based on their performances in the Asia Cup as they missed some key players due to injuries. These players will mostly be back in the squad before the World Cup.
The lack of practice matches against stronger cricketing nations has taken its toll with Bangladesh failing to reach the second round of the Asia Cup. In the end, however, the question is not about the result, or the hype, it's about the number of quality players produced by the current cricketing system in the country.
It would undoubtedly be a fantastic achievement for Bangladesh cricket if this young brigade can do something special in the coming world cup, despite having been eliminated in the ongoing tournament. One hopes that the team receives the much-needed match practice before the world cup in August.