Learn from it: Stars recall their experiences at U/19 CWCs

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Kuala Lumpur,Feb 14 (UNI) 'The U/19 Cricket World Cup is a great opportunity to put your name on the lips of the international cricket community, in the same way the likes of Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif did when they helped India win the competition back in 2000'.

This the advise to the youngsters by the test stars like Graeme Smith, Alistair Cook and Sanath Jayasuriya who have played in the previous editions of the champion.

The winner from 2000, India, is seeded second, with Australia (winners in the inaugural event back in 1988 and 2002) seeded third and England (winners in 1999) fourth.

Pakistan is the only team to have won back-to-back titles at this level, having triumphed in 2004 and 2006 in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, respectively, and will now aim to make it a hat-trick as it goes into the event as top seed.

Defending champion Pakistan will get its campaign underway by playing the host Malaysia on February 17.

Along with the ten Full Members and the host Malaysia, Nepal (Asia), Ireland (Europe), Bermuda (Americas), Namibia (Africa) and Papua New Guinea (East Asia-Pacific) qualified from their regions to get to this stage.

A total of 44 matches, including 24 in the first round, seven in the Super League and 13 in play-offs will be played at seven venues across the three cities of Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor.

Speaking to ESPN-STAR Sport ahead of this year's event, which begins here on February 17, South Africa captain Graeme Smith said he was grateful for the opportunity to have played in an international event so early in his career.

''Representing your country is always a special honour and I still vividly remember my experiences of playing at the ICC U/19 Cricket World Cup in Sri Lanka back in 2000," said the Proteas skipper.

''It taught me the importance of dealing with the challenges that international cricket, particularly in a tournament environment, will throw at you. The challenge of taking on different teams in different conditions was an invaluable cricketing lesson.

Smith's sentiments were echoed by vastly experienced Sri Lanka all-rounder Sanath Jayasuriya, who played in the first U/19 CWC in 1988.

Brian Lara captained the West Indies, Michael Atherton captained England, Inzamam-ul-Haq was the captain of Pakistan. From that tournament I realised one has to work hard to be selected in the Sri Lanka team and to stay in the team. I saw a lot of players come in and then go again and I did not want to do that. I wanted to keep performing and working hard, said Jayasuriya.

England opening batsman Alistair Cook got his international career off to a great start at the 2004 U/19 CWC in Bangladesh.

In seven innings, the left-hander scored 383 runs at an average of 76.60 including a top score of 108 not out. His memories of that time are positive.

''What I remember most is the experience of staying together as a group of young lads trying to win a tournament, trying to progress through and trying to do our best. It was a tough tour playing under the conditions that we had. I have fond memories and it helped my cricket a long way,'' said Cook.

''After all, I wonder how many people who watched me play in 2000 would have thought that within three years I would be captaining my country at Test level. I certainly didn't and I hope my story is an inspirational one for all those taking part,'' added Smith.

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