Cricket's obstacle course

The Under-19 Cricket World Cup hasn’t been a particularly happy hunting ground for South Africa in the past—they lost to those irksome Nepalese in the plate final of the last edition in 2006. Looking back, it seems the only highlight for South Africa came when the side reached the final in 2002.

However, South Africa captain Wayne Parnell, in his second Under-19 World Cup, is hoping the current outing in Indonesia will be different. Although they slipped up against India, they still have a great shot at making it through to the quarterfinals—depending on the outcome of Friday’s match between the West Indies and India.

Graeme Smith first made his mark at this tournament, finishing as the highest run scorer of the 2000 tournament with a total of 348 runs.

Not only does such a tournament expose players to some of the toughest competition they have faced, it gives them a taste of what it’s like to be interviewed or be tested for drugs, or even just to be away from home for a long period of time.

According to coach Ray Jennings, the way these young players respond to pressure and challenges determines whether they will make it to the top level.
“I think at least 25% or 30% of the players from this squad will come through. I’ve worked with younger players for the last four or five years and my call on players hasn’t been too far off,” he said.

“There are about six or seven players in our side who will definitely make an impact in the next three to four years,” he added.

Asked what it is going to take for them to make that transition to senior level, Jennings said: “One of the things players have to understand is that there has to be an annual growth in maturity and experience. Without experiencing anything they’re not going to find out their strengths and weaknesses.

“They need to understand themselves and understand what they’re good at and what they’re bad at and get back to the drawing board to work on those weaknesses.

“I’ve always said that although under-19s have ID books that say 19, their maturity is 15—so they really make 15-year-old calls. To me that is one of the big things from a tournament like this—that players can go away and try to develop the maturity to make the right calls under pressure at the right time. And then you’ll see them in the national side.”

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