by Makhaya Ntini on the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup starting from Jan 17-Feb 9 in South Africa
“I am now really excited for the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup to begin – and I’ve got a good idea of the players to look out for during the tournament.”
There are a few young players who have been going around and doing very well for themselves recently.
I think South Africa have got some exciting young players – a lot of them have done very well and are ready to represent the country on the big stage.
Jonathan Bird is definitely one of the greatest young players in South Africa currently. He grew up in a very good school, and has been doing well over the past couple of years.
There’s also Gerald Coetzee who’s a good all-rounder – he’s been involved in franchise cricket recently for Jozi Stars, which has really been able to benefit him as well as being part of the national setup.
Khanya Cotani is another young fellow who is doing very well, and he’s obviously the South Africa vice-captain – he’s the type of player who I’m really excited to see.
As the host nation, South Africa don’t want to be in a position where they get knocked out in the group stages or get to the quarter-finals and get beaten. If they can do well and get to the final, it will make a massive difference for those youngsters.
In terms of other nations, I’ve watched the India team in training and I look at those young fellows and how well they conduct themselves – it’s almost like they are in the tournament already and their tournament mindset has already kicked in.
It was one of the greatest things seeing those youngsters training and putting themselves together – they were playing the game so well, and it was almost like I was watching the Indian senior team as they looked very slick.
I think the thing with the whole Indian squad is that they have already been part of the Indian system – they have certain players like Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ravi Bishnoi, Kartik Tyagi and Akash Singh who are set to play in the IPL. They have already been groomed to represent India as a nation when they grow older.
Pakistan, too, have a lot of exciting players and I’m looking forward to seeing how Rohail Nazir performs with the bat.
As captain of his country, there will be some pressure on his shoulders but at 18, he’s already shown himself to be a very strong player and a leader too, both in the field and with the bat.
Rohail has already played first-class and List A cricket and was on a good run of form late in 2019, so it’ll be exciting to see how he goes against some world-class bowlers.
England will also be an exciting team to watch, and a lot of their players already have a lot of experience in the domestic game.
Ben Charlesworth is one of them, introduced to the first XI at just 17 and it’s big-match experience which will prove so important for players and teams.
He helped Gloucestershire win promotion in England so he knows what it takes to win, and his batting is supported with some part-time bowling as well which could come in handy as the tournament goes on.
As a batsman, Jordan Cox fits a similar bill – he’s played with and against some of the best players in the world in the English T20 competition, and he’ll have learnt so much just by being on the same pitch.
Cox is in some good form as well, scoring big against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh late last year so he should go to South Africa with confidence – he’s playing players he’s faced before and he’s shown he can do it, it’s just about transferring his talent to the big stage.
That’s the challenge for all the players in the coming weeks. They’ve shown they can do it, they wouldn’t be in their squads otherwise, but now it’s about converting their talent into temperament with the pressure on.
Whoever does that the best will have a strong chance of inspiring their country to victory.