Virender Sehwag, India’s only triple centurion in Test cricket, believes the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup provides a youngster the confidence that he can compete against the best and hoped a few cricketers will graduate from this month’s event in Queensland and will return to Australia for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.
“It doesn’t matter if it is U19 or emerging team, if you perform at that level you get the confidence that you can actually play and compete against international teams,’’ said Sehwag.
“Every child has a dream and my dream was to play for my country. I got that opportunity in 1998 when I played in the ICC U19 CWC in South Africa and because of extra hard work following that event, I was able to achieve my ambition of representing India at the highest level.
“I think whoever plays well in the ICC U19 CWC 2012 and keeps performing well in first-class cricket could also end up travelling to Australia for the ICC CWC 2015. I’m hoping a couple of guys will come through, especially for India. The players have a great opportunity to go out there, play with and against the best and perform well. They will be motivated and will get a lot of self-confidence. The players will also make a lot of friends for life during the tournament.
“Go there and give your best, just make the most of the opportunity. Try to win the World Cup for your country,’’ advised Sehwag.
The 33-year-old from Najafgarh, who has scored 8,178 Test and 8,204 ODI runs, played in the ICC U19 CWC 1998 in South Africa and had a modest tournament by his very high standards. He made three against Kenya, 10 against Scotland, 38 against South Africa, zero against Pakistan, seven against Australia and 18 against England. Sehwag also picked up seven wickets with his off-spin during the tournament.
India failed to reach the Super League final of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 1998 after losing out to eventual winner England and Australia in Group A on net run-rate.
“We played against a lot of top teams – South Africa, England, Australia, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Pakistan - in that event. It was a great platform. Any player who performs at that level can harbour hopes of playing at the highest level,” said Sehwag, adding: “I got good exposure and a lot of confidence in my ability to excel at the international level by playing in the ICC U19 CWC 1998.
“The tournament always remains in my mind because that was my first trip outside India. It was also the first time I played U19 internationals. I was picked for first-class cricket thereafter because of that trip and very soon I played for India.
“I will never forget the moment when I wore the India U19 blazer for the first time. I felt proud that I was playing for my country,” added the right-handed opener.
The ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 1998 in South Africa was the first time the tournament was held after the inaugural edition in 1988. Sehwag recalled the excitement among all the players in the build-up and during the tournament because of that.
“It was the first time that the ICC U19 CWC was taking place after 10 years. I had a few friends playing in other teams as well. I remember the matches were being telecast live, so a lot of people were watching or reading about our performances. A lot of us got noticed because of such coverage,’’ recalled Sehwag, who was also a member of India’s ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 winning squad.
Sehwag had a word of advice for the India U19 side that will be competing in the ICC U19 CWC 2012, scheduled to be held in Queensland from 11-26 August.
“Mohammad Kaif won it in 2000 and Virat Kohli lifted the trophy in 2008 maybe this time the India captain (Unmukt Chand) can lift the Cup again and make us proud. Every single player from the current India team is wishing the very best of luck to the India team in the ICC U19 CWC 2012,’’ said Sehwag.