Mumbai: Former South Africa skipper Graeme Smith termed the upcoming Under-19 cricket World Cup as a great learning experience for young players.
Smith, who played in the 2000 event in Sri Lanka and emerged as the top scorer in the tournament, said it was a “wonderful platform” and a “stepping stone into international level”.
“It doesn’t get bigger than that for a youngster,” Smith, who was South Africa’s youngest captain at 22 and played 117 Tests, 197 One-Day Internationals and 33 T20I games for his country, said in an International Cricket Council (ICC) release on Thursday.
The tournament is due to start on January 27 in Bangladesh. Three-time U-19 winners (2000, 2008, 2012) India are clubbed in Group D alongside Ireland, New Zealand and Nepal.
Defending champions South Africa will open their title defence against hosts Bangladesh in Chittagong on January 27 at the Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium. The Proteas and Bangladesh are in Group A alongside Scotland and Namibia.
“When you are under-19, you are inexperienced, so it is a real opportunity for you to gain the experience of playing against different players from around the world. A chance to learn how they play and think about the game. Try to put yourself in the pressure environment of a World Cup and see how you go as a player and as a team,” he said.
Group B comprises two-time winner Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Canada, while Group C has 1998 champions England along with the West Indies, Zimbabwe and Fiji.
A total of 48 matches will be played across eight venues and the final will be held on February 14 in Mirpur.
“Look at someone like Kagiso Rabada and how his career has jumped from Under-19 cricket into a full blown international career. At this stage, you have this opportunity and platform to go and put in performances that can make people sit up and take notice.”
Apart from the 10 Test playing countries, six associate and affiliate member sides – Afghanistan, Canada, Fiji, Namibia, Nepal and Scotland – will also participate after winning the various regional qualifying events.
The 34-year-old also recalled his appearance in the 2000 tournament, saying it was a “wonderful experience”.
“It was my first opportunity to be involved in anything around international cricket. I really enjoyed the event and though the wickets spun a little bit more than what we got in South Africa, I certainly enjoyed batting at the top of the order,” he said.
“I loved the experience, I loved the opportunity to go and see another country, to experience it and to play. It was the first real recognition that may be there is something that I can go on and achieve in the game of cricket,” Smith concluded.