South Africa and Zimbabwe players have not only found the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup a great training ground but also an opportunity to make friends, as the event, which replicates a major tournament experience in terms of organization and playing facilities, brings together players from different parts of the world.
South Africa’s wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock reminisces the opportunities as a cricketer as well as the chance of developing friendships during the 2012 edition in Australia, as does his team-mate Aiden Markram, who led South Africa to their only title in the following edition in the United Arab Emirates.
For Zimbabwe players Hamilton Masakadza and Stuart Matsikenyeri, the U19 CWC was an opportunity to interact with players from different backgrounds and cultures and also to observe their different approaches and styles of the game.
South Africa players reflect on the U19 CWC:
Quinton de Kock (played in 2012): “The ICC U19 World Cup was the perfect stepping stone for me to launch my international career. The tournament gave me an opportunity to test myself against the pressures and expectations that I would soon face at international level.
“My fondest memories from the tournament are the friendships I made over the course of the tournament. I have come a long way with some of the cricketers that I played with and some of them have even become very good friends of mine. A lot of the players who played in Australia in 2012 have gone on to make their international debuts, which says a lot about the skill and talent there.”
Aiden Markram (led team to victory in 2014): “The tournament taught me to deal with different types of pressures on and off the field. As captain, I was privileged to lead a group of exceptionally talented cricketers towards a common goal, which helped me grow and develop as a leader and as a cricketer. I was able to test my skills against some of the best Under-19 players in the world and that gave me an indication of the areas I needed to improve in my game.
“We were fortunate enough to have some special memories from our World Cup year. We became the first South African team to win a World Cup and that memory is something that I will cherish for many years. Apart from winning the tournament, the opportunity to craft significant friendships with players from other countries was also quite special.”
Zimbabwe players reflect on the U19 CWC:
Hamilton Masakadza (played in 2000, 2002): “It’s important (for a cricketer) all through the levels – under-14, under-16, but under-19 is most important because it is the last stage before you graduate into senior cricket. From the angle of learning different conditions, different cultures and different people it was really good for me. It’s never too early to start making friends and learning more about other people, so they make friends they will meet for the rest of their lives playing cricket for Zimbabwe.”
Stuart Matsikenyeri (played in 2002): “It was a massive experience. You get to play youth internationals at that age, with really good cricketers. You are exposed to players that play a different brand of cricket, they come through a different type of coaching, you obviously learn quite a lot from the different countries that you play – the Asian nations, the English guys.”
Prosper Utseya (played in 2004): “It gives an opportunity to challenge yourself, see where you are as a cricketer. To win against Australia is something that I cannot forget. We also won against New Zealand in 2004. At that age, I did not think I would end up as a national captain but that is where I believe I made my mark – coming through the Under-19 World Cup.”