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Grab the opportunity, top stars tell u-19 players

South Africa captain Graeme Smith, Sri Lanka's Sanath Jayasuriya and Alistair Cook of England have advised players to take inspiration from them in the tournament beginning on Sunday.
By HT Correspondent | IANS, Kuala Lumpur
UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2008 08:55 PM IST

Some of the world's top cricketers, who have played in the under-19 World Cup before becoming stars, have advised those taking part in the upcoming tournament here to grab the opportunity with both hands.

South Africa captain Graeme Smith, Sri Lanka's Sanath Jayasuriya and Alistair Cook of England have advised players to take inspiration from them in the tournament beginning on Sunday.

Jayasuriya, who played in the 1988 tournament, said he realised hard work was the only way he could succeed at the highest level.

"Brian Lara captained the West Indies, Michael Atherton was England skipper and Inzamam-ul-Haq led Pakistan. From that tournament I realised one has to work hard to be selected in the Sri Lanka team and to stay in the team," he said.

"I saw a lot of players come in and go and I did not want that to happen to me. I wanted to keep performing and working hard."

Jayasuriya also talked about the exposure he got from the tournament.

"This is a great tournament. This is how you get exposure to play at international level. I got the exposure and I came up with a good performance. It helps you to establish yourself as an international player in your country," he said.

Smith emerged as one of the stars of the 2000 tournament in Sri Lanka won by the Mohammed Kaif-led India.

"It taught me the importance of dealing with the challenges that international cricket, particularly in a tournament environment, will throw at you. The challenge of taking on different teams in different conditions was an invaluable cricketing lesson," he said.

"I believe the experiences gained of preparing for an international tournament was an important stepping stone for me in my cricket career, especially as it was the first time I had played in a global event against the world's strongest teams."

Cook, who scored 383 runs at 76.60 in seven innings, was one of the biggest success stories of the 2004 edition held in Bangladesh.

"What I remember most is the experience of staying together as a group of young lads trying to win a tournament, trying to progress through and trying to do our best. It was a tough tour playing under the conditions that we had. I have fond memories and it helped my cricket a long way," said Cook, whose top score was an unbeaten 108.

Smith also said that the fact that the matches would be telecast live would be another motivation for players.

"There will be a global audience watching on television and it is a great opportunity to put your name on the lips of the international cricket community, in the same way the likes of Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif did when they helped India win the in 2000," he said.

Along with the 10 full member countries and the host Malaysia, Nepal (Asia), Ireland (Europe), Bermuda (Americas), Namibia (Africa) and Papua New Guinea (East Asia-Pacific) qualified from their regions for the championship.

The 16 teams have been divided into four groups with the top two teams progressing to the Super League quarter-finals while the two bottom teams from each group playing the Plate Championship quarter-finals.

A total of 44 matches, including 24 in the first round, seven in the Super League and 13 in play-offs will be played at seven venues across the three cities of Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor.

Defending champions Pakistan will start their campaign against hosts Malaysia Sunday.

Pakistan are the only team to have won the junior world cup back-to-back, having triumphed in 2004 and 2006 in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and will now aim to make it a hat-trick as it goes into the event as top seed.

The 2000 winners India, are seeded second with Australia (winners in the inaugural year in 1988 and 2002) are seeded third and England (winners in 1999) fourth.

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