The 2006 Under-19 World Cup-winning captain Sarfaraz Ahmed gave a spirited pep talk to the brightest young talents in Pakistan U-19 team ahead of their departure for the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup in South Africa.
The former Pakistan national team skipper made a special visit to the National Cricket Academy Lahore on Monday and shared his insights with the bunch of exuberant rising stars.
Pakistan have won two U-19 World Cup titles and Sarfaraz has spearheaded an extremely talented side in 2006 that brought the glory to Pakistan; they decimated India in a high-octane clash in the final by 39 runs.
The young Sarfaraz-led side featured Imad Wasim, Anwar Ali and Nasir Jamshed who all went onto represent Pakistan at the apex level. Many other modern-day greats of cricket including Steve Smith, Kane Williamson and Virat Kohli strut their stuff first in U-19 World Cup and then proved their mettle at the top level.
Sarfaraz had a good run as a captain of the national side as well, especially in the T20 format, and he was also in charge of the team that won the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017.
Following a dip in his form last year, he was axed from captaincy across all formats and denied a spot in the side in the aftermath of World Cup fall-out and the underwhelming performances against Sri Lanka which didn't help his cause but he is still an A-category centrally contracted player and seemingly in the plans of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and team management.
Sarfaraz is of the view that this forthcoming ICC U19 World Cup, set to commence from January 17, is going to serve as a launchpad for many budding cricketers to make a name for themselves and transition to the national team in the years to come.
“I have told the boys this is a perfect platform to graduate to the next level as we had also gone through this route," said Sarfaraz.
He quoted the success stories of Naseem Shah and Shaheen Afridi. The former has just burst onto the scene and has already taken the world by storm whereas Shaheen has become the go-to strike bowler in Pakistan's pace arsenal.
“Naseem Shah and Shaheen Shah Afridi are prime examples, they came from this set-up and are now a part of the national team.
“I have a feeling that this team has the capability to beat any team in the competition and has the firepower to win the tournament. The momentum is on their side. They’ve had a good 2019 as they performed very well in South Africa and other recent series.
He has fond memories of his own successful U-19 World Cup campaign in 2006 where the team was unstoppable and the title win remains a feather in the cap of Sarfaraz' whole cricket career.
"I have great memories of my time in the U19 side. The best one is the final which we won in the 2006 World Cup. The way we won it, I am going to remember it for the rest of my life. We had a brilliant time and we played like one," Sarfaraz recalled.
Pakistan will get the ball rolling in the marquee tournament against Scotland on January 19 as sixteen nations from five continents will lock horns in the 13th edition of the tournament with South Africa getting the opportunity to host for the first time since 1998.
Sarfaraz in a conversation with the incumbent U-19 Pakistan captain Rohail Nazir ©PCB
The captain of the U-19 team, Rohail Nazir scored many runs in tough situations during the recently concluded Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Final where he showed solid temperament and grit. He got 80 in the first innings and 70 on the second occasion against the likes of Faheem Ashraf, Bilal Asif and Aizaz Cheema.
Pakistan are placed in group C alongside Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Scotland for the U-19 World Cup 2020.
Rohail Nazir (captain and wicketkeeper), Abbas Afridi (Peshawar), Abdul Wahid Bangalzai (Quetta), Amir Ali (Larkana), Amir Khan (Peshawar), Arish Ali Khan (Karachi), Fahad Munir (Lahore), Haider Ali (vice-captain), Qasim Akram (Lahore), Mohammad Haris (Peshawar), Mohammad Huraira (Sialkot), Mohammad Irfan Khan (Lahore), Mohammad Shehzad (Multan), Mohammad Wasim Jnr (North Waziristan), Tahir Hussain (Multan)
Team management: Ijaz Ahmed (head coach-cum-manager), Rao Iftikhar Anjum (bowling coach), Abdul Majeed (assistant coach), Saboor Ahmad (trainer), Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rasul (physiotherapist), Usman Hashmi (analyst), Emmad Ahmed Hameed (media manager) and Col (retd) Usman Riffat Anwari (security manager).