Pakistan Under-19 team will leave for South Africa tomorrow morning to participate in the ICC Under 19 ODI World Cup set to commence from January 17. The captain of the U19 team, Rohail Nazir, talked to the media on the eve of departure.
Rohail is happy with the rigorous practice in the one-month long camp organised at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore for the World Cup preparation. Special emphasis was placed on power hitting in the training camp.
"We had a 30 days camp at Gaddafi Stadium Lahore and we did a lot of hard work there. We had plenty of practice games there and Ijaz Ahmed, the head coach, helped us practice ground shots and power-hitting. We focused on many aspects of the game and tried to play in the manner that will help us perform better in South Africa," Nazir said.
"The openers have been guided by Ijaz Bhai to play through the first ten overs and not lose any wicket and they have been advised to bat deeper and he guided us on how to go for the big shots in the death overs."
Pakistan U19 team toured South Africa in July 2019 and managed a clean sweep against the Proteas in their backyard. They outgunned the hosts in all seven ODIs and showed complete dominance in that tour. Rohail is confident that the experience of playing in the familiar conditions will bid well for the team.
"We have been to South Africa before so we are used to the conditions and we have an idea on how to play in [those conditons]. Many players have been to South Africa before and they know the conditions well. There are three-four players who were not part of that tour [South Africa tour in 2019] but we have guided them about important stuff."
Rohail shed light on the experience of players who have played enough domestic cricket and the captain is in good spirits after meetings with national team head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and former Pakistan captain, Sarfaraz Ahmed.
"We have many all-rounders which give us balance and we posses batsmen who have played a lot of domestic cricket. I am hopeful that we can win the World Cup. Misbah Bhai and Sarfaraz Bhai and others have seen our team in action and they appreciated our efforts."
The incumbent U19 Pakistan captain is sanguine about the chances of Pakistan in the all-important World Cup and entrusts his confidantes to get the job done.
"I am very optimistic, we will play well and bring back glory to Pakistan. Mohammad Shehzad has come from under-16 and he is a great batsman, bowler and a sharp fielder. The experienced players such as Haider Ali, Amir Ali, Abbas Afridi have all played before and so we will try to implement what we have learned in the last 30 days camp and execute our plans."
A handful of players from the U19 World Cup squad strut their stuff in the Emerging Asia Cup last year where Pakistan stormed to the title win in an emphatic style. Pakistan won the final in a lop-sided affair against Bangladesh, winning by a colossal 77-run margin.
"We won the emerging [2019 ACC Emerging Teams] Asia Cup not long ago and Ijaz Bhai has instilled one thing in our minds that the match that we win becomes part of the past and even if we lose, we must learn and move on from that experience. Therefore, we will focus on each match and not single out any particular opposition so no matter if it's Zimbabwe, India or Australia, we will prepare accordingly and try to win those games."
The likes of Babar Azam, Steve Smith, Virat Kohli and many other modern-day superstars first showed their talent at Under-19 level and then made it big at the international arena. Rohail wants to follow suit and is very keen on leading the team from the front in the marquee tournament.
"We have been watching from childhood that from Under-19, many famous players have made it to international level and made their name in the world through the path of under 19 cricket and it's my aim to lead from the front in [upcoming world cup] and I want to help through my captaincy and batting to win the tournament."
About meeting with Sarfaraz Ahmed, Rohail said: "I am a wicket-keeper captain and so is Sarfraz Bhai. I asked him many questions and he shared his experience with me. He gave me tips which I have kept in my mind and will use it to good effect in our world cup campaign."
Pakistan, were crowned champions in 2004 and 2006 Under 19 World Cups, are placed in Group C alongside Scotland, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. They will begin their World Cup campaign against Scotland on January 19.
Abdul Wahid Bangalzai, Haider Ali, Mohammad Shehzad, Mohammad Huraira, Mohammad Irfan Khan, Rohail Nazir (c), Abbas Afridi, Fahad Munir, Qasim Akram, Amir Ali, Arish Ali Khan, Amir Khan, Mohammad Wasim jr, Tahir Hussain, Mohammad Haris