By Saj Sadiq
Pakistan Under-19s commenced the 50-over tri-nation tournament against England and Bangladesh with a rain-affected draw. Batting first, Bangladesh could only muster 145 all out and in response Pakistan closed on 38 for the loss of four wickets before torrential rain brought an end to proceedings.
Standout performers for Pakistan were Mohammad Aftab and Hussain Talat who picked up two wickets each with Nauman Akram, Farhan Nazir and Zafar Gohar each taking one wicket apiece.
Speaking with PakPassion.net, Pakistan captain Sami Aslam discussed the importance of the tri-nation tournament, how he and his team mates wanted to make the most of these matches ahead of next year’s Under-19 World Cup and how vital it is for young Pakistani cricketers to regularly tour outside of Asia.
“It’s fantastic to be in England and to have this opportunity to play in English conditions against two very tough opponents. The Under-19 World Cup is next year and this tournament is an ideal opportunity for my team mates and I to prepare for that event. Conditions here in England are so different to what we are all used to back home in Pakistan and as young cricketers it’s an important part of our development to play in as many differing conditions and types of surfaces as possible. In Pakistan, conditions are predominantly batting-friendly whilst here in England there’s a more even battle between bat and ball, so it’s good not only for our batsmen to play in these conditions but also for our bowling line-up too.”
17-year-old Aslam has already played 11 First Class matches for Lahore Ravi and National Bank and has a highest score of 144. He was chosen as captain after Babar Azam was selected for the Pakistan Under-23 team for the upcoming Asian Cricket Council tournament in Singapore and feels that being picked as captain is an honour and a responsibility that he hopes will bring the best out of him.
“It’s an honour to captain your nation at any level and I’m delighted and also excited at the challenge. I’ve played alongside or against most of the boys in the squad and that always helps. I don’t think there’s any additional pressure on me as captain, I just need to make sure that I try to lead from the front and get the best out of the team. I also hope that the responsibility of captaincy brings out the best of me as a cricketer rather than hampers my cricket.”
The Pakistan squad contains several players with experience of List A and First Class cricket, and Aslam feels that will most certainly help them in England. “We’ve brought a balanced squad with varying degrees of experience. We’ve got competition for places in every department, we’ve brought some good spinners and pace bowlers and there’s a number of batsmen in the squad who will be battling for places.”
“Some of the boys have experience of playing First-Class cricket but others haven’t played First Class cricket back in Pakistan. I think it’s important that the boys who have experience of playing First Class cricket help the other boys and guide them. We’ve been in England for more than a week and that has been very useful for our preparations. We’ve enjoyed some excellent training sessions ahead of our first match and preparations have gone very smoothly. We held a camp in Lahore at the National Cricket Academy before this tour and all these preparations are important for such an important series.”
There’s been a lack of Under-19 tours of late organised by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) which has meant that young, up-and-coming cricketers in Pakistan have been limited to playing only in domestic competitions in Pakistan, unlike their counterparts from some countries. Aslam feels that the lack of Under-19 tours is an issue and it would most certainly help with the development of cricketers in Pakistan if more opportunities were given to tour the likes of Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and England.
“The more experience we can have of playing outside Asia at junior levels, the more I feel our young cricketers will be ready for international cricket. Playing in Asian conditions is entirely different to playing in South Africa, Australia, England and New Zealand and the more opportunities we can have of playing in these countries before we make the step to international cricket, the better I feel it will be for Pakistan cricket. The more we can play outside Asia, the more beneficial it will be for our development.”