190719 Chirag Suri
Chirag Suri Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Dubai: The Under-19 ICC World Cup, to be held in South Africa from January 17 — February 9, can once again act as a platform for young talents from associate member countries — according to UAE opening batsman Chirag Suri. The UAE will be one of the associate nations taking part in the marquee event along Canada, Scotland and qualifiers Nigeria and Japan.

“This tournament definitely makes you believe in yourself as a cricketer and competing against the best only makes you a more competent and consistent player,” said Suri, who appeared for UAE in the 2014 tournament on home soil when the host nation gained invaluable experience in a group with England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

The UAE edition of the event saw Suri pile up a half-century against New Zealand and he still cherishes the memory. “Personally, scoring a 50 against a Test nation like New Zealand and going incredibly close against them, and facing Sri Lanka and England, really made me believe in my ability and the potential of the team,” the player told ICC website.

Now 24, Suri established himself in the senior national UAE team and also tested the waters in overseas T20 franchise leagues — once with the now defunct Gujarat Lions in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and then Toronto Nationals in the Global T20 League in Canada last year.

“It’s (U19 World Cup) an incredible experience, which players will share with their kids one day, you have to make every moment enjoyable and not leave anything in the changing room.”

Dropping in the example of Indian skipper Virat Kohli, who first made his mark as the captain of the Under-19 World Cup winning squad in 2008, Suri said he is the ‘‘best example’’ of the confidence young players can derive from doing well in the tournament. “[Virat] Kohli is a prime example. I’ve been following him since his U19 World Cup appearance and look at his journey until today. There isn’t a better platform to showcase your skills than this one,” he said.

Canada’s Nitish Kumar, who became the youngest-ever player to feature in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup in 2011 at 16 years and 283 days, cut his teeth on the big stage at the 2010 U19 Cricket World Cup in New Zealand.

“It was so special to be able to represent your country at such a prestigious event as the U19 World Cup,” said Kumar, now 25. “It was a competitive environment and we played against some of the best players in our age-group.

“It gives you an opportunity to measure your skills against the best in the world at your age. From there you are able to identify areas for improvement,” Kumar said.

While it’s common knowledge as to how the likes of Kohli, Kane Williamson, Joe Root or senior pro Ross Taylor first made their mark in this World Cup, the associate countries have also produced their share of champions here. If you look for examples, don’t have to go very far with Eoin Morgan (with Ireland) or Rashid Khan with Afghanistan at hand.