The joys of youth were very evident at the Bangladesh U-19s training session at the practice ground of the Sheikh Kamal International Stadium in Cox’s Bazar yesterday. The high-flying home players were cracking jokes and having fun whenever they got a chance and did not hesitate to exchange smiles with the media people ahead of today’s ICC Under-19 World Cup match against Scotland.
And why not? They got off to a confident start by beating defending champions South Africa and know that it would not be a hard task to beat Scotland and Namibia in the remaining two Group A games if they can play their natural game and for that, they know they need to enjoy themselves. Whether it was captain Mehedi Hasan Miraz, Nazmul Hossain, Pinak Ghosh or Mohammad Saifuddin, none of them were hesitant while talking to the media and talked with such authority and confidence that one is bound to be impressed.
But the same cannot be said for the team management. The video and still cameras and the sizable number of reporters seemed to annoy them and apparently they were disturbed with too much attention on the team as they believed it can put pressure on the boys. Take it from Bangladesh team technical adviser Stuart Law, who said yesterday: “The amount of press here watching their practice is more than what the Australia team gets during an international series. It’s a bit of a concern for me. The amount of pressure you guys are putting on the young players, the Australian cricket team during an Ashes series doesn’t have this many people watching their training.”
It’s not only Law; ask team manager ASM Faruque about any player and he will give you the cold shoulder. Ask team operations manager Sajjad Ahmed and he will tell you about protocol.
ICC general manager (cricket) Geoff Allardice said while announcing the tournament schedule that ‘The event provides talented youngsters an early taste of international cricket in a global setting’. It is common knowledge that handling media in modern cricket is an essential part of a young cricketer’s education, so learning the craft from an early age can hardly be harmful. When prior to the tournament ICC proudly said that it will be broadcasting an unprecedented 20 matches of the tournament live, it showed that it wants to drum up more interest about the youth world cup.
It is fortunate that the team management stopped short of saying that the video cameras for the live telecast of the opening match against South Africa would put pressure on the boys.
It would instead be wise for the team management to tell the youngsters that media attention, especially in a country like Bangladesh, is part and parcel of the game and they should be accustomed to it. As Law said: “We want them to go and play nice, free cricket. No consequence, just go out and enjoy themselves and show their skills. They are here for a reason, they don’t have to impress anyone, they just have to go and show their skills. That’s the message we have got to give them. We want them to be as free as possible. It is nice to play cricket or do anything in life when you are not clouded up in your mind. It becomes more fun and if they are doing that they are going to play good cricket.”