Brisbane (Australia), Aug.5 (ANI): The Pakistan Under-19 squad that will take part in the forthcoming World Cup in Queensland, Australia, is the best that he has managed so far, feels former national cricketer-cum coach Haroon Rasheed
Speaking after his side had recorded a confidence building 2-1 pre-tournament series win along the Gold Coast, and before taking on England and Papua New Guinea in two friedlies, Rasheed said he believed the Pakistani U19s will go into the World Cup as genuine title contenders.
In an interview with PakPassion.net, Rasheed, who has been part of the PCB youth development programme for several years, said he was confident about his team's capabilities and preparation for the tournament.
"This is the best Under-19 outfit that I have managed. It's always very exciting to work with the U-19 players, and I have been doing so since 1988," Rasheed said.
Taking credit for grooming international stars like Inzamam-ul-Haq, Waqar Younis and Moin Khan, Rasheed said: "My involvement with player development and the coaching of youngsters began once I retired from playing the game. The PCB gave me a number of opportunities in the youth set-up and it's always fascinating to work with these young kids, watching them develop both as players and individuals."
On how he saw the current Pakistan squad in Australia, he said: "The most satisfying aspect of this squad relates to the successful implementation by the PCB of a formal U-16 program about four years ago. We focused on the grassroots, where there was no significant organised domestic structure in Pakistan, and considered the PCB academies as having the ideal skills and facilitates to drive the U-16 project."
Rasheed said that young players with potential were chosen from 16 or 17 districts, and divided them into 12 teams, where they competed against each other in a tournament format.
Thereafter, the top 24 outstanding performers were selected, and out of them 15 or 16 are part of the U-19 World Cup squad.
"The best part of the current Pakistan U19 side is their all-round ability. We have good fast bowlers and spinners, and depth in the batting. However, although a very good squad, obviously the aim is to translate ability on paper to tangible results - you have to perform and play well in order to win matches. So far the boys have adapted to the conditions in Australia very quickly," claimed Rasheed.
He also said that the U-19 tours to South Africa and Malaysia for the Asia Cup had provided the players with the competitive spirit and base to tackle challengers in Australia during the ensuing World Cup.
"The boys are doing a great job; they are hungry for success and are very confident in their abilities which is reflected in the manner they are playing," Rasheed said.
He confirmed that some of the young players were observing Ramadan, but added that some good friends along the Gold Coast are providing them with food during Iftaar [fast-breaking] time.
Rasheed said: "The biggest strength of this team is its all-round ability. It's a complete team in a sense; we have good spinners such as the tremendously skilful Usman Qadir, son of the legendary Adbul. We also have two good left arm leg-spinners in Mohammed Nawaz, an all-rounder who bowls and bats well, and Zafar Gohar, a very intelligent bowler who has variety with the ability to bring the ball in and turn it too. So the spin department is very good, because these three have got wicket-taking ability, which is essential in one-day cricket."
"We also have some really good fast bowlers like all-rounder Ehsan Adil, who can hit the ball hard and bowls well. Zia-ul-Haq is well-known - a quality left arm medium-fast bowler. We also have Azizullah, who is not very tall, but skiddy with immaculate line and length," he added.
"The batsmen have adapted to conditions in Australia. Our openers, captain Babar Azam and Sami Aslam, are prominent run-getters. Then in the middle order we have Imam-ul-haq, Umar Waheed, Mohammad Nawaz and Saad Ali, so the depth is there," Rasheed said.
"Winning is a habit and there is no room for complacency, so the guys have to keep putting in the effort each day and take it one game at a time," he concluded. (ANI)