Five players who lit up Pakistan’s U19 World Cup and could be our future hope!
The Under 19 World Cup (U19) held in Bangladesh yielded positive and negative results for Pakistan. An impressive run was cut short as a motivated Pakistan team led by Gauhar Hafeez, lost to West Indies and crashed out of the tournament. While the end result was indeed a disappointment, the road towards the semis produced magical moments and introduced the cricketing world to the following future stars of Pakistan cricket.
1. Zeeshan Malik
The Chakwal based batsman gave dominant performances with the bat to finish his tournament with 132 runs from four matches including an impressive unbeaten 89 against Canada. Zeeshan Malik possesses the skills and potential. He has proved himself time and again with solid performances against Kenya at the U19 and England at the U17 level.
During the tournament, he showed good use of both, picking the length of deliveries early and playing shots all-round the ground. Zeeshan Malik opened for Pakistan alongside Captain Gauher Hafeez, but looked much more composed and at ease when handling the new ball as compared to his partner.
2. Umair Masood
The Rawalpindi based wicket-keeper cum batsman has played the all-important role of finishing the innings for Pakistan in the tournament. Umair Masood ended up being the third-highest run-scorer in the tournament for Pakistan with 150 runs in four innings at a resounding average of exactly 50.
Establishing himself as a genuine batsman rather than lower-order pinch hitter, Umair Masood came to the rescue against West Indies in the quarter-final when Pakistan was struggling to score runs. He scored 113 runs, including 15 boundaries and two clean hits over the rope, to take Pakistan to a respectable total at a strike-rate of 99.
Further examples of his reliability are displayed by his sharp performances behind the stumps. Umair Masood ended his tournament with the highest number of dismissals, 11, which included seven catches and four wickets. While his performances with the bat and behind the stumps were overshadowed, in an age of high scoring games Umair Masood has all the skills a wicket-keeper must have in order to succeed in a competitive cricket environment.
3. Salman Fayyaz
Salman Fayyaz played second fiddle to Umair Masood during the match against the West Indies. Salman Fayyaz and Umair Masood piled on a mammoth 164-run partnership for the sixth wicket. Hitting three fours and one six, Salman Fayyaz went unbeaten at 58.
Although Salman Fayyaz prefers batting in the middle or lower middle-order, he possesses both the skill and the temperament to bat higher up the order and work towards building the innings. With the second highest batting average (52.50) for Pakistan in the tournament and a strike-rate towards the lower side, Salman Fayyaz heavily relies on ground shots and regular strike rotation while batting which makes him a reliable customer.
He was also used as a part-time option by the captain during the World Cup in which he managed to pick one wicket.
4. Shadab Khan
The leg spinner belonging to Imran Khan’s home town has taken the U19 circuit by storm. While many leg spinning prodigies idolise all-time greats such as Shane Warne and Abdul Qadir, Shadab Khan wishes to emulate the success achieved by Steven Smith who began his career as a bowling all-rounder.
Although Shadab Khan lacks the mysterious varieties that a modern-day spinner possesses, he was used as an attacking option rather than a defensive one owing to his tendency to flight the ball and coax the batsman into playing the lofted shot.
What further elevates the greatness of his achievements is the fact that he did not have a proper coach during his childhood and learned by copying what he saw on television. Shadab Khan ended up as the joint highest wicket-taker for Pakistan with 10 wickets in five matches. His four wickets for nine runs against Afghanistan in the opening fixture for Pakistan helped him display an outstanding performance with the best strike-rate in an innings in the tournament.
5. Hasan Mohsin
Hasan Mohsin is amongst the brightest prospects the U19 World Cup has unearthed. Hasan Mohsin has displayed outstanding all-round performances with the bat and ball, ending up as the highest scorer and the leading wicket-taker for Pakistan.
The opening pacer who was trusted with the new ball by the captain, was oddly enough a leg spinner until last year. Although the extraordinary transition could have ended up as a failed experiment, Hasan Mohsin has flourished in his new role as a seamer and thinks like one as well.
Hasan Mohsin ended up as the joint highest wicket-taker for Pakistan with 10 wickets at a low economy rate. What instantly catches the eye of any spectator is the contradiction between his aggression and his lean figure which presents him as weak option.
Hasan Mohsin, however, shined with bat as he also ended up as the highest run-scorer for Pakistan with 254 runs in five matches including a blistering century against Nepal. Hasan Mohsin has come onto the scene with a bang and he could not have hoped for a better timing. With Muhammad Nawaz possibly breaking into the national side, Pakistan A will be requiring a solid all-rounder to replace him and Hasan Mohsin seems to be a suitable alternative.
Pakistan has produced undeniably outstanding talent in abundance over the past few years at the U19 level. Some of the current first-team players including vice-captain Sarfraz Ahmed, Anwar Ali and Babar Azam are products of the very same tournament. While cricket at this level is primarily dominated by talent, in order to progress and succeed in the increasingly competitive sport, the board must ensure this raw talent should be groomed and provided with necessary exposure through platforms such as the Pakistan Super League.
The U19 World Cup has provided an opportunity for everyone to showcase their talent in front of not only those present at the stadium, but audience all over the globe through complete televised coverage. While many U19 breakout players like Umar Akmal and Zafar Gohar have indeed made it big at the international stage, many more have been unable to replicate their previous success succumbing to the increased competition and pressure. This competition has come at the correct time for Pakistan as we hope to stretch our domestic pool and unearth a varied set of talented individuals who can help us regain our respected status in international cricket.
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