Former national team opening bowler Martin Suji is optimistic this year’s International Cricket Council (ICC) Under-19 World Cup will play a key role in shaping the country’s future in the sport.
Suji, who played for the national team for over 17 years before hanging his gloves in 2005, said the World Cup, which is set to bowl off in New Zealand tomorrow, will give the Kenyan players the necessary confidence as they seek to establish themselves as future stars.
“We have struggled to get our players to the top level because we haven’t been able to get to such platform. But with the World Cup, we have a platform that will give players the necessary exposed before breaking into the national team,” Suji said. Kenya will be making a return at the ICC junior event with an opening clash against immediate former champions South Africa on Sunday.
The tournament, which is held every two years, gives the future stars not only a chance of playing top-level age-group cricket but also first hand experience.
In conjunction with the decline in fortunes of the Kenyan senior team, the national Under-19 team failed to qualify for the World Cup for seven consecutive tournaments between 2004 and 2016. But in a stunning turn-around, the Kenyans won the 2017 ICC U19 World Cup Qualifier-Africa on home soil, defeating Uganda on net run-rate.
Needing a large victory to qualify in the final game of the tournament, Kenya dismissed Uganda for just 60 runs and romped to a 7-wicket victory in just 8.3 overs.
Suji, who also handled the team at one stage as they sought qualification to the tournament, said by defying all odds to qualify for the global event in New Zealand, it was a clear i8ndication that Kenyans are ready for the big stage.
“We haven’t been lucky enough to get players playing at this level (U19 World Cup) before getting to the senior national team. What we have been seeing is selecting players to the national team without having gone through the phases.
“This has affected us negatively as we have been forced to develop the players confidence while at the same time expected to compete,” said Suji who was also the national team coach.
Cricket royalty Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, Steve Smith, David Warner, Joe Root, Brian Lara and Chris Gayle are just a few of the names to cut their teeth at the ICC Under-19 World Cup before going on to enjoy stardom at the elite level.
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