Indian skipper Virat Kohli has shared how ICC U-19 World Cup served as a really important milestone in his career. With just a few weeks left to the commencement of the U-19 WC, the senior Indian captain credited the tournament as a landmark that kickstarted his career.
The 29-year-old credited ICC Under-19 World Cup for his development and also remembers his contemporaries from the time.
"The ICC U19 World Cup was a very important milestone in my career. It helped us get a good platform to build on and make our careers from thereon, so it holds a very important place in my mind and heart. It's very important to understand and respect the opportunity it provides you and as I said, for me, it holds a very special place in my heart," he said.
Kohli also recalled playing against current New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson and Australian captain Steve Smith.
"I remember playing against Kane. He was someone who always stood out in the team, his batting ability was very different from the other players who were around. Steve (Smith) I did not quite play against at the U19 level, so I didn't watch him bat, but he has come a long way in his career as well. It is good to know that so many people from that batch, not just three of us captaining our countries, but apart from that a lot of players have played for their respective countries," he said.
Echoing similar views, Williamson said that the ICC U-19 World Cup could prove to be a stepping stone for some of the cricketers.
"It is a great stepping stone. Playing international cricket within your age group allows players to see slightly higher standards, the best of the best from the under-19 perspective, so (it is) a great tournament to be involved in," he said.
While explaining the importance of the tournament, Williamson said, "It is always fascinating as well that a number of guys you play against and play with, to see their progress. Often, when you meet players, you talk about the Under-19 World Cup. Each team had a few guys who are playing international cricket, which is good. You don't get many opportunities to play World Cups, obviously at the top level - it is once every four years, if you are fortunate enough to be involved. So the opportunity to play at the age-group level is a very exciting opportunity and one that should be enjoyed."
While Kohli has consistently been top-ranked in both shorter versions of the game, Smith's batting averages have been astounding in Test cricket with him being on the top spot in the ICC Test Player Rankings for two years. Williamson too is a regular in the top charts across formats.
But then Joe Root of England, who played in the 2010 tournament, also enjoys a similar status in international cricket while Sarfraz Ahmed (Pakistan), Dinesh Chandimal (Sri Lanka), Jason Holder (Windies) and Graeme Cremer (Zimbabwe) are among the others to have been at the helm.
If Kohli led India to victory in 2008, Pakistan's Sarfraz Ahmed had done so in the edition preceding it. The Pakistan captain also has the distinction of leading his side to victory in a senior ICC competition, an epic win over favourites India in the 2017 Champions Trophy making it one of the most cherished moments in Pakistan's history.
Meanwhile, Michael Clarke (Australia), Michael Atherton (England), Virender Sehwag (India), Brendan McCullum (New Zealand), Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pakistan), Angelo Mathews (Sri Lanka), Graeme Smith (South Africa), Chris Gayle (Windies) and Tatenda Taibu (Zimbabwe) are among the leading players to come through the U19 CWC system.
(With ANI Inputs)