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By Sohail Ali

LAHORE, Dec 24 (APP):Thirty-one teenagers edged closer to cherishing their dreams of representing Pakistan in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup West Indies 2022 when they were invited for a six-week training and preparation camp for the event proper here at the National High Performance Centre from 4 January 2021.

These 29 off the 31 players have been selected following their impressive performances in the recently-concluded PCB U19 three-day and one-day tournaments and, more importantly, keeping in mind the ICC’s age criteria for the World Cup, which only allows players born on or after 1 September 2002 to be eligible to participate in the 14th edition of the competition.

Balochistan’s Abdul Wahid Bangalzai and Central Punjab’s Qasim Akram missed the U19 events as they were participating in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy that ran concurrently with the age-group competitions. In the second XI Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Abdul Wahid scored 229 runs in five matches, while Qasim Akram has scored 234 runs in six first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy matches to date.

Due to the ICC’s age eligibility criteria, some of the star performers from this season’s PCB U19 three-day and one-day tournaments, including Mohammad Huraira, Mubashir Nawaz, Mubasir Khan and Saim Ayub, have been aged-out for the West Indies event. Nevertheless, the two age-group events have proved to be a stepping-stone for these talented cricketers to graduate to the senior competitions.

Chair of the Junior Selection Committee, Saleem Jaffar said here on Thursday night : “Unlike in the past, when we used to assemble our junior squads in the lead up to a global event, we have made a strategic decision to start our preparations, at least, 12 months in advance and that too under the supervision of the best available coaches at the National High Performance Centre.

“While it will ensure our leading U19 cricketers get sufficient time to prepare for the World Cup, this fits perfectly with our strategy that revolves around identifying the best available talent at the grassroots level and providing them with an environment where they can develop and get ready for the bigger stage.

“This is an ongoing process and outstanding performers from next year’s PCB U19 three-day and one-day tournaments will be added to the mix before we pick the best possible squad for the Caribbean event.”

As per the PCB Covid-19 protocols, the 31 players will undergo tests at their respective bases. Those returning negative, will report at the NHPC on 31 December, where they will undergo second round of testing. Following the second negative tests, the players will be allowed to integrate with the wider group and participate in the camp from 4 January under the watchful and experienced eyes of the NHPC coaches, including Atiq-uz-Zaman, Mohammad Yousuf, Saqlain Mushtaq and Umar Rashid.

Pakistan junior head coach Ijaz Ahmed will assume charge of the camp when he returns from New Zealand with the Pakistan Shaheens’ squad.

The six-week camp is the first of a series of training and preparation camps that will be staged throughout the year at various High Performance Centres across the country. The objective to set up the camp 12 months prior to the event proper is to ensure the Pakistan U19 cricket team is fully prepared and ready for the competition, it last won in 2006.

Some of the prominent players invited for the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup West Indies 2022 camp are: Northern’s Abdul Faseeh (total of 859 runs in the two PCB U19 events), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Maaz Sadaqat (559 runs in the two events), Balochistan’s wicketkeeper Haseebullah (490 runs and dismissed 21 batsmen behind wickets in the two events), Sindh Aaliyan Mehmood (44 wickets in the two events), Sindh’s Adeel Meo (41 wickets in the two events), Southern Punjab’s Faisal Akram (39 wickets in the two events) and Central Punjab’s Arham Nawab (38 wickets in the two events).

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Maaz Sadaqat, who scored 363 runs in the one-day competition and another 196 in the three-day event, is the youngest member of the list at just over 15 years and seven months.
31 probables are:
Batsmen (12) – Abbas Ali (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Abdul Faseeh (Northern), Abdul Wahid Bangalzai (Balochistan), Aun Shehzad (Southern Punjab), Fahad Munir (Central Punjab), Maaz Sadaqat (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Mohammad Irfan Khan (Central Punjab), Mohammad Shehzad (Southern Punjab), Mohammad Waqas (Central Punjab), Mubashir Ali (Southern Punjab), Qasim Akram (Central Punjab) and Rizwan Mehmood (Sindh).
Wicketkeepers (4) – Ghazi Ghori (Sindh), Haseebullah (Balochistan), Mohammad Raza-ul-Mustafa (Northern) and Salman Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).
Fast bowlers (7) – Ahmed Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Asim Ali (Sindh), Aurangzeb (Balochistan), Awais Abbas (Southern Punjab), Muneeb Wasif (Central Punjab), Tahir Hussain (Southern Punjab) and Zeeshan Zameer (Sindh).
Spinners (8) – Adeel Meo (Sindh), Ali Asfand (Central Punjab), Aaliyan Mehmood (Sindh), Arham Nawab (Central Punjab), Faisal Akram (Southern Punjab), Ismail Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Mehran Mumtaz (Northern) and Talha Ahsan (Sindh).