‘Under 19s wet behind the ears’

2012-07-21 15:52

South Africa has not yet engraved its name on to the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup trophy in its 24-year history.

Under-19 coach Ray Jennings is a pragmatist and feels that record is not about to change this year. He is not happy with the current crop of players at his disposal.

“They are not as good. There are high expectations, but they are not as good as players in previous years,” Jennings said.

“The side has to do well and click in August and that is not an easy thing.”

South African cricket is known for being conservative when it comes to blooding youngsters.

The shrinkage of the professional system to six franchises has worked in strengthening the depth and pool of cricket.

However, this has negatively impacted on Jennings’ selection options as he says the standard of amateur cricket is not high enough.

“Other than Quinton de Kock and Prenelan Subrayen, none of them have played franchise cricket. But the duo also has not played a lot of franchise cricket,” he said.

“The rest have been fed on a diet of amateur cricket. The quality of amateur cricket is not as good as the Under-19 World Cup stuff.”

Jennings has every reason to be worried as South Africa’s juniors have flattered to deceive.

Only twice have they reached the final – in 2002 and 2008. The biennial tournament has been dominated by Australia, which has three titles. India and Pakistan follow in their slipstream with two wins each and Jennings rated the latter two as favourites this year.

“The Indians, Sri Lankans and Pakistanis are often the good sides. Their ages are sometimes queried but one also needs to look at how their cricket is structured,” said Jennings.

“They play a lot of competitive games during the year so their investment in preparation is far greater than ours. The guys here have spent three or four months preparing and hopefully that will show down the line. There can only be so much that can be done for an 18-year-old. They have to mature in their own time and you cannot mature a kid five years in a three-month period.”

Despite the difficulties “Jet” is facing, he said the current group is not as bad as the 2006 team.

That side bombed out in the plate final and suffered losses to Australia and Nepal.

“The 2006 side was disorganised. They did not have a clue as to what they were doing. At that stage the Under-19 programme was not working. That year they picked the best 15 players from the Coke Week (Coca-Cola Khaya Majola Week) and they went to the tournament.

One week does not mean you are a good cricketer,” Jennings said.

Various Proteas stars have come through the SA Under-19 structures, including Wayne Parnell, AB de Villiers and Vaughn van Jaarsveld. In 2000, Graeme Smith was the tournament’s leading run-scorer, with 348 runs, at an average of 87.

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