SA U19 captain encourages 'attacking and aggressive' cricket heading into World Cup

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George van Heerden (Gallo Images)
George van Heerden (Gallo Images)
Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images

With the 2022 U19 ICC Cricket World Cup getting underway on Friday, South Africa's captain George van Heerden believes that sticking to their aggressive brand of cricket, whilst not putting too much pressure on themselves, will be the formula to bring them World Cup success.

The tournament takes place between 14 January and 5 February, with 16 teams from around the world looking to go all the way. The young internationals have been divided into four groups of four and will compete in 48 matches over 22 days.

Bangladesh are the current defending champions but after two years without international cricket for the U19 sides, every team has something to play for.

“I think we'd like to be as aggressive and attacking as we possibly can without being frantic,” explained van Heerden.

“I think also depends on what the conditions allow. All the places are different here in the West Indies... we've looked at the average scores, and all those kinds of things, and some of them are much lower than what we used to back in South Africa.

“I think we're going to have to be a little bit more measured but trying to stick to our brand of being attacking and aggressive,” he added.

When asked about how the team is dealing with the pressures of the World Cup and playing for South Africa, the young skipper says that taking away the magnitude of the event and simplifying it down to a game of cricket is what will contribute to their success.

“Coach Shruki has kept saying to us that we can't view this as representing your country and trying to make the people at home proud and all of that kind of thing because that just adds extra pressure on yourself.”

“Instead, we should look at it as an opportunity to do something that we always looked for. This is going to be the biggest stage that any of us have ever played cricket on before but we can't view it as 'if we fail, you know, we lead people down' or that kind of thing, because then we never going to be successful. So just trying to go out there, enjoy ourselves and enjoy the time with all of our team-mates.”

Having competed in an enthralling four-match against the West Indies recently, which ended two apiece, the South African outfit have been preparing in the Caribbean conditions since early December. With 150 accepted as a par score as a result of the challenging wickets, the team has learnt that every game can change at any moment.

“Well firstly, we learned quite a lot about conditions. Playing in St Vincent the pitches were a lot slower than we used to and they turn quite a bit more than back in South Africa,” said van Heerden

“I think one of the main things we've realized is that you are never actually out of the game until it's over because it can change just like that. Momentum is such a big thing in the West Indies.

“The nice thing about our team is we have a lot of different match winners. Top of the order you've got Ethan Cunningham who hits the ball very hard, Valentine Kitime who has backed him up well since he's coming to the side he's done very well.

“Then on the bowling side with Matthew Boast who's become like an impact for us,  hitting the deck very hard for us and then also Liam Alder who's bowled nicely, I think in our game yesterday we had a super over at the end of the game, obviously the most pressure that you can be under as a bowler, and he handled that brilliantly so in our group we've got lots of match-winners but those are the four or five players that you should probably look out for.”

Bringing back the reality of playing his country, the Grey College captain appears eager to represent the green and gold and appreciates what the opportunity could provide.

“I think we’re extremely excited. Last night, a couple of us are chatting about all of the SA players that have gone before us and you've got the names like Aiden Markram, Rabada, all of those kinds of guys who've been in our seat before us is absolutely amazing. It's such a great opportunity for all of us [...] it's been absolutely eye-opening and we're all just very excited for what's to come.”

On Friday, the tournament opens with hosts the West Indies taking on Australia in Guyana at Providence Stadium, and Sri Lanka battling Scotland at Everest Cricket Club.

South Africa will take on India on Saturday at 09:00 local time (15:00 SA time) before taking on Uganda three days later and then rounding off the group stage fixtures with a clash against Ireland on 21 January.

ICC Men's U19 World Cup Groups:

Group A: Bangladesh, Canada, England, UAE

Group B: India, Ireland, South Africa, Uganda

Group C: Afghanistan, Pakistan, PNG, Zimbabwe

Group D: Australia, Scotland, Sri Lanka, West Indies

2022 ICC U19 Cricket World Cup - South Africa Under-19 squad:

George van Heerden (captain) (Warriors), Liam Alder (Lions), Matthew Boast (KZN Inland), Dewald Brevis (Titans), Michael Copeland (Boland), Ethan Cunningham (Western Province), Valentine Kitime (Titans), Kwena Maphaka (Lions), Gerhard Maree (Free State), Aphiwe Mnyanda (Warriors), Andile Simelane (KwaZulu-Natal Inland), Jade Smith (Warriors), Kaden Solomons (Western Province), Joshua Stephenson (Warriors), Asakhe Tshaka (Western Province)

Travelling reserves:

Hardus Coetzer (Titans), Ronan Hermann (Titans), Caleb Seleka (North West)

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