Dawn News

Age-old story

On 19th February 2006, two Pakistani fast bowlers walked out at the Premadasa in Colombo playing the biggest game of their lives, the finals of the U-19 World-Cup against bitter rivals India. Their batsmen had been skittled for a mere 109 and they seemed to be in a hole too deep to climb out of. A stunning turn of events, however, not only propelled them out of trouble but put them on course, in just 4 overs of their defence.

India was reeling at 9 for 6 as the right and left arm pair destroyed the in-form top order through some magical swing bowling. Pakistan was crowned champion, the only team ever to retain the trophy. This was not just one for the record books, it was custom-made for U-19 folklore; ostentatious Pakistani fans, recalling the miracles at Hamilton or the 92 World Cup, boasted of this as a trademark performance.

The sensational duo of Anwar Ali and Jamshed Ahmed had taken 29 wickets amongst themselves, making them the bowling pair of the Cup, with Akhtar Ayub supporting them well. Batting seemed typically fragile and only two batsmen crossed 50 through the fortnight. The highest run getter Nasir Jamshed modestly averaged 25.6 with a best of 37. Coach Mansoor Rana praised the captain who was the second most successful keeper and suggested that Sarfraz Ahmed could captain the national team.

The batting was nothing to write about, the bowling was sublime and under astute leadership the bottom line was: these lads were world champions with a bright future.

That year also showcased talent from Australia’s David Warner and Usman Khwaja, India’s Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja, Angelo Mathews from Sri Lanka, Craig Kieswetter and Wayne Parnell from South Africa, Tim Southee and Martin Guptil from New Zealand, Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib al Hasan from Bangladesh, Kieron Pollard from West Indies and Eoin Morgan from Ireland. England with no indigenous talent customarily roped in Kieswetter and Morgan into their fold a little later.

Though the U-19 setup brought the likes of Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mushtaq Ahmed, Abdul Razzak and Umar Akmal, they did not rise through the ranks in a system of academies or domestic cricket but were simultaneously blooded into the international arena. Raw talented teenagers like Wasim Akram (was picked by Javed Miandad from an U-19 net session), Waqar Younis, Saqlain Mushtaq and Mohammad Amir by-passed the system.

Notables who came through the domestic system such as Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif amongst others were never a part of the U-19 campaign.

Pakistan is the only country to have played four U-19 World-Cup finals in its short history of eight but few names from it lived large.  Accredit this to the lack of infrastructure, misguidance, mismanagement, ISI, IPL, NCA or the corrupt political culture of bias; the parchee system. However, the crux of the U-19 quagmire might be that those who were glorified as uncut diamonds of Pakistan might have been an illusion created through the inaccuracy of their age.

Hence, the disparity between those who succeed at the U-19 level, and those who successfully proceed to excel at the domestic level and breakthrough onto the world stage.

Understating age is not just an open secret but a norm in Pakistan’s sporting culture and at an age when muscles build fast, a year or two can completely change physical strength. While it maybe a generalisation, it is surely one of the reasons why the talented ‘juniors’ have not made it big. The few that have, had to be exceptional talents, while for the others it can be argued whether they were playing to an advantage: physical superiority as compared to their actual U-19 counterparts?

World champions in 2006, today in their mid-20’s, on paper at least, should be at the peak of their powers. Unfortunately, only Sarfraz has made it through to the fray of test cricket while Nasir Jamshed has played ODI’s. Apart from Anwar Ali and Rameez Raja Jr, who barely knocked on T20 doors, the rest have faded away with time and have little hope of ever making it big. This, a similar in fate to the team Khalid Latif led to U-19 glory in 2004.

Two world cup winning teams failed to produce even one world class cricketer?

Pakistan has 7 of the 10 youngest test centurions; a skewed stat as 33 of the 90 youngest debutants are Pakistanis while only one South African, one Englishman and three Australians feature in the list. The youngest was the 14-year-old (discredited) Hasan Raza. Make you wonder if Shahid Afridi was really 16 in Kenya, did Abdul Razzaq just turn 32, was Mushtaq Mohammed really 15 when he faced Wesley Hall. Was Mohammed Bin Qasim really 17 when he invaded the Sub-Continent?

Why does an U-19 prodigy feel completely out of place on the domestic circuit and takes time to come to terms with it? It’s just math, he was playing against an opposition who were far younger than him, in most cases. When the same lad stepped up and was either on an even keel or playing with older domestic cricketers, an accurate picture of his ability came through. With a weak domestic infrastructure, a dysfunctional academy and board which is apathetic towards its greatest assets, the importance of nurture on and off the field, too cannot be highlighted enough.

And while it is true that junior cricketers face quite a few more hurdles in Pakistan, and South Asia for that matter, than they boys in say Australia and or South Africa, what we often slide under the carpet or conveniently turn a blind eye to could be one of the major reasons of failure of these boys.

The writer grew up in a home with sports as its religion and “The Cricketer” subscription of black and white pages as holy script. He resides in Istanbul and can be reached here.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Email feedback and queries to Dawn.com's editorial team, or visit our contact page

Shaan Agha grew up in a home with sports as its religion and “The Cricketer” subscription of black and white pages as holy script.

He resides in Istanbul and can be reached here.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


Comments (53) Closed

Faraz Paracha
Apr 12, 2012 02:59pm
No one can deny the magic Anwar Ali and Jamshed did on that evening in Colombo against India. Swing is not dependent on age or maturity, its just sheer ability and surely their bowling that day was way too good for any opposition. That has nothing to do with them being U19 on paper not in reality. But I do still wonder why couldn't Anwar Ali with his banana swing, Khalid Latif with his big hitting and many other talented players make it large and those who got a chance at the big game, couldn't deliver it. May be it's just another case of Hasan Raza and Faisal Iqbal.
Apr 13, 2012 02:15am
A very unfair and shallow article. Nothing but whole lot of assumptions and innuendos. Do you have ANY proof of players falsifying their ages or is it enough that you can just assume it? Where is the proof? Give at least one example that so and so was older than 19 when he played and here is the proof. Four teams, 44 players are all liars just because you think so. I think you are just blindly following the fashion to denigrate any achievement by Pakistanis.
Ammar Khan
Apr 12, 2012 12:48am
What a nicely written article and so accurate. So true many of the same Indian U-19 team's players are in their national team. We should definitely give Anwar Ali and Jamshed Ahmed a chance. In Pakistan there is hope.
Apr 17, 2012 12:40pm
and yet we thrash the world champs 3-0 and are Asian champs, where age does not help....
Apr 17, 2012 12:42pm
I agree...it is sad that we don't have enough U-21 or A teams touring overseas either, which would really groom the next generation of int'l cricketers...
Capt Mansur (Namibia
Apr 12, 2012 12:15am
True..Good article but nothing can be done, nothing will change, so sad.
Apr 13, 2012 04:31am
Our system has fallen in the hand of politicians, from daily routine work to high profile decisions, nothing to say about sports. Tendulker was given a year and 30+ matches to get his 100 th hundred, in Pakistan we don't beleive in that. If one has a very strong backing, he can survive 5 or 6 matches otherwise see what happened to Hanif Muhammad and Javed Miandad. GOD BLESS PAKISTAN.
Apr 12, 2012 02:54pm
Very true, seems as if Pakistanis living in Pakistan are just not good enough.
Apr 12, 2012 02:57am
In the western countries the date of birth is real and can not be reduced. In India, Pakistan and other countries of the sub continent, it is a practice to lower the age due to high unemployment and early retirement age.
Apr 12, 2012 03:03am
Don't you think, that those cricketers who could't make it to the U19 level have any right to try hard and make it on another level. Or they shouldn't be given the opportunity because they couldn't make it to U19 team?
Apr 17, 2012 12:38pm
i agree...becaue these players refused to go and wanted to manipulate and corrupt things, players on the outside rarely get a chance...Sarfaraz Ahmed is a good example of how he has to struggle against the Akmal brothers and Akram is the God father of all these corrupt players...hopefully ICC will get the elections done and we might get a constituition...
Apr 17, 2012 12:34pm
actually everyone can wrte a blog, it's just that most who could read and write honestly without bias have left! write something good enough and send it in, it just might get published, but stop complaining without trying...
Apr 17, 2012 12:30pm
I think so too...
Apr 11, 2012 10:41pm
Interesting point of view!! Something we all knew and wondered about often but didnt pin it down like this guy! Is there any hope of all this changing????
Apr 17, 2012 12:25pm
that's not the point...they desrve every opportunity but have to prove themselves, while the U-19 palyers who've delivered should theoretically have a head start...
Apr 13, 2012 12:06am
Simple, there is no infrastrcture. I can fix that in 3 days if I was there. I don't know why no one has done it. No Money I guess. I'm yet to see Gov spend a dime on devoloping telent in Pakistan
Apr 12, 2012 12:13am
What a terrific article..well written and accurate..few people ever realise the potential we fail to harness..
Apr 12, 2012 06:22pm
Liberated from who? but anyway, you are very funny.
Apr 12, 2012 01:20pm
Andhoon mein kaana raja. The one eyed man rules the blind. A crude saying but holds true for our age level system. For those asking those U-19 heroes to be given a chance, these same guys didn't set the domestic scene alight once they started playing without an age bar as the writer mentioned. So the question is, were they really that good in the first place? Also I'd like to know if the swing managed on that day was genuine? If Anwar Ali can swing it like that, he ought to be big by now surely!
Haider Raza
Apr 12, 2012 12:58pm
I believe all the players were wrist-tested to calculate their final age and all the players were under 19 years of age
Apr 13, 2012 07:21pm
I dont think you know anyone who has ever played cricket in Pakistan, anyone who has played any form of cricket knows these facts. I have been an under 19 cricketer selected to play for Karachi (Sindh) but failed national trials in Lahore (Punjab) for the World Cup of 2004, I was around 22 at the time. My current age is 28/10/1982 but as registered with KCCA I am 28/10/1987. When I first went to the National Stadium with my original birth ceritificate a selctor told me to go and get it changed else there is no future for me. What you have to understand is that it is not the young kids who are at fault it is the system, very few genuine 16-17 year olds can compete. What this article fails to address is that the system forces us to reduce their age. We try to trade short term results for long term losses, lack of foresight.
Apr 13, 2012 07:26pm
I now live in the US and maybe you should not listen to me because according to you I have abandoned my country, 0.0001 % of the Pakistani nationals living abroad contribute to 4% of its GDP. The first time I ever realised that I was a Pakistani is when I started living abroad, living in Pakistan I never knew the true worth of being one. Fool yourself and be happy thinking that there is nothing wrong with the system in "our" country. The first step to redemption is accepting ones shortcomings. Please meet an under 19 cricketer to broaden your horizons or just read comments from Pat and Sani underneath.
Talha Ahmed
Apr 13, 2012 07:29pm
While I agree with your comment somewhat...I think you too are unaware of the massive scale of age discrepancies that exist in Pakistan sports in general....Please get off your sofa and be informed. I trialled for zonal cricket for Karachi and believe me..the coaches encourage you too enroll yourself as 3-4 years younger. If you believe Afridi was 16 when he made his debut than god help you!
Apr 12, 2012 10:39pm
Pawwa is the word. Without any connections, nothing gets done in Pakistan.
Apr 12, 2012 06:46am
Anwar Ali and Jamshed Ahmed do not have nay relatives in the ruling parties or the selection committee. They should have been given at least one opportunity on the International stage.
Apr 12, 2012 07:12am
Agha Bhai: Muhammad Bin Qasim liberated the people of Sindh. How can you write the word " invaded"? Thanks
Apr 13, 2012 03:39am
Gentlemen - why shall we listen to this chap who has abandoned our country ? Even if we chose to ignore that for a second this article has a number of grammatical mistakes to say the least - now on a cricketing level I notice the following flaws with the above article which has only been published on a blog (Blogs dont mean much in the world of pure journalism unfortunately): -Opining without knowing the facts about the players age is very offensive, if I was a Pakistani U-19 player I would sue Dawn news and also the writer (unfortunately the kid lives out of bounds) - The article is counter-productive for Pakistanis Thanks, Ali
Apr 12, 2012 08:47am
Great article...everyone in the world knows that many Pakistani crickters lack credible age proof
R Rashdi.
Apr 12, 2012 09:55am
Apr 13, 2012 03:31am
Honestly true Patriotic Pakistanis are the ones who should be represented at every level - especially in Sport journalism. Unfortunately we dont value the opinion of someone who has left our country and gone to greener pastures (Allegedly). Us Proud Pakistanis have the right to talk about Sport.
Apr 12, 2012 06:11pm
How can one gets a chance when thugs ( Wasim Akram---> Akmal brothers are there, including Shoaib Malik, Imran Nazir.. If we pay attention, 1) Imran Farhat father-in-law was selector 2) Umar Akmal with bad behaviour no performance and enaged with Abdul Qadir daugther 3) In Past, Majid Khan and Tauqeer Zia sons already played at test level. I never play domestic cricket.. If I have connection I can still make into team though I am 42 years old. How can the talented players get a chance...
Apr 12, 2012 10:25am
Sad but true!
Apr 13, 2012 02:47am
I will be 56 soon, spent all my life in Karachi before moving to USA. I remember Mohsin Hasan Khan was 3 years senior to me in School, Javed Miandad was a year junior and Rameez Raja was one year senior. Ask all these heros their age and I am not sure if any one will accept that they are above 55.
Apr 12, 2012 11:15am
Interesting point of view!! Something we all knew and wondered about often but didnt pin it down like this guy! Is there any hope of all this changing????
Apr 12, 2012 09:11pm
the cricket teams, U19 or otherwise, are reflective of the nepotism and zero respect for law we have in general in Pakistan. this shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, however, the bigger question is what are WE going to do about it. talk is cheap!!
Rizwan Rana
Apr 12, 2012 08:53pm
Very true, good article-
Apr 12, 2012 12:06pm
Hi, I am an Indian, but tarnishing the entire U19 pakistan players is too much. In case of India and other countries support system existed and a proper domestic system is in place. Even then a lot of players fall between the cracks. So my thought is to strengthen domestic system and support rather than tarnish everyone with a black paint.
Apr 12, 2012 08:35pm
Pakistan circket team is just game for politics , most of them are perchi players, discrimination on provinces and language.
Apr 12, 2012 12:19pm
Very nice, that U-19 hero should be give fair chances to included in national team, iam still wonder why they did not pick Anwer ali, i never see bowler like him in u-19 world cup..
Shahid Ali
Apr 12, 2012 12:32pm
Well said bro..but this is society will never change and will get from bad to worst in all walks of life..not only cricket..We are a scattered nation.
Apr 12, 2012 12:33pm
well interesting but not new. one thing is for sure most of the pakistani players who play in U-19 competitions are older in reality. I know one player personaly who played in U-19 world cup. He was one year senior then me in college. I was 22 when he played U-19 :). Moreover you need to approach right people to get selected or atleast to be on good notes. Sucking up to a seniour, official, politician can give you a chance to an early ride :).
Apr 12, 2012 01:26pm
very well written, the notables at PCB should read this....
syed ashraf agha
Apr 12, 2012 01:30pm
Keep it up Shaan, well written. I remember the controversy about age started, when Mushtaq Mohammed, made his Test debut at the age of 15, facing the fastest bowler of his era Wesley Hall, and later Mushtaq went on to become the youngest centurion at Test level at the age of 16. For personal reasons, only to shatter that record, Majid Khan inducted Hasan Reza to play a Test at age 14. All these ages are disputable, but with modern methods, medical check ups and bone density test, these ages can be made far more accurate than before, unless the entire system is flawed and corrupt. Guess, like everything else, for acceptance by the International community, declared ages of Pakistani cricketers will need to be certified by the ICC after due verification of all documents. If that should happen, Pakistan may not win as many U-19 World Cups, nor will lift so many Cups for the blind.
Apr 12, 2012 01:36pm
Why everyone residing in Canada, UK , USA and Istanbul get a chance to write articles and blogs published in the newspapers?
Apr 13, 2012 04:54am
The U-19 cricketing system was established to strengthen domestic infrastructure in most cricket playing nations. If, at the grass-root level, we have a system failure under corrupt governance, it leaves no room for grooming youngsters: physically, technically and mentally. Brilliant article!! I think one more thing that could have potentially be addressed was the lack of cricket education our players have. Some of the talented lot of test or ODI cricketers we have are found dumbstruck when it comes to the law book or basic cricketing sense. And the answer somewhat goes back to our U-19 system!!
R Rashdi.
Apr 12, 2012 02:37pm
because apparently it's easier for them to judge LOL!
Apr 12, 2012 07:53pm
There are some indisputable facts in this article that should be addressed. Such as, why we don't see as many of U-19 going to national team as in other countries. It beats the whole purpose of U-19. Imran Khan has provided a perfect solution that will take care of age, guidance and is fair. The only reason not to take his advice is to leave room for corruption. PCB, say something to your defense..
Apr 13, 2012 09:42am
All players mentioned by Kamal desrved to be selected. Having relatives in cricketing world is not a crime. Look at Hussey brothers , Yusuf Pathans,etc.
Apr 13, 2012 01:19pm
@ Syed You mean like NATO 'liberated' Afganistan, Iraq and Libya and are now 'liberating' Syria and itching to 'liberate' Iran? "f language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything" - Confucius
Apr 15, 2012 01:23am
I don't understand the resentment by us towards overseas Pakistanis, as is obvious from some comments. Anyhow, I like the tone of this article, and it's well written. keep up the good work :) I don't think things can totally run by the 'book' in our country and it's a miracle really, to see how quite a lot of people still voice their patriotism in the face of all this chaos! Some ideas might seem cynical, but I think it roots from a deeper place where we all want this nation to succeed.. Badly!
badar ul hassan
Apr 19, 2012 09:07pm
sarfaraz - who was in that team is regularly picked and then dropped. the aknmal bros have a strange strangle hold on the thinking of the PCB officials. they have ensured the confidence of this bright cricketer is shaken. comming to anwar ali - perhaps one of the best in the domestic circuit has never been in the reckoning dfor the national team . his performabnce is just simp-ly outstanding he has accuracy and can swing the ball both ways. what is it that prevents his selection ? nasir jamshed - proved his worth in the bangla desh tournament. let us hope the new team at PCB will do justice to these youngsters
Apr 25, 2012 05:02pm
Why are the players from Karachi being ignored even though players from other state keeps on giving false results.Look at Shoaib Malik, from the time he was removed as captain how many times has he made a comeback even thought giving failures one after another.An war Ali performed brilliant in the U-19 WC but he was not given a chance except for a lone T20.Had the PCB kept faith in H.Raza at that time now we would had a tendulkar like player in our team.
Salman Baloch
May 10, 2012 02:21am
It is a known fact that age is understated in pakistan india and bangladesh. It has been taken up with the ICC and addressed many times. We should not live in denial, else we will never be able to improve our selves. Good that someone is talking about it rather than harping about how great the under 19 and under 15 teams perform like everyone else. I havent seen him live but from what I hear Anwar ali could only move the ball in... I am not sure ... Khalid Latif is still a good option, he was always good. So is Sarfraz !! Is there any cricket in Istanbul ??