New South Wales’ Blues rookie Jason Sangha will captain Australia in their first match of the ICC Under 19 World Cup in New Zealand on Sunday, and he could be joined by up to six other players from his state.
The Australia Under 19s play India in the opening match at Tauranga’s Bay Oval and have been in New Zealand the past week preparing for the tournament.
Seven New South Wales players form part of the Australian Under 19 squad including Sangha. The captain is joined by fellow Blues’ rookie Param Uppal, opening batsman Jack Edwards, fast bowlers Ryan Hadley and Jason Ralston, all-rounder Austin Waugh and promising wicketkeeper-batsman Baxter Holt.
Eighteen year-old Sangha, who recently scored a century for the Cricket Australia XI against England in a pre-Ashes tour match, said he had been looking forward to the tournament for some time.
“I’m so excited, for myself it’s something that I’ve been ticking off for such a long time now, to be able to play a World Cup, but to know that it is less than 24 hours away until I’ll be walking out there representing my country is an amazing feeling.”
“I know (on) behalf of the boys, everyone is super keen to play some cricket”.
Edwards, in particular, has been in some great form leading into the World Cup.
The brother of New South Wales’ Blues paceman Mickey Edwards was pivotal in the warm-up match against Sri Lanka which Australia won by 53 runs.
The Manly-Warringah all-rounder scored 50 from 76 balls at the top of the order and laid the platform for his side.
This innings came on the back of 99 not out from just 60 deliveries in a Big Bash League Pathways match at the Gabba on January 5 and an excellent Under 19 National Championships for the victorious NSW Metro team.
Edwards scored a match-winning 147 in the Final of those championships against the Cricket Australia XI and finished the tournament with 296 runs at an average of 37.
Uppal was also outstanding during that tournament. He made 370 runs at 61.7 and will likewise head into the World Cup full of confidence.
Jason Ralston, from Port Kembla on the South Coast of New South Wales, was another stand-out in the match against Sri Lanka claiming 3-36.
Ralston represented ACT/NSW Country at the Under 19 National Championships, where the young quick was the equal fourth leading wicket taker. He collected 12 wickets at 17.9.
As one of the team’s best batsmen and captain, Sangha said he didn’t necessarily feel any added pressure.
“For me, as a top-order batsman, that’s my role, obviously to score as many runs as I can for the team, but I just want to make sure that I’m ticking the KPIs for my team”.
“I’m happy … for someone else to keep whacking big hundreds and me just providing the support along the way”.
He said whilst there was some anxiety in anticipation of the first match against India, the whole squad was ready for the test of a World Cup.
“There’s obviously going to be a little bit of nerves, first game, I think there’s that little bit of pressure, everyone’s first World Cup, no one’s really ever been in (that) situation before”.
“I think everyone is embracing that challenge, it’s something new that we’ve experienced, but I can’t wait to actually go out there and play some cricket”.
India will be the Australians’ toughest opponent in the pool rounds of the tournament with the other two matches to be played on 17 and 19 January against Zimbabwe and Papua New Guinea respectively.
Sangha said it will be the team that best adapts who will prove the most successful.
“These are different conditions, we’re in a different country. It’s going to show who’s going to be the top player on the day, but for us, we’ve just been focusing on our cricket”.
Sangha believes the depth of the squad will be the key to its success.
“For us, we don’t have six, seven, eight good players. We have a whole 15 good players, and all these guys have shown why they’re the best … 15 players in the country”.