The Pakistan U19 team enjoyed their moment in the sun after claiming an emphatic win against Singapore but things soon went downhill from there. PHOTO COURTESY: PCB
KARACHI: Pakistan junior side head coach Mansoor Rana insists there is no need to panic after his team suffered a shock early exit from the U19 Asia Cup underway in Sri Lanka.
The Boys in Green, who entered the eight-nation tournament as one of the main title contenders, failed to even qualify for the semi-finals after a poor showing in the group stage.
Pakistan were knocked out of the tournament after being stunned by minnows Afghanistan, losing by 21 runs.
The colts did defeat Bangladesh in their next Group B match but it wasn’t enough to see them through to the next round, as Afghanistan and Bangladesh qualified at their expense courtesy of superior run-rate.
Hosts Sri Lanka and India qualified for the semi-finals from group A.
“It’s disheartening to see the team exiting the tournament in such a way,” Rana, a former Pakistan cricketer, told The Express Tribune from Colombo. “We were expected to do well in the tournament as we were one of the favourites along with India and Sri Lanka but we failed.”
Rana feels a lack of experience was the main reason behind the team’s dismal showing.
“We had to field inexperienced players because of the requirements from the organisers about the age cut-off date of players,” he said, with only players who will be eligible to feature in the U19 World Cup next year allowed to participate. “Almost all the players were playing their first international tournament and it was a huge challenge for them.”
The new rules forced Pakistan to make several changes but they were not the only team to be hit by them, as India also had to make seven last-minute changes.
Rana insisted the players have the potential to do well in the U19 World Cup despite their poor showing here.
“Our players showed a lot of promise under pressure and this will help them in New Zealand,” he said. “The team management has already started plans for the World Cup. These players will undergo several training camps before the mega tournament.”
‘Selection of U19 squad not unfair’
Ahead of the tournament, the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) junior selection committee was criticised for not including any player from Karachi in the Pakistan U19 squad after Azam Khan – son of former Pakistan captain Moin Khan – was dropped at the last minute for being ‘overage’.
Quetta Gladiators owner Nadeem Omar, an ardent promoter of cricket at the grassroots level, said he was shocked after Karachi players were overlooked from the national junior squad.
“Karachi won the [National] ODI championship this year and were winners last years as well still their players have been neglected,” Omar said in a statement.
However, Rana claimed the players were selected purely on merit. “I didn’t have much of a role in the selection but I feel the committee did their best. It was not about any city; it was about the country.”
By Fawad Hussain Published in The Express Tribune