A thrilling ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2024 moves into the Super Six stage this week and I’m excited to see what the next stage has in store following a host of nail-biting finishes and remarkable individual performances.
But before that, I must say this: I’m struck by the incredible atmosphere and the promising talent on display here in South Africa. The passion of the fans, the diverse pitches, the standard of cricket … this tournament has already been a very memorable experience.
It has been good to see people streaming in, everyone cheering on their teams, including the hosts South Africa. It’s just been a great atmosphere and the vibe surrounding this whole tournament has been really positive in general. I’m sure the guys are enjoying it on the field too.
The one thing that has stood out for me, so far in the tournament at least, is how everyone has looked so calm and composed on the field. Speaking to the captains pre-tournament, they were all very approachable and positive, and it didn’t feel like you were about to enter a tense World Cup environment. It just looked like they were so focused and knew what to do. They were relaxed.
Now, on to the Super Six: this is where the pressure intensifies. It’s always tough. Once you get beyond the first stage in any tournament and you get closer to the end, it does get really hard, bodies are a little more tired and small mistakes begin to creep in, those can cause a bit of frustration in a team.
This is where the best separate themselves from the rest. The teams that maintain their composure, assess their conditions and surroundings and what is required of them the best will most likely come out on top. It is hard, as there will be a lot of pressure. I won’t say there will be fear of failure, but that does enter your thinking. You don’t want to fail or disappoint. You want to do really well.
In terms of predicting the final four, I’d still go with South Africa, Australia, India, and England, as I wrote in my first column. Having seen how these teams have adapted to the World Cup stage makes me think they are best placed to push on from here.
While a World Cup stage is always difficult for emerging nations, it’s great to see countries like Nepal represented in the Super Six stage. Competing alongside countries with a strong pedigree in World Cup competitions can be daunting, yet they have overcome a tough group to end up among the final 12 teams.
I have to be a little bit biased towards the South African side now. There’s been a lot of pressure on them. Whether they feel it or not, there is pressure playing at home. It is a big tournament and you want to do well for everyone you represent. You’ve got a lot of extra support that you’ve never had in your life. So there’s a certain expectation to do well, but it’s something you have to put behind you and just focus ball-by-ball, game-by-game.
I’d like to point out Kwena Maphaka as an impressive youngster. The way he has been spreading his yorkers and bumpers, and swinging the ball as well, has been really impressive and he has looked like he has a clear plan of attack with the ball.
It has been nice to see how he seems to take things in his stride. That opening game in particular when South Africa had their backs to the wall against a battling West Indies – he responded and ensured they started the competition with a big result.
Generally speaking, the standard I’ve observed across the tournament has been impressive. Results only tell part of the story, you have to consider conditions and how teams adapt to new situations. Now, it’s the Super Six, and this is where the tournament will be won or lost.
To all the players in the Super Six stage, I would say try and stick to what brought you to where you are today. Don’t try to change anything. You guys have been playing amazing cricket and it’s great to see the high standards of play among these young talents.
We spoke about the brand, the excitement, everything that you guys are going to bring in. I think you guys have blown it away. You’ve done more than I think a lot of people have expected, myself included.
It’s a really exciting part of the tournament, it’s something that everyone looks forward to. And not everyone is able to make it to these stages. So all the best, play well, and take in every moment.
I’m quite excited for what is to come, and I’m sure everyone else is