Call to nurture our young talent

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Ryan McLaren Mar 19 AFP Proteas allrounder Ryan McLaren. AFP Photo / Joe Alexander

Johannesburg – While the South African under-19 cricket team bask in the glory of winning the recent ICC Junior World Cup, Proteas allrounder Ryan McLaren has warned of the dangers of pushing players too early.

“From a management point of view, it’s important we don’t push these guys too early,” McLaren said at the under-19 celebrations in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

“You might get a couple of guys that bloom a bit later than others. It’s important to mentor them and gauge when they’re ready.”

The 31-year-old with 104 first class games and 40 One Day International appearances, said the journey of the young players should be carefully managed.

Around the age of 20, it would only be an exceptional case where a player was fully ready for the demands of senior international cricket, he said.

“You have a very small percentage of guys who are ready to play for South Africa at 20 or 21.

“For example AB de Villiers, guys like him don’t come around too often.”

In the case of Quinton de Kock, 21, who has had considerable success in 16 ODIs and 12 Twenty20 Internationals for the Proteas, there had been calls for him to be thrust into the Test team.

De Kock was handed a debut for the Proteas in the second Test against Australia in Port Elizabeth in February in the absence of both Alviro Petersen, who was ill, and McLaren, suffering concussion. De Kock acquitted himself well scoring 41 runs in the two innings, but was not selected for the third Test.

Team-mate in the upcoming T20 world cup in Bangladesh, Wayne Parnell, made his Test debut for the Proteas in 2010 – at the age of 20 – with one match against England and two against India.

For Parnell, however, it was four years before he played another Test for the Proteas – in the same match against Australia where De Kock made his debut.

“Sometimes, there’s unjustified expectation on some players from an early age and it pushed them in a direction they’re not ready for.

“They might only be ready at 26 or 27 to play international cricket.

“Whichever path the under-19 players chose, it would be important to build on their early success.

“This is a start for them – at under-19 to win a world cup is brilliant.

“The world is at their feet. It’s up to them to decide how they use this platform they’ve set up and how they want to take this forward.”

The Proteas, whose campaign the T20 World Cup begins on Saturday against Sri Lanka, should be able to draw inspiration from the under-19s, McLaren said.

Getting through the knockout stages for the senior national team has been problematic, with their only ICC tournament success coming in the Champions Trophy in 1998.

“There is this expectation from the South African public for the team to win tournaments and we want to set that right,” said McLaren.

“I'm sure the senior team will feed off the success of the under 19s.”

Coming off a 2-0 T20 series loss at home against Australia, the expectations for the Proteas have been lowered. McLaren chose to look at the Proteas “under the radar” entry to the tournament as an opportunity.

“It’s maybe good that we don’t have this huge pressure and go in as underdogs.

“The guys have the self belief and the wanting to go and win this tournament. If we perform at the right times and identify key moments, there’s no doubt we can win the tournament.” – Sapa



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