Kuala Lumpur: Cricket's brightest young talent will not be short of inspiration when they contest the International Cricket Council's under-19 World Cup starting here on Sunday.
The stars of tomorrow have only to look at the greats of today to realise the value of making an impression in the 16-nation tournament that ends with the final at the Kinrara Oval here on March 2.
Graeme Smith, who captained the senior South Africa team within three years of playing in the 2000 junior event, hoped his remarkable rise will inspire the youngsters.
"I look forward to following the tournament and spot the stars of the future that I may be playing against in the near future," Smith told the tournament's host broadcaster from South Africa.
"After all, I wonder how many people who watched me play in 2000 would have thought that within three years I would be captaining my country at Test level.
"I certainly did not and I hope my story is an inspirational one for all those taking part."
Among other major players to emerge from the junior World Cups were Test captains Sanath Jayasuriya of Sri Lanka, Brian Lara and Chris Gayle of the West Indies, Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain of England and Inzamam-ul Haq of Pakistan.
"Use it to learn," Smith advised the current young crop preparing to battle in the two-yearly event.
"Whether it's attending your first-ever press conference, giving your first post-match television interview, signing bats, attending education sessions or watching how other teams prepare for matches.
"All these elements are things that you will do time and time again as a senior player.
"There will be a global audience watching on television and it is a great opportunity to put your name on the lips of the international cricket community."
Sri Lanka's Jayasuriya, who played in the inaugural under-19 World Cup in 1988 alongside Lara, Atherton and Inzamam, said the experience was invaluable.
"This is a great tournament," the swashbuckling left-hander said. "I got the exposure and I came up with a good performance. It helps you to establish yourself as an international player in your own country."
The competition has often been tougher and more unpredictable than at the senior level where Australia are the undisputed champions in both Test and one-day cricket with three successive World Cup titles.
At the junior level, the young Aussies have won just one of the last five World Cups since 1998. England and India have both taken it home once while Pakistan were the dominant force in the last two editions.
Young guns are not daunted by reputations. In 2006, cricketing non-entity Nepal stunned South Africa in the preliminary league and went on to defeat New Zealand in the Plate final.
The 10 regular cricket nations -- Australia, England, India, Pakistan, West Indies, Sri Lanka, South Africa, New Zealand, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe -- will be joined by five qualifiers and hosts Malaysia.
The regional qualifiers are Namibia (Africa), Nepal (Asia), Papua New Guinea (East Asia-Pacific), Ireland (Europe) and Bermuda (Americas).
The 16 teams have been divided into four groups with the top two qualifying for the quarter-finals.
In Sunday's opening matches, defending champions Pakistan take on hosts Malaysia, Australia play Namibia, India are pitted against Papua New Guinea and England meet Ireland.