Bangalore, Aug 1: India's World Cup winning off-spinner Harbhajan Singh believes India has benefitted from the ICC Under-19 World Cup as a number of top performers from the event, billed as a finishing school for future stars, have moved on to serve the country at the highest level.
"India has been lucky to find some very good and talented cricketers from the ICC U19 Cricket World Cups. The likes of Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Irfan Pathan and Virat Kohli have come through these World Cups," Harbhajan said in a media release issued by ICC on Tuesday.
"I am sure this time too we will be able to find some cricketers from the tournament. Who knows maybe in 2015, someone from the India U19 side will be a key member of the senior team at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. It is a tournament of immense importance for cricket in general and Indian cricket in particular," said Harbhajan who played in the U-19 World Cup 1998 in South Africa.
India failed to reach the final of the U-19 World Cup 1998 after losing out to eventual winner England and Australia in Group A on net run-rate.
The 32-year-old from Jalandhar, who has taken 406 Test and 259 ODI wickets, returned figures of one for 52 against Australia, one for 29 against England and one for 26 against Pakistan in the three matches 14 years ago.
"I remember a lot about the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 1998. Even though we didn't win the tournament, there were some happy memories from the event. I still remember we played some sides in the tournament like England, Australia and it was a good experience.
"It was the first time I was representing India at any level. The biggest learning for me from the tournament was the fact that I played in a tournament of 50-over matches. Before the tournament, I had played only four-day matches for Punjab U19.
"This tournament was definitely a stepping stone for me in my international career, because shortly thereafter I played for India," added the champion off-spinner.
Harbhajan urged the players to give it their best shot when they participate in the event which will be staged from August 11 to 26 in Queensland, Australia.
"I would only tell the players playing this time to go there to win the title. Only participating in the tournament is of no use. Go to win and that will pay rich dividends in your career.
"My advice is simple, make the most of this opportunity and enjoy the opportunity you are getting at this early stage in your career. Imagine getting to play in Australia at such a tender age, there is nothing better than that for a young a cricketer starting out in his career."