Bangalore, Aug 2: Pakistan fast bowler Umar Gul has credited the ICC Under-19 World Cup for rescuing his career after he was on the brink of walking away from cricket.
Umar, who is now Pakistan's frontline bowler with 158 wickets apiece from 45 Tests and 111 ODIs, played in the ICC U-19 World Cup 2002 in New Zealand and took 11 wickets at 12.72 runs per wicket in Pakistan's unsuccessful campaign where the green shirts failed to progress to the knock-out stage of the Super League.
This year's Under-19 World Cup 2012 will begin in Australia on August 11.
"I was on the verge of walking away from cricket after a poor 2000-2001 domestic U19 tournament following which I was not selected in the Pakistan Academies team. But then I gave myself one last chance, worked hard by attending the Academy side's training sessions as a net bowler until I was picked in the fast bowlers' camp which was supervised by Daryl Foster," Gul said in a media release issued by ICC.
"Lady Luck finally smiled on me when I was selected in the Pakistan squad for the ICC U19 CWC 2002 and though the event turned out to be a poor one for the side, personally I benefitted as I regained my form, picked up some key wickets and when changes were made in the Pakistan side following a disastrous ICC Cricket World Cup 2003, I was able to find my way in the side.
"I owe it big time to the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2002. If that opportunity had not been provided to me at that time, I would have left cricket and reverted my attention and focus to academics," said Gul.
Gul recalled his feelings when he was picked in the ICC U19 CWC 2002 side. "I just couldn't believe when I was told I had been selected for the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup. The ICC U19 CWC is the pinnacle for any teenager. There can be no prouder moment than to get a call and be told that you are required by your country."
While discussing the advantages and benefits of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup, Gul gave the example of Azhar Ali who played in New Zealand 10 years ago as a bowler but is now the mainstay of Pakistan's middle-order.
"Azhar was a very keen batsman even then but the ICC U19 CWC actually provided him that platform and opportunity where he evaluated and reworked on his strengths and is now one of the stars of international cricket.
"The ICC U19 CWC provides you a launching pad and also gives you an opportunity to test yourself against the best players from all over the world in that age group. The ICC U19 CWC is something between the U19 domestic tournament and international cricket, and gives you a very good idea which level of cricket you belong to and what you need to do to survive or excel at the highest level.
"My humble suggestion to players appearing in Queensland is to play as hard as possible but also enjoy the moment of representing your country at a global stage. The players must always remember that they are representing their people and country so there is a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. This means, they need to play fair and uphold the Spirit of Cricket all the time," he concluded.