Brisbane, Aug 7: The ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup 2012 officially opened on Monday night in Brisbane with representatives from the 16 competing sides urged to "enjoy every moment'' of the ninth edition of the event to be staged from 11 to 26 August in Queensland, an ICC media release stated.
The Welcome Function, hosted in the Century Room, over-looking the Allan Border Field at the Queensland Cricket Headquarters, had legendary presences and of individuals who loomed large wherever the players, coaches and team officials looked.
Paintings of noted Queensland cricket identities such as Matthew Hayden, Andrew Symonds, Martin Love and Jimmy Maher, who had played 100 or more first-class matches for their State, looked down from the walls as past greats paid tribute to the next generation of potential stars from the 10 Full Members and six qualifiers from the Associate and Affiliate Member countries.
International cricket identities such as Courtney Walsh, David Boon, Geoff Lawson, Chris Harris, Greg Chappell and local heroes Ian Healy, Michael Kasprowicz, Stuart Law (another two to have their paintings on display in the Century Room) mixed with the young men who will represent their countries when the tournament gets underway this week.
Harris (Zimbabwe), Lawson (Afghanistan) and Law (Australia) will have coaching roles for the World Cup while Chappell (Australia) and Walsh (West Indies) occupy management roles.
The theme from all speakers at the opening ceremony was a simple one - enjoyment.
The traditional custodians of the land where the ceremony took place, the Turrbal people, provided the "welcome to country" ceremony courtesy of elder ‘Uncle' Joe Kirk, whose grandsons danced a welcome to the teams gathered.
Kasprowicz, speaking as the official representative from Cricket Australia, where he is one of two Queensland based directors, highlighted the friendships he made when he played at U19 level for Australia, where his captain was Damien Martyn and his wicket-keeper was Adam Gilchrist.
Boon, one of the three match referees for the tournament, urged all teams to play hard, be competitive, but above all to enjoy their experience.
Master of Ceremonies Healy said the chance to play in three different areas of Queensland, with matches hosted in Brisbane, on the Sunshine Coast and in Townsville, would provide teams with a wonderful chance to enjoy the Queensland surrounds.
Kasprowicz congratulated all of the sides upon reaching the tournament, and emphasised that this event could well be the stepping stone for a number of players to return for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 to be hosted in Australia and New Zealand.
"This tournament will provide the best young cricketers in the world with an ideal opportunity to enjoy international exposure, showcase their skills and lay a claim for higher honours in their future,'' he said.
"If past ICC U19 Cricket World Cups are any guide, there are a number of young men that we will see in the next few weeks who will be well in contention to be back in Australia and New Zealand in 2015 when the biggest event on the international cricketing calendar, the World Cup, will be staged."
He made special mention of the six qualifying nations - Papua New Guinea, Nepal, Namibia, Scotland, Ireland and Afghanistan - and wished them luck for the next two weeks.
Kasprowicz also praised the army of volunteers from Queensland who will give of their time during the tournament.
"As we all know, volunteers are the lifeblood of our game and this event is the perfect example of all those hard-working individuals who give so freely of their time to make our game as strong as it is," he said.