In my role as National Talent Manager, I have been privileged to work with the last three U19 programs, including the last two Youth World Cups in New Zealand and Australia.
In that time I have worked with exciting young talents such as Mitchell Marsh, Josh Hazlewood, Kane Richardson, Alister McDermott, Pat Cummins and Ashton Agar who have all gone on to represent their country at the senior level.
Many others have moved through to State ranks and others have been on Australia ‘A’ tours, which reflect their good performances in first-class cricket.
The 2010 cohort, led by Mitch Marsh, was successful in the 2010 World Cup, while the 2012 squad led by another Western Australian, Will Bosisto, beaten by India in the final, may well have won the 2012 edition had Cummins not been playing at the higher level and if Agar had not been injured.
On this evidence, Australia’s pipeline of young cricketers is in good health.
This year’s U19 squad is also full of emerging talent.
It is hard to compare one group with another though, because the skill sets are different and each has its own set of personalities.
In this year’s group we have a number of players who will be eyeing covetously the life of a professional cricketer.
The lifestyle and pay packet is attractive, but what they will soon learn, is that you first have to give something before one can expect to reap the rewards.
It is one thing to be talented; it is another thing all together to reach one’s sporting potential.
What we are attempting to do with this group, as with their predecessors, is to give them a range of challenges and experiences that gives them some insight into what it takes to perform at the highest level and transitions them from being a school-boy cricketer into a full time athlete.
Some of them will thrive on these challenges and will improve quickly, while some of them will realise that the life of a professional cricketer is not for them.
The current group has an interesting mix of personalities, similar to other sporting teams that I have been involved with over the years. It is always interesting to see how these personalities develop as much as how the physical talent blossoms.
One of the bigger personalities in this group is Matthew Fotia who is a pace bowler from Victoria. Matthew is a strongly built young man who likes to bowl fast and who loves a chat.
He has already been to India on a visit to the MRF Pace Foundation recently where he was exposed to former great Australian fast bowlers Glenn McGrath and Craig McDermott.
This experience has already shown some benefits with improved balance in his run up, a more consistent wicket-taking length and a greater understanding of the strategic thinking behind being a successful fast bowler.
Continuing the Italian connection is Cameron Valente who is a clever medium fast bowler and lower middle order batsman from South Australia.
Cam is a competitive young man who has a good understanding of the tactical requirements of the game and is a proven wicket-taker.
Two of the medium pace all-rounders in the team are Alex Gregory form South Australia who played in the last Youth World Cup as a 16-year-old and Matthew Kelly from Western Australia.
Gregory is a potential captain of next year’s World Cup team.
The batting group looks stronger this year than in recent years although only time will tell.
Matthew Short, another from Victoria, has shown enormous potential as a stroke player and is also a promising off-spin bowler who fields well.
He has already been recognised by Cricket Victoria with a rookie contract for next season.
Damien Mortimer and Jake Doran are both from New South Wales and both have a burning ambition to follow a professional career.
Mortimer is a right handed top order player with good technique and considerable drive who bowls some useful medium pacers.
At 16 Doran shows enormous potential as a left-hand middle order player in the mould of Michael Hussey.
He is also the younger brother of Luke who has played some limited over cricket for NSW and has featured in the Big Bash League.
Doran is the quintessential all-round cricketer for the modern era for he is an accomplished wicket-keeper who also bowls some handy left-arm seamers. His experience in the backyard contests against his older sibling has not gone to waste!
Continuing the family connections we have Ben McDermott who is the younger brother of Alister and son of Craig. Ben is a middle order batsman and is the main wicket-keeper in the squad.
He is a strongly built young man who has an excellent technique and a well-developed sense of the tactical side of batting.
He has been recognised by Queensland Cricket with a rookie contract for next season and should follow Alister into the Queensland team in the near future.
Whether he can replicate his brother’s feat of playing in a winning World Cup squad, time will tell.
So far in the tri-series currently underway with India and New Zealand in Darwin, the team has had disappointing results with a win and a loss against New Zealand and two losses to a very experienced Indian team.
With a quad series in India including South Africa and Zimbabwe to come later in the year, the team will have a pretty good understanding of how they are placed for next year’s World Cup in Dubai.
Early signs suggest that talent is not the problem. It will come down to how much is learnt from the experiences; then it is down to commitment, desire and execution.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia.