Budding stars get glamorous send-off

Lahore – Pakistan’s budding cricketing talent got an unprecedented send-off here Tuesday in a glittering and glamorous ceremony.

Pakistan Under-19 cricket team would depart for Australia for a short one-day series before heading to New Zealand for the ICC Under-19 World Cup. The budding stars got a taste of a promised stardom, their playing careers may have in future in a cricket-mad country.

Top models, actors, actresses and singers enthralled these kids as well as audience with their appearance and performances in the extravaganza that was first of its kind for the junior level cricketers and may prove a spoiler one as well. Present top cricketers including Shoaib Malik, Junaid Khan and Usman Khan Shinwari were also there for patronising the youngsters and also in them the future stars could take motivation to go all out to follow the footsteps of these players with an eye on the ultimate prize of playing for the national team at senior level.

These players also extended some wise advices to the Pakistani colts to enlighten their way to glory that is up for grabs. They advised the youngsters to forget the disastrous defeats at the hands of Afghanistan in U-19 Asia Cup, and concentrate on the upcoming World Cup. They told the young players to showcase their skills at the cricket field and if they show discipline, they would get success in every field. A million dollar advice!

It may be hoped that this extraordinary send-off to these players would not play tricks on their minds and they would remain disciplined during the task ahead. The apparent beneficiary of this glamorous stint is the sponsor of the event and so in a way the board itself as otherwise idea of holding such an event for youngsters lacks sanity.

It may be argued that holding such a send-off may prove motivational for the youngsters and would boost their morale and raise their confidence. But considering the history and taking the human nature into account, the psychological impact of such special treatments is more likely to be proved as disastrous one. Even at the senior level, we have a lot of examples, when a little extra fame reaching to the heads of the players resulting in a total ruin of the exceptional talents. Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad are more such recent examples. And moreover, the stigma and menace of spot-fixing is continuously surfacing here and there making the players more vulnerable.

The need to protect a talent from the external factors is not a secret thing. All the boards try to keep their youngsters humble and more focused on the job ahead rather than giving them extra exposure. Even in cash-rich Twenty20 leagues including the most lavishing Indian Premier League, special rules are in place to give these budding underage players opportunities under tight financial restraints, no matter how much the talent is exceptional one.

At a time when a mega event is ahead and the players have taken a very low hit in Under-19 Asia Cup, where they did not jut lose to an associate member Afghanistan twice including the final but also got humiliated as well at the hands of their opponents, the focus should have remained on preparing them for the on field task.

The PCB has done a good job of holding a 15-day junior camp for the youngsters as well as arranging one-dayers against Australia and New Zealand prior to start of the World Cup but such distractions may spoil all the good work. And such events also expose the players to unnecessary socialisation making them an easy target for the ill-natured people. And it has already been revealed that under-19 events are also on the radars of the fixers.

So under such circumstances, throwing such lavish party for such tender-age players is totally ill-advised. The board must focus on sharpening the on-field skills and confidence of the players rather than bringing them on stage and giving them unnecessary taste of limelight as in prevailing situation, it must be mandatory to protect the players rather than exposing them to the external elements.

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