El­liott backs his kids to be on Waugh path for U19s World Cup

The Cricket Paper - - FEATURE - By Adam Collins

WANT to feel old? Think about what you were do­ing on Jan­uary 1, 2000. Then con­sider the bulk of play­ers in the Aus­tralian U19s weren’t born then.

You know all about Gen­er­a­tion X and Y so now wel­come Gen­er­a­tion Z, Gen­er­a­tion Next for our pur­poses. Last week they wrapped up a 4-1 series win against Sri Lanka. And one of them has the sur­name Waugh. Look out.

In a two-part con­ver­sa­tion, their coach, for­mer Test opener Matthew El­liott, gave The Cricket Pa­per in­sight to his group as they progress through the Cricket Aus­tralia path­way to pro­fes­sional cricket, via an U19 World Cup next Jan­uary. This week: the bats­men. “It’s a pretty good group,” El­liott opens un­der­stat­edly. On the avail­able ev­i­dence, that it is, with seven Aus­tralians reach­ing half­cen­turies in chal­leng­ing Ho­bart con­di­tions. “It’s been a long sea­son for some of these guys and we got re­sults that re­flected the ef­fort they put in.”

Will Pu­cov­ski was a lock to captain the side after rat­tling off four con­sec­u­tive cen­turies for Vic­to­ria at the U19s car­ni­val in De­cem­ber, land­ing him­self in the Sh­effield Shield side by the New Year. Re­gret­tably, the fourth con­cus­sion of his fledg­ling ca­reer came on se­nior de­but.

It shifted the at­ten­tion from the young man as­sessed to be the car­bon copy of Ricky Ponting to an­other in­escapably com­pared to his fa­ther – Austin Waugh. Plucked from U17s cricket after a cen­tury in the na­tional fi­nal, the Son of Steve hasn’t looked back. A vi­tal chas­ing 60, after Aus­tralia lost three early wick­ets con­firmed he’s in­her­ited a cool head.

“They are like twins born 30 years apart,” says El­liott of Waugh Jnr. “It is scary how sim­i­lar he walks and moves like Steve. But what I love about Austin is he is his own per­son. He has to deal with a lot of com­par­isons but he is strong-minded.”

Cricket Aus­tralia have been care­ful not to over­ex­pose the 17-year-old, but when he did speak to me­dia, re­it­er­ated a fo­cus on his own game rather than repli­cat­ing his Dad or Un­cle Mark. “I’m play­ing my own cricket ac­tu­ally,” he said.

Waugh iden­ti­fies as a “very at­tack­ing” and “unortho­dox” bats­man, ev­i­denced when ten­nis-serv­ing a bouncer in a Big Bash cur­tain-raiser at the SCG, head­lines fol­low­ing. But El­liott says Waugh’s main strength is that he is tech­ni­cally com­pe­tent first and fore­most. “There are no gim­micks. He has a good, sound game.”

Waugh’s NSW team­mate Param Upal earned player of the series hon­ours with 189 runs. That in­cluded the only ton from ei­ther side, in a fix­ture where no other player topped 45. The right-han­der now moves to the Na­tional Cen­tre of Ex­cel­lence from where have come many a baggy green cham­pion.

“He’s very elegant and easy on the eye,” says El­liott. “He plays spin and pace equally well and it showed when they went to spin in the mid­dle overs.”

An­other Sydney-based bats­man with plenty of tricks is Ja­son Sangha. Co-captain, de­spite still be­ing just 17, he al­ready has a New South Wales con­tract.

Tall and cor­rect, Sangha clocked a match­win­ning cen­tury against Pak­istan as a 16-year-old on U19 de­but. List A op­por­tu­ni­ties have al­ready fol­lowed.

“He’s text­book cor­rect with ex­cit­ing flare,” is El­liott’s as­sess­ment. “And very good at hit­ting the spin­ners over the top. He’s pre­pares re­ally well.”

Chris Rogers, work­ing with Aus­tralia’s U17s, de­scribed Vic­to­rian Jack Ed­wards as “a freak”. The youngest mem­ber of the side at 16, he’s also the tallest at 6ft 5in. A to­tal of 155 series runs in the white-ball series com­ple­mented a cen­tury in the three-day match.

“Jack’s has a real point of dif­fer­ence,” El­liott says of his height and reach. “I was im­pressed how he was able to adapt his game from the three day to one-day for­mat, and dif­fer­ent po­si­tions. I rate his cricket IQ.”

El­liott re­it­er­ates the im­por­tance of the jour­ney rather than that des­ti­na­tion, telling this group there are “no guar­an­tees” of pro­gress­ing with­out con­tin­ued hard work.

With that said, of the squad only one is in­el­i­gi­ble for World Cup duty, giv­ing Aus­tralia their best chance of win­ning since 2010. Ei­ther way, with the in­vest­ment in this group, there is plenty to be ex­cited about. Or wor­ried about if you're not Aus­tralian.

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