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U-19 World Cup 2022 – Connor Connolly

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The squad met just once before flying to the Caribbean but the captain feels it has been coming together nicely

Australia’s Under-19 squad only came together shortly before flying to the Caribbean, and despite a heavy defeat in their warm-up match against India, the confidence of captain Cooper Connolly has not been dented.

Connolly is embarking on his second Under-19 World Cup, having played as a 16-year-old in South Africa two years ago. Just weeks after that tournament finished, the pandemic swept the world and, from a cricket point of view, age-group competitions were severely hit – Australia have not had any Under-19 fixtures since then. Ongoing border restrictions meant plans to have the squad all in one place before the tournament did not happen either.

However, that hasn’t stopped Connolly from trying to establish himself among the most highly regarded young players in the country; he has found a place in the Perth Scorchers squad too. And although Australia were heavily beaten by India, Connolly stood out with 117 off 125 balls.

“Yesterday was a reality check for us against one of the stronger sides and maybe the favourite,” he said. “But I feel like we are in good shape for the first game.”

Two years ago, he played twice and ended on a good note with 64 off 53 balls against West Indies, the hosts of the 2022 edition and Australia’s first opponents. Connolly is taking his experiences of that event, which was captained by Mackenzie Harvey, into this tournament and hoping to lead from the front.

“From that one I can take [the lesson of] not stressing out too much about playing and just trying to be myself in the nets,” he said. “I was getting really stressed out and agitated but I feel from that World Cup, from Macca [Harvey], I can take his coolness and his ability to win games by his captaincy.

“From the last World Cup [my aim] was to just make this, I just looked forward to the opportunity I might get to play in two, then to get the captaincy and that’s unbelievable”

Connor Connolly

“Back then I was a little, small 16-year-old that everyone didn’t really know, and since then [with] my mindset and power I feel like I’ve developed a lot over the last couple years working with Clint Heron my batting coach just to improve every area.

“From the last World Cup [my aim] was to just make this, I just looked forward to the opportunity I might get to play in two, then to get the captaincy and that’s unbelievable. I’m so proud of myself, mum and dad back home are really proud, I’m just ready to go and lead my country.”

Meeting your new team-mates just before you fly to a global tournament is a strange experience, but Connolly believes the squad has been coming together. “Obviously it’s pretty tough, we don’t know what each other is like, but feel like over the past week we’ve grown and go to know each other,” he said.

Connolly picked out Australia’s strengths as their batting and spin bowling, the latter including ambidextrous Nivethan Radhakrishnan, but also backed the quicks to make early inroads.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo


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