U19 stars determined to make mark against men | Cricket Australia

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U19 stars determined to make mark against men

February 09, 2018

Jonathan Merlo showed his full range of strokes in the Under 19 World Cup Final // Getty

By Nick Duxson

‘Now go back to Premier Cricket and show everyone why you deserved to be here’

It’s the aftermath of Australia’s 2018 ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup campaign, an hour after the final.

Families have cleared out of the rooms after coming in to celebrate with their sons and now it’s time for a debrief with the coaches, after Australia was good enough to reach the final, but couldn’t overcome a strong India side on the big stage.

There’s disappointment at the final result, but still the feeling that it’s only the beginning of the journey for this group of players.

Coach Ryan Harris, assistant coach Chris Rogers, and CA Pathways Manager Graham Manou hold the floor - with input from the players - talking about what’s happened and what’s next.

And as Manou points out, Premier Cricket is next for many - and will play a big role in helping identify whether these guys are good enough to go on to bigger and better things.

For Victorian all-rounder Jonathan Merlo, it’s his next cricket commitment.

After proving his abilities in the final with a superb innings of 76, the uncontracted 19-year-old now has to go home and prove himself all over again.

“The (World Cup) experience was something I always knew would challenge me in every way, and something that I would learn a lot from,” Merlo said.

“We went over there with the aim of trying to make the final and do as well as we could as a team. From an individual perspective, the aim was developing as much as I could and learn as much as I could from every single game and each team we came up against.

“That knock (in the final) was quite pleasing for me personally.

“From chats I’ve had with the coaching staff, especially Buck (Chris Rogers), it was a plan we’d worked on the whole time we were over there. To actually execute it and make a few runs was definitely rewarding.”

The highlight of Merlo’s innings was his ability to manipulate the field - combining his traditional strength of hitting the ball hard and straight with sweep shots and scoring options behind square to the spinners.

Now he goes back to St Kilda CC in Melbourne, juggling part-time university studies with his cricket.

It’s been a big 12 months at underage level for the all-rounder, who has represented Australia at a World Cup, scored an Under 19s century against Sri Lanka and captained Victoria Metro at the Under 19 National Championships.

“The big thing with cricket is with all this underage cricket you play, there’s a lot of people that expect you to come back to senior cricket and show exactly what you do at underage level,” Merlo said. 

“That’s something all of the boys in the World Cup squad are looking to do. There are a lot of expectations, and people like to remind you of that.

“At the end of the day, to progress further in senior cricket, you need to be able to make runs against men and take wickets against men.

“I’ll play a bit of club cricket and see if any opportunities arise in Victoria with higher honours, potentially a Futures League game if I get a call up.”

For Merlo, the World Cup experience is one he won’t ever forget.

It’s the highlight of his journey so far, but one that is hopefully just the start of a long and successful career.

“I set one goal this year personally, to make the World Cup squad and hopefully play in it,” Merlo said.

“The journey that I’m on at the moment, I think you’ve got to take each step as it comes. The ultimate goal is definitely to have a contract and represent my state, and hopefully represent my country at a senior level at some stage. 

“But it’s about taking it each step at a time rather than trying to jump too far ahead, so I’ve got to go back to club cricket and try to make a few runs and take a few wickets there and prove myself that way.”