The squad met just once before flying to the Caribbean but the captain feels it has been coming together nicely
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.”
“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”
“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.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo