Playing for England at a World Cup would never have crossed Savin Perera’s mind growing up – now, it’s all he thinks about.
The 18-year-old was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, but moved to the UK seven years ago and after impressing for Middlesex and England in a recent tri-series, Perera was selected for the U19 World Cup squad in New Zealand that starts in January.
“It’s just an incredible feeling,” said Perera. “I’ve worked really hard in the last couple of years just to get to this position. It’s been tough but I’m immensely proud.”
Five years on from joining Middlesex, the left-handed batsman had an England debut to remember, smashing 74 against Namibia in last month’s tri-series and collected the man of the match award in the process.
An 84 against South Africa followed in his next match and despite England eventually losing to the Proteas in the final, Perera believes the tour has given his side valuable experience heading to New Zealand.
He said: “Going away to South Africa was amazing with a great bunch of lads.
“We had a good camp before the tri-series. Everyone was working really hard and we all had a great passion about what we could achieve.
“We were gutted to lose the final to South Africa, especially after playing so well in the group but to be with the boys for that experience was fantastic.
“The man of the match award meant so much to me. Getting runs in the first couple of games really settled the nerves. Leading up to the World Cup it’s great to have runs under the belt to settle you down. You became a lot freer so, hopefully, I can carry that into New Zealand.”
England face Canada, Namibia and Bangladesh in their World Cup group but before all of that, a warm-up match against Sri Lanka is on the agenda.
Perera knows how special playing against the country of his birth will be and revealed just how much he’s had to adapt to English conditions.
He said: “We play Sri Lanka in a warm up so I could have a little bit of an advantage and could tell the lads what to expect. It will be the first time I’ve faced them so I’m really looking forward to it for sure.
“Growing up in Sri Lanka I learned a lot about different conditions. In Colombo, you’d see five or six spinners turning up to the game and then over here you get swing bowlers.
“It was hard to get used to. But once I got my head down and concentrated on the game, it all started going well. I had to adapt quickly.”
An experienced coaching staff will head to New Zealand for the tournament including former England batsman Jonathan Trott.
And Perera is eager to learn all he can from the 36-year-old batsman who played 52 Tests for England.
He said: “He’s a great player. James Taylor has helped us a lot, too. But I’m looking forward to meeting Jonathan Trott.
“He’ll play a big role in our team. He has a wealth of experience and he can give us his thoughts on the game. On and off the field he’s a great guy to learn from.”