Three-time champions India and New
Zealand are favoured to take the top two positions in Group D ahead of Ireland
and Nepal when the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2016 is played in Bangladesh from
27 January to 14 February.
The biennial 16-nation tournament features nine
Test-playing nations and seven Associate and Affiliate Members - Afghanistan,
Canada, Fiji, Namibia, Nepal, Ireland and Scotland. Teams have been divided
into four groups with the top two in each advancing to the Super League
quarter-finals and the other two qualifying for the Plate Championships.
India, coached by batting great Rahul Dravid, features
high among the top contenders to bag the trophy which it has previously won in
2000, 2008 and 2012. India failed to defend the title two years ago in the
United Arab Emirates after England stunned it in the quarter-finals.
India arrived in Bangladesh on Wednesday with a
power-packed batting line-up that includes Sarfaraz Khan, one of the country’s
brightest young batsmen who turns out for ViratKohli’s Royal Challengers
Bangalore in the Indian Premier League. Sarfaraz joins Ricky Bhui and Avesh
Khan for their second appearance in the premier age-group tournament, having
also participated in 2014. Another batsman that will be noticed in Bangladesh
is Armaan Jaffer, nephew of former Indian opener Wasim Jaffer.
Both Sarfaraz and Armaan made their mark in schools’
cricket in Mumbai when the stocky Sarfaraz hit 439 in a Harris Shield match and
Armaan topped that with scores of 498 and 473 a year later.
Dravid, who retired from international cricket in 2012 with
more than 10,000 runs in both Test and one-day cricket, gave up his lucrative
television commitments last year to take up the challenging job of coaching
both the India A and under-19 squads.
Under his guidance, India’s teenagers have won a
tri-series in Sri Lanka before Christmas last year that also featured England
and defeated both Afghanistan and Bangladesh at home in November.
“Ours is a decent side with a lot of promising players,”
Dravid said. “The conditions in Bangladesh will be quite similar to what the
boys have grown up on in India, so that should be beneficial to the side.”
India will be captained by Ishan Kishan, a left-handed
batsman and wicketkeeper, who hails from World Cup-winning captain Mahendra
Singh Dhoni’s home state of Jharkhand. New Zealand captain Josh Finnie also
featured in the 2014 event where his side finished 10th, but he is confident of
a better show this time. New Zealand warmed up for the tournament by playing a
tri-series against Australia and Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates which
concluded on Tuesday. New Zealand won two matches and lost once each to
Australia and Pakistan.
“The experience of playing in Dubai and being part of the
tournament will hopefully help out in this month’s campaign,” Finnie said. “The
players we’re taking over are a really talented group, including a couple of
guys who have played first-class cricket.” Finnie said his team will be
inspired by the fearless brand of cricket New Zealand’s senior team has played
in recent times under Brendon McCullum which enabled the Black Caps to feature
in its first-ever ICC Cricket World Cup final in Melbourne last year.
“The Black Caps’ brand of cricket has been a great
example of playing with positive intent and representing New Zealand in the
best possible way,” said Finnie. “I think all cricketers growing up in New
Zealand have seen that and we’ll endeavor to make that a big part of our game
as well.” Nepal, which last played in the ICC U19 World Cup in 2012, returns to
the event by winning the qualifying tournament in Kuala Lumpur. As many as 12
players who helped Nepal qualify are part of the squad that will play in
Skipper Raju Rijal said having the same set of players
will benefit his team. “It is certainly a plus point for us to have that
experience within the team and it helps to create togetherness as well,” Rijal
said. “But the World Cup will be different from the qualifiers. We have to
improve in every aspect of the game if we are to beat other teams in the
tournament.” Nepal will need to finish among the top two in the Group to have a
chance to emulate its eighth-place finish in 2000.
Ireland will take part in its eighth ICC U19 Cricket
World Cup after missing out two years ago. That the tournament is a stepping
stone for senior cricket can be gauged from the fact that the Irish team that
played in Bangladesh in 2004 produced seven international players, including
captain William Porterfield and Kevin O’Brien. England’s ODI captain, Eoin
Morgan, also played for Ireland in the 2004 tournament.
GROUP 'D' SQUADS:
India - Ishan Kishan (captain), Rishabh Pant (vice-capt), Khaleel Ahmed, Zeeshan Ansari, Rahul Batham, Ricky Bhui, MayankDagar, Armaan Jaffer,
Sarfaraz Khan, Amandeep Khare, Avesh Khan, MahipalLomror, ShubhamMavi, Anmolpreet
Singh, Washington Sundar.
Coach - Rahul Dravid
New Zealand - Josh Finnie (captain), Finnley Allen, Josh
Clarkson, Zak Gibson, Christian Leopard, Felix Murray, Aniket Parikh, Dale
Phillips, Glenn Phillips, RachinRavindra, Talor Scott, Ben Sears, Nathan Smith,
Daniel Stanley, Ross terBraak
Coach - Bob Carter
Nepal - Raju Rijal (captain), Dipendra Airee, MD Sunil Dhamala, Himanshu Dutta, Saurabh
Khanal, Sushil Kandel, YogendraKarki, Sandeep Lamichhane, Ishan Pandey, Shankar
Rana, PremTamang, Arif Sheikh, Sandeep Sunar, Dipesh Shrestha,
Coach - Jagat Tamata
Ireland - Jack Tector (captain), Rory Anders, Andrew
Austin, Varun Chopra, Adam Dennison, Stephen Doheny, Aaron Gillespie, Josh
Little, Gary McClintock, William McClintock, Tom Stanton, Harry Tector, Fiachra
Tucker, Lorcan Tucker, Ben White.
Coach - Ryan Eagleson
Group D Schedule:
Jan 28: Nepal VS New Zealand atFatullah
VS Ireland at Mirpur
Jan 30: Nepal VS Ireland at Fatullah
VS New Zealand at Mirpur
Feb 1: Nepal VS India at Mirpur
Zealand VS Ireland at Fatullah