Wednesday 23 January 2008 

All 16 Squads Announced For Under-19 World Cup

Let the star spotting begin. With less than four weeks to go before the start of the ICC U/19 Cricket World Cup (U/19 CWC) 2008 in Malaysia, all 16 squads have now been finalised. History has taught us that it’s highly likely this year’s tournament will reveal some of the great players of the future.

Pakistan is going for three in a row having won this tournament in 2004 and 2006, and the side is captained by Imad Wasim, a left-arm spinner who is also a useful batsman. Imad captained this strong Pakistan side to a 5-0 win over Australia in October last year and also a 3-1 win away to England last August.

One of the other players to watch for the defending champion will be Umar Akmal, who is the brother of Kamran, the Pakistan senior team’s wicketkeeper. The younger Akmal enjoyed an excellent season in first-class cricket scoring 851 runs, including an outstanding 248 against Karachi Blues.

For Australia, captain Michael Hill, who has appeared for New South Wales this season, will be working hard to ensure his side’s fortunes improve following that 5-0 series defeat to Pakistan in October.

Much attention will also be on powerful opening batsman, Kumar Sarna, who was born in Delhi but who grew up Down Under.

A side to watch out for in this event will undoubtedly be Bangladesh, which is fresh from a place in the final of a triangular series in South Africa, where it was edged out by India. The side also managed to defeat Pakistan in a five-match series in 2007, despite having lost the opening two matches. Much will be expected of Sohrawardi Shuvo, the slow left-arm bowler who has already taken an impressive 69 wickets in 15 first-class matches.

England has experienced indifferent form over the past 12 months but will be led by the impressive Alex Wakely, who scored a half-century on his first-class debut for Northamptonshire last year.

Much is thought of England’s pace bowlers Steven Finn, who spent the latter part of 2007 in India with the England Performance Programme squad, and Glamorgan’s James Harris who became the first 17-year-old to take a seven-wicket haul in the County Championship.

Fresh from winning a recent triangular series in South Africa, India will be one of the favourites for the competition. Virat Kohli, who will captain the side, has made 373 runs at an average of 53 in five first-class matches, including a top score of 159, so he will surely be one to watch.

For New Zealand, skipper Kane Williamson showed evidence of his potential when he made an excellent 47 not out off 56 balls for Northern Districts against Bangladesh’s senior side in a rain-affected match at the end of 2007.

But Williamson will need support from the likes of Corey Anderson, Greg Morgan, Tim Southee and Trent Boult who were all were selected for New Zealand A’s three-week training camp in Darwin last year. The side contains Michael Bracewell, nephew of former Test players John and Brendon Bracewell, and Hamish Rutherford, son of former Black Caps’ captain Ken.

South Africa had a disappointing U/19 CWC in 2006 and recent form suggests they could be up against it this time around too, having performed disappointingly in the recent under-19 triangular series held in Pretoria. But captain Wayne Parnell is an all-rounder with strong leadership qualities and there is plenty of talent in the squad.

The host from two years ago, Sri Lanka will be hoping its talented slow left-armer Sachith Pathirana can recapture the form that netted him 15 wickets in SL’s 3-2 series defeat against Bangladesh last year.

Other key players for Sri Lanka will be first-class batsman Ashan Priyanjan, who made an impressive 30 not out against England’s senior team last October, and Tissara Perrera, a veteran of the previous U/19 CWC.

For the West Indies, much responsibility will lie on the shoulders of captain Sharmarh Brooks, who participated in the 2006 edition of this tournament, and is a well-regarded all-round cricketer.

Adrian Barath is considered to be the best under-19 batsman in the Caribbean at present, having scored 485 runs at 53.88 in his six first-class appearances for Trinidad and Tobago, and is also valued for his fielding skills. Devon Thomas is also one to watch while Darren Bravo, the brother of Dwayne, is also named in the squad.

Zimbabwe will look towards captain and all-rounder Prince Masvaure, a gifted batsman who can also swing a ball whether old or new. Masvaure made one appearance at the 2006 event but has since gone on to play regular first-class cricket and be named in the Zimbabwe A squad.

Other players to watch for Zimbabwe will be Solomon Mire, a talented all-rounder, who has a highest List A score of 94 and Justin Gaisford, who is a fine up-and-coming wicketkeeper-batsman.

Europe qualifier Ireland will be trying to emulate the senior team, who turned more than a few heads at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 in the West Indies. Taking part in his third U/19 CWC captain Greg Thompson has played eight first-class matches taking 13 wickets with his probing leg-spin and is a useful lower middle-order batsman.

Big things are also expected of Dublin batsmen Andrew Balbirnie and Graham McDonnell while Richard Keaveney, in his second U/19 CWC, is a hard-working medium-pacer with a big future.

Playing in its first ever U/19 CWC, Americas regional qualifier Bermuda can boast the presence of Malachi Jones, who took the wicket of India opener Robin Uthappa in Port of Spain during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007. And in Stefan Kelly, Tamauri Tucker and captain Rodney Trott it has other players who have already started their first-class careers with the senior team.

Papua New Guinea, who qualified from the East Asia-Pacific region, will rely on captain Colin Amini, who is useful both with bat and his off-spin bowling. His grandfather, Brian, and father Charles were both captains of the PNG senior team so it’s in the family.

Host team Malaysia will look to skipper Ahmad Faiz who displayed his batting prowess when he made an impressive 60 against Australia under-19 in September last year.

The surprise package of the previous U/19 CWC, Nepal, will be back to show its exploits in Sri Lanka were not a one-off. Captain Paras Khadka will be playing in his third U/19 CWC and he is now a regular member of the senior Nepal side. Khadka was named man of the tournament at the U/19 ACC Trophy last year which saw his team qualify for the event.

In an event such as this, the role of the coach is of paramount importance and there is a wealth of cricketing experience accompanying these young players to Malaysia.

Former coach of the Bangladesh senior team Dav Whatmore will lead India, former Test batsman Larry Gomes will coach the West Indies, another West Indies star Phil Simmons is now with Ireland while Andy Pick, who coached Canada at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007, will lead England.

Defending champion Pakistan is the top seed with the winner from 2000 and beaten finalist from 2006, India, seeded second. Australia (winner in 1988 and 2002) is seeded third and England (winner in 1999) fourth.

All four will be in action on the opening day on February 17 when Pakistan meets Malaysia at Johor Cricket Academy in Johor, India faces Papua New Guinea (PNG) at Kinrara Cricket Academy in Kuala Lumpur, Australia takes on Namibia at Penang Sports Club in Penang, and England takes on Ireland at Selangor Turf Club in Kuala Lumpur.

All 16 teams will be battling for a place in the final on 2 March in Kuala Lumpur.

© ICC