Group B in the ICC U/19 Cricket World Cup (U/19 CWC) looks like being perhaps the hardest fought of them all in this tournament, which gets underway on 17 February. India, the West Indies, South Africa and Papua New Guinea (PNG) will fight it out in Malaysia for just two places in the Super League.
Although it won this event in 2000, India’s under-19 team has been overshadowed in the past two tournaments by its traditional rival Pakistan, which is going for a hat-trick of victories having prevailed in 2004 and 2006.
Under the guidance of former Sri Lanka and Bangladesh coach Dav Whatmore, the side will be strongly fancied to do well at the event. Captain Viraat Kohli has made 373 runs at an average of 53 in the five first-class matches of his career to date, including a top score of 159.
Kohli had a strong domestic season, having averaged 72.67 for Delhi in last season’s Cooch Behar Trophy, which is India’s premier under-19 domestic competition.
Shreevats Goswami has been in excellent form with the bat, scoring 104 against Bangladesh under-19 and 97 against South Africa under-19, in a triangular series in Pretoria recently.
Others to watch out for will be left-handed batsman Tanmay Srivastava, who is making a name for himself with the senior Uttar Pradesh team in the Ranji Trophy, and left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla.
“Hopes are high and the boys have talent,” said Kohli. “However, all the teams are good and none should be taken lightly. It is a question of which team plays better cricket than the other on the big day,” he said.
And with the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif and Piyush Chawla amongst the stars who have gone on to senior honours after playing at this event, the eyes of India will be on Malaysia to see who will be the stars of the future.
Up against India will be the 2004 beaten finalist, the West Indies, which is coached by former Test batsman Larry Gomes. Much responsibility will rest on the shoulders of captain and first-class cricketer Sharmarh Brooks, who participated in this tournament in 2006 and is a very well-regarded all-rounder.
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, and is also valued for his fielding skills. Devon Thomas is also highly rated and Darren Bravo, the younger brother of senior international Dwayne, will be hoping to follow in his sibling’s footsteps.
Team manager Clyde Butts is looking forward to the event and considers it a good experience for future international cricketers. “The players will not only experience different playing conditions but they will also be exposed to new cultures and different batting and bowling styles of their opponents,” said Butts.
“This exposure will enrich them to be better cricketers at a more senior level. My expectations are that the players will perform at a very high standard and as a result return with the trophy to the West Indies.”
Perhaps the crunch game of this group will be South Africa against India which will take place in Kinrara Cricket Academy, Kuala Lumpur, one of 10 matches during the U/19 CWC to be televised live around the world by ICC’s host broadcaster ESPN-STAR Sport.
The junior Proteas had a disappointing U/19 CWC in 2006, losing to Nepal in the final of the Plate Championship in Colombo.
But now the team boasts a number of key players, who are capable of swinging a match their team’s way. Skipper Wayne Parnell is an all-rounder with strong leadership qualities and he has plenty of experience having been part of the 2006 squad.
Jonathan Vandiar is a talented left-handed batsman who also bowls leg-spin while South Africa will also be relying on Reeza Hendricks, Pieter Malan, Jon-Jon Smuts and Rilee Rossouw for big contributions with the bat.
“Winning is not everything but the will to win is,” said Parnell.
“We want to play good quality cricket and test our skills against the rest of the world. But we also want to use this opportunity to make friends with cricketers from other countries.”
The group outsider is Papua New Guinea, who qualified for this tournament from the East Asia-Pacific Region, and although there is plenty of cricketing talent in PNG, it will be a huge task for the side to make it through to the Super League from such a tough group.
PNG will rely heavily on captain Colin Amini, who is useful both with his bat and his off-spin bowling. Pace bowlers Loa Nou and Jacob Mado are known for maintaining consistent line and length, while batsmen Tony Ura, Alfred Amini and wicketkeeper Arua Dikana are expected to bring in the runs for the team.
To get the team into form for the event, manager Cheryl Amini has ensured that the team has had a rigorous preparation programme.
“We have had intensive training after the regional qualifier in Vanuatu,” said the manager.
“We have held coaching clinics and camps with ICC East Asia-Pacific development officers and the Queensland regional coach. We also have our local cricket competition currently on as well as practice matches against the senior PNG team.”
Skipper Amini added: “We want to remain focused and be confident in our individual ability and play our best as a team. Considering that Papua New Guinea has not won any games in the previous U/19 CWCs, one win would be enough to boost the confidence of the boys. We would like to set our standards when we play against India. Our performance against them can set the benchmark for our remaining matches.”
GROUP B (based in Kuala Lumpur, seedings in brackets)
West Indies (7)
South Africa (10)
17 February – India v PNG, Kinrara Cricket Academy (KCA)
18 February – West Indies v South Africa, KCA
19 February – India v South Africa, KCA
20 February – India v West Indies, KCA
21 February – South Africa v PNG, KCA
22 February – India v West Indies, KCA
GROUP B SQUADS
Virat Kohli (captain), Abhinav Mukund, Ajitesh Argal, Shreevats Goswami, Tanmay Srivastava, Manish Pandey, Taruwar Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Saurabh Tiwary, Duvvarapu Siva Kumar, Pradeep Sanghwan, Siddharth Kaul, Einstein Napoleon, Perry Goyal, Sayyed Abudllah Iqbal.
Shamarh Brooks (captain), Devon Thomas, Kieran Powell, Dawnley Grant, Delorn Johnson, Steven Jacobs, Veerasammy Permaul, Andre Creary, Horace Miller, Jason Dawes, Nkrumah Bonner, Shacoya Thomas, Darren Bravo, Adrian Barath, Kyle Corbin.
Wayne Parnell (captain), Roy Adams, Matthew Arnold, Clayton August, Bradley Barnes, Daniel Childs, Sybrand Engelbrecht, Reeza Hendricks, Pieter Malan, Mangaliso Mosehle, Abraham Pienaar, Rilee Rossouw, Jon Jon Smuts, Yaseen Vallie, Jonathan Vandiar.
Colin Amini (captain), Tony Ura, Heni Siaka, Tanti Heni, Alfred Amini, Jonathan Diho, John Reva, Joel Tom, Jason Kila, Loa Nou, Jacob Mado, Willie Gavera, Charles Amini, Arua Dikana, Archie Vala.
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