The Under-19 World Cup, starting Friday in the West Indies, will give future stars a chance to shine while the four-time champions Indian cricket team will once again be the top contenders for the title. In the tournament being held on Caribbean soil for the first time amid the Corona epidemic, 16 teams have been divided into four groups. India is placed in Group B while Australia is in Group D.
Bangladesh, having won the Under-19 title for the first time by defeating India two years ago, are in Group A. Two-time winners Pakistan and Afghanistan are in Group C. The Afghanistan team has arrived here late due to visa issues and was deprived of playing the warm-up matches. The top two teams from each group will advance to the quarterfinals. The bio bubble of the tournament has not been violated yet, but there have been cases of corona infection in the teams of Pakistan and Zimbabwe.
New Zealand withdrew from the tournament due to their segregation rules, being replaced by Scotland. Hosts West Indies will face Australia on the first day while Scotland will face Sri Lanka. India have to play their first match against South Africa in Guyana on Saturday.
India: The record four-time champion Indian team is the top contender though it doesn’t seem to have the same confidence as the previous teams. The Indian team has come here directly from Dubai after winning the Asia Cup. After five days of strict isolation, the Yash Dhul-led side defeated Australia by nine wickets in a warm-up match. There will be a lot of expectations from opener Harnoor Singh, Delhi batsman and captain Yash, Sheikh Rashid and fast bowler Rajvardhan Hungergekar. India has no dearth of talent and that is the reason why a player gets to play only once and 19 World Cups.
Australia: Three-time champion Australia is the second strong contender. She has definitely reached the semi-finals at least eight times. The last time it won the title was in 2010 when the team included Mitchell Marsh, Adam Zampa and Josh Hazlewood. This time all-rounder Cooper Connolly is the captain of the team and in 2020 he scored 64 runs in 53 balls in a playoff match against West Indies.
Bangladesh: Bangladesh created history by winning the title in 2020 and they would like to repeat the same. Captain Rakibul Hasan was a member of the team that won the title in South Africa. India defeated Bangladesh in the Asia Cup semi-final last month.
Pakistan: Five-time finalists, Pakistan won the title in 2004 and 2006 when Sarfaraz Ahmed, Wahab Riaz and Imad Wasim were part of the team. Shaheen Shah Afridi shone from the 2018 Under 19 World Cup. Former batsman Ejaz Ahmed is the coach of the team captained by Qasim Akram.
England: England won the lone Under-19 title 24 years ago but finished third in 2014. Couldn’t even advance past the first round last time. Captain Tom Prest is expected to do better this year. The coach of the team is Richard Dawson and almost a whole new team has been brought in.