Bloemfontein, Jan 19: It is that time of the year when youngsters will be aiming to leave their mark in the Men’s U19 World Cup. India, the defending champions, enter the 2024 edition of the competition to make a winning start against Bangladesh in their tournament opener at the Mangaung Oval on Saturday.
India have been the most successful team in this showpiece event, winning the World Cup in 2000, 2008, 2012, 2018 and 2022. Their preparation for the upcoming tournament included a semi-final appearance at the ACC U19 Asia Cup, and winning the tri-series featuring South Africa and Afghanistan.
They will need to be careful of Bangladesh, who defeated them in the Asia Cup semi-final. Captain Uday Saharan top scored with 112 against the Proteas in the tri-series final, though it was a washed-out affair. Saharan was also the top-scorer in their official World Cup warm-up game against Australia (74).
"Born in Rajasthan, Uday moved to Punjab and has played his cricket there. He has received a lot of support from his father and even the Punjab Cricket Association has invested heavily in him.”
"We’ll see him play at No. 4 and 5. He played well in the tri-series featuring South Africa and Afghanistan recently and scored a century against South Africa. He is a good stroke-maker and is a proper batsman. He has good temperament and shows a lot of patience,” said Aakash Chopra, former India cricketer, on ‘#AAKSHVANI’ show on JioCinema.
Arshin Kulkarni, the fast-bowling all-rounder, led the team in runs at the U19 Asia Cup, and even earned an IPL 2024 deal with Lucknow Super Giants at last year’s auction. “He bats in the top six and is also a pace bowler. He’s a rare commodity in that sense. Everyone I have spoken to has said he’s a good player. He was picked by Lucknow Super Giants for the IPL.”
"Hopefully, we’ll see him do well at the World Cup. He was impressive in the Maharashtra Premier League and was successful with both bat and ball. He scored a 100, took four wickets and also defended six runs in the last over, all in the same match," added Chopra.
Vice-captain Saumy Kumar Pandey led the team in wickets during the tri-series, also taking 6/29 against Afghanistan. “He faced many challenges in childhood. Many people don’t know, he was born prematurely, so it took some time for his body to develop. He fought these circumstances and developed into a left-arm spinner.”
"He has the ability to keep bowling at the same spot. He’s not a huge turner of the ball and varies the pace well. He is an accurate bowler and that should help him get wickets in South Africa," stated Chopra.
Fast-bowler Raj Limbani raised eyebrows by taking 7/13 (9.1) against Nepal at the ACC U19 Asia Cup. “He took 7/13 against Nepal in the U-19 ACC Cup. He swings the ball very well. He tries to hit the pads regularly. Some of the balls straighten and he’s capable of finding the outside edges. It will be interesting to see how he bowls on South African pitches,” added Chopra.
There’s also Musheer Khan, the left-arm spin bowling all-rounder, who’s the younger brother of prolific run-scorer Sarfaraz Khan, who himself played 2014 and 2016 U19 World Cups for India.
"There are shades of Sarfaraz in him when it comes to scoring heavily. His style of batting is quite interesting. He looks slightly off-balance, looks a bit ungainly but he scores a lot of runs and scores at a good pace. He’s someone who’s actually a game-changer. I feel he’ll grab his opportunities here as he knows well that you don’t get too many opportunities to rise to the top," concluded Chopra.
Total of 16 teams will be divided into groups of four each. The top three teams from each group will qualify for the Super Sixes stage, starting on January 30. At that stage, 12 teams will be divided into two groups of six each.
In the Super Sixes, the top three teams from Groups A and D are put together, while the top three teams of Groups B and C are in the other group. The teams play two matches in this phase, and avoid the team that finished in the corresponding position in the other group.
The top two teams from each group in the Super Sixes will enter the semi-finals, from which the two winning teams will enter the final. Four teams who won't make it to the Super Sixes will play in the playoffs to decide the 13th to 16th positions.
India: Uday Saharan (captain), Arshin Kulkarni, Adarsh Singh, Rudra Mayur Patel, Sachin Dhas, Priyanshu Moliya, Musheer Khan, Aravelly Avanish Rao, Saumy Kumar Pandey, Murugan Abhishek, Innesh Mahajan, Dhanush Gowda, Aaradhya Shukla, Raj Limbani and Naman Tiwari
Bangladesh: Mahfuzur Rahman Rabby (captain), Ashiqur Rahaman Shibli, Jishan Alam, Chowdhury Md Rizwan, Adil Bin Siddik, Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman Boranno, Ariful Islam, Shihab James, Ahrar Amin, Sheikh Parvez Jibon, Rafi Uzzaman Rafi, Rohanat Doullah Borson, Iqbal Hasan Emon, Wasi Siddiquee and Maruf Mridha. (IANS)