The most successful team in the Under-19 World Cup history, defending champions India will embark on a quest to add another trophy to their collection when a fresh bunch led by Uday Saharan takes on Bangladesh in their tournament-opener in Bloemfontein on Saturday. Placed in Group A, the five-time winners will begin their campaign against the Asian rivals here at the Manguang Oval before they head into the other group fixtures against Ireland and the USA. Having won their first trophy in 2002 under Mohammad Kaif, Indian teams have have since gone on to win the U-19 World Cup in 2008, 2012, 2018 and 2022.
The event, which was moved from Sri Lanka to South Africa in a late adjustment by the ICC, features four groups of as many teams each.
The top three teams in each group will qualify for the Super Sixes, followed by the semifinals on February 6 and 8 with the final to be played at Benoni on February 11.
With prodigious talent in Maharashtra all-rounder Arshin Kulkarni, wicketkeeper-batter Aravelly Avanish, left-arm spinner and vice-captain Saumy Kumar Pandey and Saharan, India will feel they have adequate arsenal to go the distance.
Among these players, Kulkarni (Lucknow Supergiants) and Avinash (Chennai Super Kings) have already landed IPL deals and will be keen to make their mark on the biggest stage before they graduate to top-flight cricket.
Saharan, who hails from Rajasthan but has led Punjab across age groups, has scored in excess of fifty in his last three innings which also includes a century against South Africa.
Last November, the right-handed batter who shifted base from Rajasthan to Punjab, cracked 297 runs in just four matches of the U-19 Challenger Trophy at 99 with four fifties.
Not far behind him was Mumbai’s Musheer Khan, another promising talent in this Indian side who raked up 268 runs at 89.33 with one century and two fifties in the domestic tournament.
Among bowlers, each of Aaradhya Shukla, Pandey and Kulkarni were among the top wicket-takers in the U-19 Challenger Trophy before the Indian team made its way to South Africa.
The team’s form also favours India with this bunch winning each of their four matches in the U-19 tri-nation series in South Africa. The final against the hosts was washed out.
But India will also guard against complacency against Bangladesh having lost the U-19 Asia Cup semifinal in a largely one-sided contest in December. The team defeated Australia in its final warm-up game.
Squads: India: Arshin Kulkarni, Adarsh Singh, Rudra Mayur Patel, Sachin Dhas, Priyanshu Moliya, Musheer Khan, Uday Saharan (C), Aravelly Avanish Rao (wk), Saumy Kumar Pandey (vc), Murugan Abhishek, Innesh Mahajan (wk), Dhanush Gowda, Aaradhya Shukla, Raj Limbani, Naman Tiwari.
Bangladesh: Mahfuzur Rahman Rabby (C), Ashiqur Rahman Shibli (wk), Jishan Alam, Ariful Islam, Mohammad Shihab James, Ahrar Amin (vc), Shiekh Parvez Jibon, Wasi Siddiquee, Maruf Mridha, Chowdhury Md Rizwan, Adil Bin Siddik, Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman,Md Rafi Uzzaman Rafi, Rohanat Doullah Borson, Iqbal Hossain Emon.
Time: 1:30pm IST.
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