Under-19 World Cup: Runaway favourite India eyes fifth title

Defending champion India will be the overwhelming favourite to win the Under-19 World Cup for the fifth time with at least six players having played senior cricket.

India World Cup U-19 cricket team poses for a group photograph before heading to South Africa for the World Cup.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

A few precocious talents, hardworking teenagers and a chunky lot which might fall by the wayside in times to come will form an eclectic 16-team mix in the ICC Under-19 World Cup starting on Friday.

Defending champions India will be the overwhelming favourite to win the junior global meet for the fifth time with at least six players, including skipper Priyam Garg having played senior cricket (first-class, List A or T20).

READ| U-19 World Cup: 10 Indian youngsters who made it to senior team

Not to forget the four players — Yashasvi Jaiswal, Garg, Ravi Bishnoi, Kartik Tyagi — who have already landed contracts in the IPL. India has been the team to beat on the junior cricket circuit since Virat Kohli’s side dominated the proceedings in the 2008 edition.

New Entrants

While there will be future stars in Pakistan, Australia, England and New Zealand teams, the presence of Japan and Nigeria will certainly have its own curiosity value.

In fact, Japan is clubbed with India, New Zealand and Sri Lanka in group D. The Japanese team mostly has South Asian expats with Tushar Chaturvedi, Yugandhar Retharekar, Ishan Fartyal, Debasish Sahoo forming the crux of the group alongside Kazumasha Takahashi, Masato Morita and Shu Noguchi.

READ| ICC U-19 World Cup 2020: Five Indian players to watch out for

The Nigerian team, which is clubbed with Australia, West Indies and England, has more local flavour in the presence of Sylvester Okpe, Oche Boniface, Ifeanyichukwu Uboh and Olayinka Olaleye.

The tournament starts with host South Africa taking on Afghanistan in the ‘Diamond City’ of Kimberley on Friday, followed by Australia’s big-ticket game against West Indies on the very next day.

Australia like India has a number of players, who have already played senior-level cricket with one prominent name being former death over specialist Ian Harvey’s nephew McKenzie Harvey, who has played 2 List A and 13 T20 games.

Similarly, England has Ben Charlesworth with an experience of 11 first-class games to his credit while a few of his teammates have also played for their respective counties.

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