Three-time champion India — the joint-most successful team in the history of the tournament with Australia – last clinched the title in 2012 under the captaincy of Unmukt Chand. Before that, Virat Kohli’s under-19 team won in 2007/08 and under the leadership of Mohammad Kaif, India first won the first U-19 World Cup in 1999/00. In 2016’s edition, India reached the final, but lost to West Indies by five wickets.
This time round, a total of 16 teams have been divided into four groups, from which the top eight teams will advance to the quarter-final. The Rahul Dravid-coached Indian team will be playing Australia (14 January), Papua New Guinea (16 January) and Zimbabwe (19 January) in its Pool B matches.
SQUAD: Prithvi Shaw (Captain), Shubman Gill (vice-captain), Manjot Kalra, Himanshu Rana, Abhishek Sharma, Riyan Parag, Aryan Juyal (wicket-keeper), Harvik Desai (wicket-keeper), Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Ishan Porel, Arshdeep Singh, Anukul Roy, Shiva Singh, Pankaj Yadav
STANDBY PLAYERS: Om Bhosle, Rahul Chahar, Ninad Rathva, Urvil Patel, Aditya Thakare
Jaskirat, first Indian-origin player to lead Aussies
Australia didn’t participate in the previous U-19 World Cup because of security concerns, but will definitely be India’s toughest competitor in the pool stage in 2018. The three-time champion is led by Jason Jaskirat Singh Sangha, who, at 18 years 71 days, became the youngest player since Sachin Tendulkar to make a first-class century against England. Sangha is the first Indian-origin cricketer to captain an Aussie side. Ryan Harris-coached Australia’s preparations for the upcoming tournament included a five-match one-day series against Sri Lanka at home, which it won 4-1 in April. Austin Waugh, the son of Steve Waugh, is one of the players to have garnered a lot of attention. The team also includes Will Sutherland, the son of James Sutherland – the chief executive of Cricket Australia.
A crowd favorite in Bangladesh two years ago, Zimbabwe defeated the then defending champion South Africa in the semi-finals of the Plate championship, which decides the 9-16 positions in the tournament. Captain Liam Roche, who has already played first-class cricket, scored an unbeaten 108 in one of the matches. Before that, he had made two half-centuries against the Windies in a series that Zimbabwe lost. In its preparations to the upcoming World Cup, Zimbabwe had toured Malaysia, South Africa, Namibia, Australia and India. In August 2017, it defeated Kenya 4-0 in a 50-over series at home. After a long camp at home, the squad travelled to New Zealand in early December to have a month’s time to acclimatis It plays its first match of the campaign against Papua New Guinea on Saturday.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Papua New Guinea qualified for its eighth World Cup after remaining undefeated in the East Asia Pacific Qualifier 2017 in Samoa. It needed to beat Samoa in the final match, and the eight-wicket win was achieved without much difficulty. PNG last appeared in the 2014 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, and missed 2016’s edition after losing to Fiji in the qualifiers. In its first warm-up match of the 2018 Under 19 World Cup, PNG Garamuts lost to defending champion West Indies by seven wickets while its match against New Zealand was washed out without a ball being bowled. Sema Kamea will lead the side. With just Australia as one of its big opponents, India is favourite to be one of the two teams to reach the knockout stage of the 2018 Under-19 World Cup.