Tournament host UAE which is featuring for the first time ever in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup (ICC U19 CWC), will likely be the dark horse in Group D.
The other teams in that group for the tenth edition of the tournament are 1998 champion England, 1998 runner-up New Zealand and 2000 runner-up Sri Lanka.
The top two teams in the group will qualify for the Super League, with the bottom two going into the Plate Championship.
The event will be staged across six venues from February 14 to March 1, with Group D matches being held in Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Cricket Stadium, the Dubai International Cricket Stadium and Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
After its below-par performance in the recent ACC U19 Asia Cup, the UAE U19 side is now looking to ride on the high of its senior counterpart’s success.
Last year, the UAE qualified for the ICC World Twenty20 Bangladesh 2014 after finishing fourth in the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier UAE 2013.
That success was followed by the country’s qualification for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 event as the UAE finished as the runner-up of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier New Zealand 2014.
About playing at home, UAE captain Rohit Singh said: “We are playing two matches in Sharjah and one in Abu Dhabi. We played at these venues in the ACC U19 Asia Cup, and have re-looked at our strategies for them. Our plan is to target teams with our spinners.”
Giving an overview of Group D, the middle-order batsman said: “This is one of the tougher groups, if not the toughest.
“New Zealand is the highest seed, Sri Lanka is familiar with the conditions and while we have beaten England before, we believe they have a stronger team this time around,” he added.
On what it would mean to do well, Singh said: “It’s important for all of us in the UAE team to shine here and come into the spotlight.
“The UAE has just qualified for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. A strong showing by a player this month might just pitchfork him into the senior national team. If that means a chance to travel to Australia and New Zealand next year, it would be an absolute dream come true,” said Singh.
Mentioning his team’s strengths and weaknesses, he said: “Our opening partnership is excellent, Pankaj Samant is bowling beautifully and Chirag Suri has been in fantastic form with the bat.
“We have to work harder on being consistent. Saving singles, rotating the strike in the middle overs, ground fielding and death bowling are areas we can improve on. One area of particular concern right now is our inability to rotate the strike against spinners,” he said.
Fourth seed New Zealand will be skippered by Robert O’Donnell. Talking about his team’s approach, he said: “The main thing for us is focusing on our own game.
“We can only control how we play, and if we prepare well and perform to our ability, we know we can beat anyone,” added the top-order batsman.
Evaluating the tournament format, O’Donnell said: “I think in any world tournament the format is always going to be challenging, and for a lot of our players it will be something new.”
Assessing his team’s chances in Group D, England captain Will Rhodes said: “These will all be tough games for us. Theoretically, New Zealand should be the hardest as it is the highest-ranked side in our group, but we will make sure we have the same attitude for every game that we play.
England won its only title in South Africa in 1998. Hoping for an encore from his fifth-seeded outfit, all-rounder Rhodes described his team’s strategy thus: “From our experiences of the tour there before Christmas, we have found that the spinners can play a crucial role during the middle of the innings and also during the power play.”
Sri Lanka will be led by wicketkeeper-batsman Kusal Mendis. Offering a different take, he said how well a team is skippered could make the difference in the ultimate analysis, adding: “Since teams will not have much video footage of many of their opponents, just how quickly the captain gauges the flow of the game and sizes up his rivals will be critical.
“Apart from that, skippers must know their own players and their respective strengths and weaknesses by heart, in order to use the right player in the right situation at the right time,” he added.
In his appraisal of the group, Mendis said: “We feel we will have the upper hand over our opponents. We have better spinners, can exploit the familiar conditions and will feel totally at home.”
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