The 9th youth World Cup will be held in Australia from the 11th-26th August 2012. The format is the standard one which has been used for this competition for some time with 4 initial groups of 4 teams followed by the knock outs starting with quarter finals, semi finals & a final. Specific matches are televised, including the ones from the semi final stage onwards. There is also 3rd & 4th place play offs & 5th & 6th place play offs once a side has been eliminated. Over the years many players have represented their countries at the under-19 level that have gone on to make their name at the very top level. Examples include Mushtaq Ahmed, Inzamam ul Haq, Owais Shah, Graeme Swann, Mohammad Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli, and Hashim Amla to name a few who have made the transition. From the previous tourney names such as Mitchell Marsh, Ben Stokes, Hammad Azam, Danny Briggs amongst others have gone on to be awarded international caps, although that has been restricted to limited over matches. Below are 7 players that are worth keeping a close eye on in the forthcoming youth world cup.
7 To Keep an Eye On
Chand - INDIA
Highly rated talented top order batsmen & also holds the responsibility of skippering the Indian u-19 national side. Chand led India to the quadrangular series win against Australia in Australia in April where England & New Zealand also competed. Despite losing all 3 group matches in a 4 team competition, India went on to win the competition by winning the semi final & final. In both the semi final & final Chand won the player of the match award & led from the front when it really mattered. During the Asia Cup, Chand scored 121 in the final against Pakistan in a difficult chase & was adjudged the player of the match, carrying the innings through till the 50th over in a 280+ chase during a tied encounter. No stranger when it comes to playing in front of the cameras as Chand has played for the Daredevils in the IPL which should give him an advantage going into the youth world cup. With the world cup also happening in Australia, Chand will be full of confidence knowing he has performed in this part of the world already this year.
Aslam - PAKISTAN
Reliable left handed opening batsmen. Sami was the Player of the tournament during the triangular series in South Africa earlier in the year & carried the bat with an unbeaten double century during a televised match vs. British Universities in Lahore in April. The 16 year old made his first youth ODI century in his 2nd international, in alien conditions & never looked back since. Aslam has formed a mouth watering opening partnership with captain Babar Azam with both tipped to make it to the top level in the not too distant future. The opening combination is an area where Pakistan will be relying heavily on & has been the key to their success in under-19 cricket in recent times. Sami’s batting inspiration is Suresh Raina. In the recent Under 19 Asia Cup in Malaysia Sami Aslam was the player of the tournament & also got the award for the best batsmen in the tournament, memorably scoring back to back centuries against India in his first 2 games against them, including in the final where he was awarded the player of the match award alongside Chand. Might only be 16 on paper, but one of the key names on the team sheet, achieving 6 man of the match awards during his first 6 months as an under 19 international cricketer. From an interview I conducted with him he came across as an ambitious & confident person in general. On a technical note, Aslam has a range of scoring shots & has the capabilities to build an innings from what was mentioned in the same interview. We will see how accurate his self-assessment is, but if his record is anything to go by it seems like he has a steady head on his shoulders, fully aware of his strengths & overall game plan. Away from the field of play, Sami is still carrying on with his studies at GC University, taking challenging subjects & despite missing large parts of the year to cricket he manages to perform well in examinations. This shows he is a well-polished individual which is something Pakistan players traditionally lack, barring a few exceptions & therefore is clearly one that needs to be taken care of in order to be the best possible sporting role model down the line that he can be. There is little doubting that he will play for the national senior side within the next 5-7 years if not sooner.
Topley - ENGLAND
Left arm fast bowler with a gigantic height of around 6’8. Reece plays club cricket for Colchester & has represented Essex at first class cricket, making his county debut last season at the age of 17. He was once struck brutally in the face to a KP straight drive when netting as a net bowler in his early teens. As a result Reece was out of action for some time, but recovered well & in April 2011, Paul Grayson, the Essex coach, confidently handed him over the chance to debut. Reece didn’t disappoint, but academic commitments limited his chance to play on a regular basis.
De Knock - SOUTH AFRICA
I have been in touch with quite a few of the Pakistani U-19 players & all of them rate this South African captain, wicket keeper & destructive hard hitting opener highly. During the triangular series earlier in the year De Knock dispatched the Pakistani bowlers all over the park in some of the games. The wicket keeper batsman has played quite a lot domestically already in South Africa with a promising start to his career. Sounds like an exciting prospect & a dangerous one too.
Cummins - AUSTRALIA (injured)
Surely you have heard of him? Cummins got an early test debut at 18 last year during the tour of South Africa. He bowled with heart & hit the winning runs during the 2nd test of the series where Michael Clarke’s side bounced back to level proceedings. A handy lower order basher as well, scoring a half century in 24 deliveries during the course of the quadrangular series in Australia in April. Batsmen will have their work cut out to handle his pace, movement & bounce on pitches he is familiar bowling on.
Dockrell - IRELAND
The Irish left arm spinner who has been an integral part & a front line performer for the senior side over the years. Dockrell possesses a wealth of experience for someone of his age, travelling & performing all around the world in a variety of competitions at the international level. Logically, he was the obvious choice to lead the Irish under 19 side while he is still eligible to represent them. George who plays for Somerset has all the craft, guile & subtle variations to keep things tight & get breakthroughs in the middle passages. George has voiced aspirations to play test cricket for England down the line.
Kraig - WEST INDIES
He was found wanting at test level, regularly troubled in the corridor of uncertainty by Ben Hilfenhaus’s outswingers, but he would have learnt plenty from the initial taster of international cricket. To his credit, he did show us glimpses of his potential. It is debateable as to whether he was thrown into the deep end too early in the piece. One moment that will last in his memory is knocking over the man universally known as the ‘Wall’ in his penultimate test series as a player by disturbing his furniture as a bowler. Kraig is primarily in the team as a top order batsmen, but also useful in other aspects of the game. West Indies youth side could really benefit from his presence & will be looking for him to put in exceptional performances. At this level he is capable of dominating & stealing the headlines as a more recognised name.
I expect Australia, Pakistan, India & South Africa to win their respective groups during the preliminary stages & therefore win an easier quarter final tie. Barring South Africa who I feel will be beaten by England via A2 v D1; I see the following teams making the final 4. Any of these 4 teams can go on to lift the title; there isn’t much to choose between them. All of these 4 teams are the only 4 holders of this trophy & I suspect one of them will go on to lift it again. If I had to choose I would say that Australia & India will make the final will Pakistan coming home with victory in the 3rd place play off. What the Pakistanis have going in their favour is they have members in their squad who played in the last one of these World Cups in New Zealand 2.5 years ago who would have learnt plenty from the experience & would be determined to go one better this time around from being finalists. Australia as defending champions, hosts & the most successful side in this competition with 3 of the 8 titles going to them are the favourites. It would be unfair to dismiss West Indies & Bangladesh who are two tough teams at this level & both cannot afford to be underestimated. West Indies were 3rd place winners in the last one whereas Bangladesh defeated England 5-2 when they came over for a tour not so long ago.