Dubai, Jan 20 (IANS) Three-time champions India will take on Ireland in their opening match of the Under-19 cricket World Cup, to be played in Bangladesh from January 27 to February 14. The biennial 16-nation tournament features nine Test-playing nations and seven Associate and Affiliate Members. 

Teams have been divided into four groups with the top two in each advancing to the Super League quarter-finals and the other two qualifying for the Plate Championships. India have been pooled in Group D with Nepal, New Zealand and Ireland. They will play Ireland in Mirpur on January 28. India, coached by batting great Rahul Dravid, features high among the top contenders to bag the trophy which they have previously won in 2000, 2008 and 2012. India failed to defend the title two years ago in the United Arab Emirates after England stunned them in the quarter-finals. 

India arrived in Bangladesh on Wednesday with a power-packed batting line-up that includes Sarfaraz Khan, one of the country’s brightest young batsmen who turns out for Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Sarfaraz joins Ricky Bhui and Avesh Khan for their second appearance in the premier age-group tournament, having also participated in 2014. Another batsman who will be noticed in Bangladesh is Armaan Jaffer, nephew of former India opener Wasim Jaffer. 

Both Sarfaraz and Armaan made their mark in school cricket in Mumbai when the stocky Sarfaraz hit 439 in a Harris Shield match and Armaan topped that with scores of 498 and 473 a year later. Dravid, who retired from international cricket in 2012 with more than 10,000 runs in both Test and one-day cricket, gave up his lucrative television commitments last year to take up the challenging job of coaching both the India A and U-19 squads. 

Under his guidance, India’s teenagers have won a tri-series in Sri Lanka before Christmas last year that also featured England and defeated both Afghanistan and Bangladesh at home in November. “Ours is a decent side with a lot of promising players. The conditions in Bangladesh will be quite similar to what the boys have grown up on in India, so that should be beneficial to the side,” Dravid said. India will be captained by Ishan Kishan, a left-handed batsman and wicketkeeper, who hails from World Cup-winning captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s home state of Jharkhand.

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