Two-times U19 WC champions Pakistan and one-time runner-up Sri Lanka are seeded in Group B in the 2016 ICC U19 Cricket World Cup along with Afghanistan and Canada.
Pakistan won the title back-to-back in 2004 and 2006. Pakistan is the only team in U19 WC till the date who defended the title. Last time in 2014 U19 WC, they finished as runner-up. In this year WC, they will begin as one of the favourite team.
Pakistan U19 skipper Gohar Hafeez admitted that they are very balanced side. He said, “We have had the opportunity to excel at this level, but we missed out on quite a few occasions. This time round, we would like to make amends. We have a very balanced team which has been staying together and training under the supervision of high-performance coaches at the Pakistan Cricket Board’s National Cricket Academy in Lahore.
“Our strengths are that we have two capable all-rounders and two solid opening batsmen, and given the conditions in Bangladesh, we are well-equipped in the spin department with a leggie, a left-arm spinner and an off-spinner.”
Sri Lanka’s best performance was in the year of 2000 when they finished as runner-up in that tournament. Last year they finished at 8th position in the tournament.
Sri Lankan U19 skipper Charith Asalanka said that they are focusing on the top of the group. He said, “Our first target is to top our group. We have a well-balanced side to suit any type of surface. We all look forward to enjoying this great event. We have prepared well for the tournament over the last six months and are confident of going the distance this time. To participate in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup as the captain of a nation so passionate of cricket gives me a great honour and tremendous responsibility to lead the team towards glory.”
On the other hand, Afghanistan will be taking part for the 4th successive year in this biggest youth competition while Canada will be taking for the 5th time (2nd consecutive year) in U19 WC since their first U19 WC in 2002. In the last year, Afghanistan finished at 7th in the last tournament (2014) after beating two Test playing nations Australia and Sri Lanka. It was their best performance among the three U19 WCs. Canada ended at 15th among the 16 teams in the last tournament (2014).
Afghanistan skipper Ihsanullah Janat is feeling proud for playing this big tournament. He said, “It is a moment of pride for us to play on the big stage and this time, we are aiming to not only make the semi-finals but also go on to be the champion side of the tournament. Our targets in the group are obviously Pakistan and Sri Lanka because if we manage to beat either one of them, we will qualify for the next round. There is no reason why we can’t defeat Pakistan, Sri Lanka, or any of the other big sides.”
On the other hand, Canadian skipper Abraash Khan is very positive about his team. He said, “To play and compete against some of the best junior talents in the world is exciting and a challenge. The tournament is a platform where we Canadians can showcase our talent and prove that we are able to compete at the highest level.
“We are going into this tournament with the intent to win. There is no point of us competing if we aren’t looking to win. The main goal for us is to finish in the top eight. We will approach every game as a must-win and put our bodies on the line to make it happen. Many of us are of Sri Lankan or Pakistani background, so beating these two sides will mean a lot to us.”
Pakistan – Gohar Hafeez (capt.), Muhammad Asad, Saif Ali, Saif Badar, Sameen Gul, Salman Fayyaz, Shadab Khan, Hasan Khan, Irfan Liaqat, Hasan Mohsin, Umair Masood, Zeeshan Malik, Arsal Sheikh, Ahmad Shafiq. Mohammad Umar.
Coach – Muhammad Masroor
Sri Lanka – Charith Asalanka (capt.), Sammu Ashan, Kaveen Bandara, Jehan Daniel, Avishka Fernando, Asitha Fernando, Wanidu Hasaranga, Lahiru Kumara, Kamindu Mendis, Charana Nanayakkara, Thilan Nimesh, Vishard Randika, Lahiru Samarakoon, Damitha Silva.
Coach – Roger Wijesuriya
Afghanistan – Ihsanullah Janat (capt.), Zia-ur-Rehman Akbar, Zahir Ahmadzai, Qais Hassan, Karim Janat, Ikram Ali Khail, Shamsurrahman Wali Khail, Zahir Khan, Muslim Musa, Nijat Masood, Parwiz Malikzai, Nasir Omar, Naveed Obaid, Waheed Shafaq, Tariq Stanikzai.
Coach – Dawlat Ahmadzai
Canada – Abraash Khan (capt.), Bhavindu Adhihetty, Thursaanth Anantharajah, Akash Gill, Abdul Haseeb, Prushoth Wijayaraj, Suliman Khan, Arslan Khan, Mamik Luthra, Miraj Patel, Shlok Patel, Kurt Ramdath, Sarbot Sivia, Harsh Thaker, Amish Taploo.
Coach – Errol Barrow
Group B schedule:
28 Jan: Afghanistan vs Pakistan, Sylhet International Cricket Stadium
28 Jan: Canada vs Sri Lanka, Sylhet District Stadium
30 Jan: Afghanistan vs Sri Lanka, Sylhet International Cricket Stadium
30 Jan: Canada vs Pakistan, Sylhet District Stadium
1 Feb: Afghanistan vs Canada, Sylhet International Cricket Stadium
3 Feb: Pakistan vs Sri Lanka, Shere Bangla National Stadium
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