KARACHI: The ICC U19 World Cup, featuring 16 teams from all around the globe, begins in Australia today, promising to be an action-packed extravaganza.
Defending champions and hosts Australia are sure to start as favourites, while Pakistan and India are billed as strong contenders as well. The teams are divided into four groups with the top two teams from each pool progressing into the quarter-finals, a format also seen at the 50-over World Cup last year.
Australia will take on England in the tournament opener, while two-time champions Pakistan will lock horns with Afghanistan in the second match. Bangladesh will face Sri Lanka while Zimbabwe will meet Papua New Guinea to complete the schedule for today.
‘Pakistan ready for contest’
Pakistan, who won back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2006, are upbeat ahead of the contest.
The team defeated Australia 2-1 in a three-match Youth One-Day International (ODI) series ahead of the tournament. The former champions also defeated Papua New Guinea by eight wickets in the warm-up match but faced a five-wicket loss to England in the second practice game.
However, Pakistan team coach Sabih Azhar termed the triumph over Australia as a morale-booster ahead of the important tournament.
“We are well prepared,” Azhar told The Express Tribune from Queensland on the eve of the team’s first match. “The series-win against Australia has really boosted our confidence. They are the hosts and the defending champions but our players have acclimatised to the conditions as well. We also got some good match practice by playing five full 50-over fixtures.”
The coach added that the players were focused and had set their sights on the trophy.
“We have a balanced side and our recent performance has been good as well. It is a good start for us and we have a good chance of increasing our tally of two world titles.”
Team warned against complacency
Apart from Afghanistan, Pakistan will be up against Scotland and New Zealand in the rest of the group matches but Azhar was wary of complacency creeping in.
Azhar warned that not a single team in the tournament was going to be easy.
“One thing we should be aware of is complacency creeping in. There is no such thing as a minnow or a weak team at this level. All teams are coming well prepared and we’ll have to work very hard to do well against them.”
u19 world cup
Group A: Aus v Eng
Group B: Afg v Pak
Group C: PNG v Zim
Group D: Bang v SL
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2012.