India favourite to progress to Super League stage
Two-time former champion and number-six seed India is favorite to qualify for the Super League stage from Group C in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2012, which will be staged from 11 to 26 August in Queensland, Australia.
Apart from India, West Indies is another strong contender from Group C to reach into the Super League state. Zimbabwe and Papua New Guinea are the other two sides in the group whose matches will be played in Townsville.
India has been seeded sixth for this year's ICC U19 CWC 2012 but it has been a two-time former champion and has produced star cricketers like Virender Sehwag, Mohammad Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Virat Kohli, Irfan Pathan among others from this event over the years.
India finished sixth in the first two events in 1988 and 1998 before winning the 2000 event in Sri Lanka. It then lost successive semi-finals - to South Africa in 2002 and Pakistan in 2004 - before losing the 2006 final to Pakistan. India's second title came in Kuala Lumpur in 2008 while in 2010 it again lost to Pakistan in the quarter-final and finished sixth.
The side will be led by top order batsman Unmukt Chand while other first-class cricketers in the line-up are off-spinner and top order batsman Baba Aparajith, left-arm spinners Harmeet Singh and Vikas Mishra, openers Akhil Herwadka and Manan Vohrar, and right-arm fast bowler Sandeep Sharma.
Talking about his side's strength, weakness and challenges, Chand said: "We have a strong batting and bowling line-up. The batsmen and bowlers have delivered in crunch situations. Our fielding is an asset, as well. We have it in us to go the distance. We are bound to face challenges, with so many quality teams in the fray. However, what might work in our favour is that we have played in Australia, as recently as April 2012. It should not take us long to acclimatise and adjust to the conditions in Australia."
"Every match will be a test. We will definitely not make the mistake of taking things lightly. It is important to be focussed, and not get complacent."
Previewing the tournament, Chand said: "The tournament is a wonderful platform for youngsters from all over the world. You can expect outstanding displays of batting, bowling, fielding, and most importantly, teamwork. Many cricketers will stake their respective claims to play at the highest level, by excelling in the competition. It is heartening to have more than a billion people behind us. We will do our best to make them happy," said Chand, who averages just under 44 in 11 first-class matches for Delhi.
The West Indies has only once appeared in a Super League final (2004 Bangladesh) where it lost to Pakistan. However, it has lost four times in the semi-finals, twice to Pakistan (in 1988 and 2010), once to Australia (2002 in New Zealand) and once to England in 2004. While in 2006, it lost to India in the quarter-final before winning the Plate Championship in 2008 in Malaysia. The West Indies side will be captained by Test opener Kraigg Brathwaite who has played in nine Tests. Apart from Brathwaite, Ronsford Beaton, Kavem Hodge and Amir Khan are the players who have played first-class cricket, while John Campbell is the only player in the side who played in the previous World Cup in New Zealand.
India - Unmukt Chand (captain), Baba Aparajith, Prashant Chopra, Sandipan Das, Akhil Herwadkar, Rush Kalaria, Vikas Mishra, Akshdeep Nath, Kamal Passi, Smit Patel (wicketkeeper), Ravi Kant Singh, Sandeep Sharma, Harmeet Singh, Hanuma Vihari and Vijay Zol
Papua New Guinea - Chris Kent (captain), Charles Amini, Dogodo Bau, Sese Bau, Nigel Boge, Albert Geita, Raymond Haoda, Ratu Maha, Kabua Vagi Morea, Alei Nao, Lista Oala, Vagi Oala, Lega Siake, Toua Tom and Norman Vanua
West Indies - Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Anthony Alleyne, Sunil Ambris, Ronsford Beaton, John Campbell, Derone Davis, Justin Greaves, Kavem Hodge, Akeal Hosein, Jerome Jones, Keiron Joseph, Steven Katwaroo, Amir Khan, Kyle Mayers and Marquino Mindley
Zimbabwe - Matthew Bentley (captain), Kyle Bowie, Ryan Burl, Atishsinh Chouhan, Kieran Geyle, Kevin Kasuza, Malcolm Lake, Campbell Light, Luke Jongwe, Wellington Masakadza, Luke Masasire, Nyasha Mayavo, Curthbert Musoko, Andre Odendaal, and Peacemore Zimwa
Group C schedule
Sat 11 Aug - Zimbabwe v PNG, Oval 1, Endeavour Park, Townsville
*Sun 12 Aug - India v West Indies, Tony Ireland Stadium Townsville
Mon 13 Aug - West Indies v PNG, Oval 2, Tony Ireland Stadium, Townsville
*Tues 14 Aug - India v Zimbabwe, Tony Ireland Stadium, Townsville
Thu 16 Aug - India v PNG, Oval 1, Endeavour Park 1; West Indies v Zimbabwe, Oval 2, Endeavour Park 2