Calcutta: Defending champions India begin their U-19 World Cup campaign on Saturday when they take on arch-rivals Pakistan, in a tricky Group A match, in Dubai.
The Indian team were pre-tournament favourites, but there’s reason for them to be cautious as they have lost both their warm-up games to Sri Lanka and South Africa respectively.
In 2013, India won 12 of their 14 matches and emerged victorious in all the three series that they played. And after lifting the U-19 Asia Cup in the UAE last month, their confidence must have been sky high before the ICC tournament.
Apart from India, Australia and Pakistan are also strong contenders for the title. These three countries have won, between them, eight of the nine U-19 World Cups that have been staged so far. England are the only other country to have been the champion, in 1998.
While India have won the crown thrice in 2000, 2008 and 2012, Pakistan are the only team to have defended their title, repeating their 2004 victory in 2006.
If the young Indian team play to their potential, they have every chance of emulating Pakistan in winning back-to-back U-19 World Cups.
In 2013, India first won the Top End U-19 tri-series also featuring Australia and New Zealand in July.
Then they won the three-match bilateral series against Sri Lanka 2-0 in August. To round off a good year, they also won the U-19 quadrangular series, which featured South Africa, Australia and Zimbabwe apart from India.
In the recently held U-19 Asia Cup, India lost just one league match, against Pakistan, in the preliminary round, before beating the same opponents comprehensively in the final.
India are led by Vijay Zol. Pakistan, who are led by Sami Aslam, are no pushovers and they had beaten India recently in the Asia Cup. India would be cautious.