- Two-times champions Pakistan and defending champions Windies among teams to be seen in action on opening day
- Coaches confident but cautious as they look forward to 16-team tournament
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The best of the next generation will be on view over the next 22 days as the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup kicks off with four matches on Saturday, including those featuring defending champions the Windies and two-time champions Pakistan.
The Windies face New Zealand in a day-night fixture in Tauranga while Pakistan take on dark horses Afghanistan in Whangarei. In other matches on the opening day to be played in Christchurch, Bangladesh take on Namibia and Papua New Guinea play Zimbabwe.
ICC TV will broadcast live the match between New Zealand and the Windies. This will be the first of 20 matches to be broadcast live during the tournament and will be available across the world, details of which are available here.
The buzz around the event has grown over the past few weeks and the teams have warmed up for the 16-side event with some rigorous practice sessions and warm-up matches in Christchurch.
A tournament whose alumni incudes the likes of international skippers Steve Smith (Australia), Joe Root (England), Virat Kohli (India), Kane Williamson (New Zealand) and Sarfraz Ahmed (Pakistan), brings together the best from around the world with teams evenly matched.
The coaches of different teams exuded confidence on the eve of the tournament but understand that teams are unknown commodities at this level and so also displayed caution when asked about their team’s prospects.
Australia coach Ryan Harris showed confidence in his “well-balanced side”, England coach Jon Lewis understood the “transient nature of under-19 cricket”, India coach Rahul Dravid eyed “opportunities to do well” while Pakistan coach Mansoor Rana hoped the side will repeat past successes.
Australia coach Ryan Harris: “I think we’ve got a really well-balanced squad that can compete in these conditions and compete against some good opposition. First and foremost, we want to win our group games - that’s one of the main things - but we want to make sure these guys are learning too.
“Ultimately winning is what we want to do, but we’ve got to make sure we keep improving and learning about the game and all that goes with it, playing against good players, playing in tournament-play and being away from home.”
England coach Jon Lewis: “There’s a transient nature to Under-19 cricket and teams change all the time so I tend to focus more on us, and getting our team playing well. If we can do that I think we can compete. I think we’ll have to play at our best to win the tournament – I don’t think we’re a team full of superstar players but if we can play well as a team, and play together, then I feel we can compete with anyone.
“I think it’s a very well balanced squad. We’ve got some guys who bat at a high tempo, we’ve got some guys who are more considered in their approach, we’ve got some good spin options, we’ve a big, tall seamer who can bowl at a reasonable pace and we’ve got some clever medium-pace bowlers who can mix it up really well.”
India coach Rahul Dravid: “We started the process (of preparing) almost a year ago in terms of identifying a core group of 35-40 kids that we wanted to give exposure to. We’ve had a few series, a couple of Asia Cups where we’ve had the opportunity to see a large group of talent, and just in the build up to this tournament as well they’ve been playing a lot of domestic under-19 cricket as well.
“We don’t like to focus too much on the individuals. We believe we’ve got a very good squad together and the opportunities for us to play well as a team are there.”
Ireland coach Ryan Eagleson: “We know it’s going to be tough, but we’re here not only to take part, we want to challenge ourselves every game. We’ve got a tough group with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. We know what we’ll face up against those teams but we’re up for the challenge and are looking forward to it.”
“I think we have a good all-round side, we bat all the way down which is a strength, we’ve got a good mixture of spin and pace bowling which will allow us to adapt to the conditions up in Whangarei, but I think we’re a good all-round outfit.”
New Zealand coach Paul Wiseman: “We are just preparing to play quality sides. We have a little bit of footage on some of them but we are mainly focusing on ourselves. If we go about things the right way and concentrate on ourselves, we’ll be competitive with all teams.
“We are going out to win every game, there’s no two ways about that. It’s just how our guys and the opposition turn up, who wins those big moments. “We are strong across the board. I don’t think we’ve got any weak points.”
Pakistan coach Mansoor Rana: “Pakistan has always done well and we are well prepared this time again and I hope the boys will go till the very end. We’re very confident, we are here for some time now. The boys are used to the conditions and the pitches, our nets were almost 100 per cent similar to what the conditions are here.
South Africa coach Laurence Mahatlane: “I think we have got a very good chance. We have managed to build a bit of experience over the last year, that seven of our players have played first-class cricket stands us in good stead. The key is to get through the group stage, currently our focus is on the game against Kenya on Sunday.
“We have a good batting line-up, might not have shown in the practice game against India. We were disappointed with the result against India (which South Africa lost by 189 runs). Given the fact that at we were in the country for only a couple of days could have played a minor role but I’d have liked to have seen more in all three departments.”
Windies coach Graeme West: “The opposition is unknown. It’s about focussing, things we can do well, things we can control. It is up to the players to put their plans into place, execute them. Any player who has played in an U19 World Cup has an advantage and those who have played first-class cricket, clearly that is going to set players apart.
“We don’t have any players who played in the final, so being defending champions does not matter, we have to start all over again, have to create our great moments. It will be great to do something like that again.”
Zimbabwe coach Maziva Mangongo: “We were the second team to arrive in New Zealand, it shows our intent and purpose. We opt to do the business like any other side, and we will back ourselves and back our preparation.
“At under-19 level, all teams are level. It’s all about who executes themselves on the day and we are backing ourselves to execute well. Our top order batters can hurt an opposition, they are explosive and score quickly, and before you know they can run away with a game.”
Afghanistan v Pakistan, Cobham Oval, Whangarei
Bangladesh v Namibia, Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln, Christchurch
New Zealand v Windies, Bay Oval, Tauranga (day-night)
PNG v Zimbabwe, Lincoln No 3, Christchurch