Once again the focus is set to shift from big boys to the finest young talents as ICC’s marquee event – U-19 Cricket World Cup – is to be played in Bangladesh from January 27 to February 14, 2016.
The biennial tourney is the biggest platform available for young and promising cricketers around the globe to hog the limelight and put a giant step forward towards fulfilling their dreams to play at the highest level.
For most youngsters it would be an all new experience to perform in front of cameras and handle the media and fame on offer.
Among the top contemporary cricketers, many have used U-19 WC as a platform to break into their respective national teams. One can easily sense the importance of this youth tournament from the fact that eight of the ten current Test captains have learnt the cricketing traits while playing in the U-19 extravaganza.
Pakistan’s Misbah-ul Haq and AB de Villiers of South Africa are the only two captains to not have emerged from the U-19 set up.
In the 11th edition of the World Cup, sixteen teams will fight for the prestigious trophy, where South Africa will be the defending champions.
However, the big blow for the organizers and host country – Bangladesh – came just ahead of the tournament, when one of the most successful teams of the event, Australia, decided to pull out of the tournament citing security concerns.
Later, Ireland were invited as a replacement for the Aussies by the ICC. It means the upcoming tournament will feature nine Test-playing nations and seven Associate and Affiliate members, which includes – Scotland, Canada, Fiji, Afghanistan, Ireland, Namibia and Nepal.
Bangladesh, who are hosting the tournament for the 2nd time, first was way back in 2004, are using seven venues and five cities to conduct all 48 matches of the event.
Talking about the format, sixteen teams are divided into four groups and each win gives a team two points. Two top teams from each group will qualify for the Super League quarterfinals. Both the semi-finals and final are scheduled to take place at Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka.
In the absence of Australia; Asian powerhouses India and Pakistan have a good chance to lift the trophy. The host nation is also expected to reach till the quarterfinals due to the home advantage.
India, who have won the tournament on three occasions in the past, are managed by the legendary cricketer Rahul Dravid, who might be one of the major attractions of the event.
Two years back, defending champions South Africa discovered a potential superstar in Kagiso Rabada, who went on to cement his place in the senior team. Similarly, Virat Kohli, who led India to a win 2008 edition, has shared his experience of how the U-19 WC helped him shape his career.
"It was an opportunity for everyone to showcase their talent because the whole world was watching it. A lot of players I played against in 2008 are now playing for their respective nations. You get quality players and you get an opportunity to show the world what you have,” said Kohli.
Veteran South Africa batsman Hashim Amla, also backed the event as he praised the sudden rise of Rabada into the national team. "I don't think we have a better success story from the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup like we do in the form of Kagiso Rabada. He was one of the highlights from the competition in 2014 and today he continues to lead the way with performances for the Proteas.”
So just book block the dates to track the fortunes of these young men, who could be future superstars of the cricketing world.