After Nigeria claimed an International Cricket Council (ICC) Under-19 World Cup 2020 spot, the battle for the four remaining places heads to the Asia Qualifier in Malaysia, with six teams vying for the top spot.
Kuwait, Malaysia, Nepal, Oman, Singapore and the UAE will compete in the tournament taking place between April 12 and 18, where the winners will become the 13th team to confirm their place in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup in South Africa in 2020.
This is the second stage for teams in Asia, who due to the depth of strength in the region, competed in a Division 2 in 2018, where Kuwait and Oman qualified to continue their U19 journey.
The direct 2019 regional qualifiers provide teams with a winner-takes-all opportunity to compete in a World Cup.
15 matches will be played across three venues in the Kuala Lumpar area - Kinrara Oval, Bayuemas Oval and Selangor Turf Club.
Malaysia captain Muhammad Amir Azim Bin Abd Shukor shared his thoughts on what cricket can do for participants.
“I got introduced to this game by my primary school teacher. My knowledge and love for the sport deepened as I continued to play frequently. Cricket has taught me the true meaning of patience, determination and stamina. I feel thrilled and I can’t wait to get into action alongside my teammates in the qualifier and hopefully onto the U19 Cricket World Cup itself. We have good facilities such as the world-class Kinrara, we are all looking forward to it," he said.
Kuwait captain Abdul Sadiq is looking forward to representing Kuwait in the competition. He said, “The best thing is having to play with teammates as a single unit representing Kuwait at higher competitive levels. It will be a dream come true to qualify, as we have constantly worked hard for the last four years and I am willing to give it my everything. I used to watch my elder brother play cricket and practice, and got the interest to play myself at the age of 11.”
Singapore captain Aman Desai, on the other hand, described the unpredictability of cricket.
“Cricket is an exciting sport. You never know what can happen the next ball. And It is the challenge of playing under pressure that I personally enjoy. Coming from a family where my elder brother and father played cricket, I was exposed to the sport at a young age and since then I never looked back. Being a small nation, we have a well-structured system with a very close-knit community. I look forward to making history and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.
UAE captain Aryan Lakra shared his experiences of playing cricket in the UAE, saying, “When I moved to Dubai eight years ago, my dad got me into a number of sports, but it was cricket which I liked the most. You get a chance to train with a lot of players you admire on TV whenever they come to the UAE, which has some of the best training facilities in the world. To play in a World Cup would be a dream come true for any cricketer around the world. I would be over the moon if we qualified”.
Meanwhile, Nepal captain Rohit Kumar Paudel recalls his first memories of Nepal in an ICC event. “I got introduced to cricket when Nepal played the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2014 in Bangladesh. Team unity and teamwork are my favourite things about cricket. The players are passionate and determined towards the game and there is huge fan following of cricket in Nepal. It would be one of the best moments of my life, as taking our team to the World Cup would make our country proud," he said.
Oman captain Prathamesh Santosh Kumble said, “Cricket has a spirit of teamwork and responsibility among the youth. This is one of the most important things I realised when my parents enrolled me to a cricket academy at the age of seven in Muscat. Oman is a great place to play cricket we have well-maintained turf grounds, efficient coaches and competitive cricket going on.”
The winner of the Asia Qualifier will join Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, the West Indies and Zimbabwe in the tournament next January and February.