India to take on Ireland in ICC U-19 World Cup opener
Three-time champions India will open their campaign against Ireland in Group D when the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup gets underway in Bangladesh from January 27 to February 14. India and New Zealand are favoured to take the top two positions in Group D ahead of Ireland and Nepal.
The biennial 16-nation tournament features nine Test-playing nations and seven Associate and Affiliate Members -- Afghanistan, Canada, Fiji, Namibia, Nepal, Ireland and Scotland.
Teams have been divided into four groups with the top two in each advancing to the Super League quarter-finals and the other two qualifying for the Plate Championships.
India, coached by batting great Rahul Dravid, features high among the top contenders to bag the trophy which it has previously won in 2000, 2008 and 2012. India failed to defend the title two years ago in the United Arab Emirates after England stunned it in the quarter-finals.
India arrived in Bangladesh today with a power-packed batting line-up that includes Sarfaraz Khan, a bright young batsmen who turns out for Virat Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League.
Sarfaraz joins Ricky Bhui and Avesh Khan for their second appearance in the premier age-group tournament, having also participated in 2014. Another batsman that will be noticed in Bangladesh is Armaan Jaffer, nephew of former Indian opener Wasim Jaffer. Both Sarfaraz and Armaan made their mark in schools' cricket in Mumbai when the stocky Sarfaraz hit 439 in a Harris Shield match and Armaan topped that with scores of 498 and 473 a year later.
Dravid, who retired from international cricket in 2012 with more than 10,000 runs in both Test and one-day cricket, gave up his lucrative television commitments last year to take up the challenging job of coaching both the India A and under-19 squads. Under his guidance, India's teenagers have won a tri-series in Sri Lanka before Christmas last year that also featured England and defeated both Afghanistan and Bangladesh at home in November.
"Ours is a decent side with a lot of promising players," Dravid said. "The conditions in Bangladesh will be quite similar to what the boys have grown up on in India, so that should be beneficial to the side."
India will be captained by Ishan Kishan, a left-handed batsman and wicketkeeper, who hails from World Cup-winning captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's home state of Jharkhand.