Kolkata: Indian colts, under the watchful eyes of coach Rahul Dravid, will begin their Under-19 World Cup preparations when they host Bangladesh and Afghanistan for a tri-series, beginning here tomorrow.
The ICC U-19 World Cup is slated to be held in Bangladesh from January 22 to February 14 and it will give Dravid a good opportunity to test weaknesses and strengths of his team.
India and Bangladesh will clash in the tournament-opener tomorrow. The series will be held in a double round-robin format at the Jadavpur University second campus ground in Saltlake. The top two teams will lock horns in the summit clash on November 29.
Dravid, known for his mentorship at Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League, is a popular figure among the youngsters. His exploits at the Rajasthan Royals, the chemistry he shared with captain and 'protege' Ajinkya Rahane and the way he backed up the youngsters is well known as Dravid's new role will be of much interest with the World Cup in two months' time.
"The stint with Royals as mentor will definitely help me. The fact that I have spent a couple of years in the role of a mentor, I have seen the other side of what the sport is," Dravid has said. The 42-year-old said his job will be to help players get to the next level. "I see my job as coaching the players they have selected and not in selection. My job is to coach and try to help them to get to the next level."
Indian U-19 team will have the likes of Ricky Bhui who recently staked his claim for captaincy. He guided India Blue to the title with a skipper's knock of 142 off just 117 against India Green in the final of the inaugural edition of the U-19 Challenger Series in Pune last month.
Bhui had made his maiden first-class century for Andhra in the Ranji Trophy earlier this season, an impressive 103 against Mumbai.
The Indian squad is picked from impressive performances at the Challengers as they also include promising Delhi wicketkeeper and left-hand batsman Rishabh Pant who led India Red, and Jharkhand left-hander Virat Singh who was India Green skipper in the U-19 tournament.
The side also has medium pacer duo of Avesh Khan (Madhya Pradesh) and Shubham Mavi (Uttar Pradesh) and batsmen Amandeep Khare and Anmolpreet Singh who had scored 1,154 runs for Punjab in the last season's Cooch Behar Trophy
In the last league game of the U-19 Challengers, India Blue rode on Mavi's 3/41, Khare's 93 and Anmolpreet's 75 to beat India Green as the trio too find their respective places. All eyes will also be on the Mumbai aggressive batsman Sarfaraz Khan as the hosts should start as favourties against Bangladesh.
Promising players in Bangladesh U-19 team include captain Mehedi Hasan Miraj a batsman who can also bowl off-spin, top-order batsman Nazmul Hasan and opener Syed Hasan. The Bangladesh team recently defeated Zimbabwe.
"We have also beaten the South Africa U-19 team at both home and away which will give us ample confidence," coach Mizanur Rahman said.
November 20: India U-19 vs Bangladesh U-19; November 21: India U-19 vs Afghanistan U-19; November 22: Bangladesh U-19 vs Afghanistan U-19; November 24: India U-19 v Bangladesh U-19; November 25: Bangladesh U-19 vs Afghanistan U-19; November 27: India U-19 vs Afghanistan U-19; November 29: Final (Team 1 vs Team 2).