Cricket’s future stars will be in the spotlight as the Caribbean hosts its first-ever Under 19 Men’s Cricket World Cup this week.
Sixteen teams will compete in 48 games in the biennial tournament, which begins Friday and ends February 5. The first rounds will be played in Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts and Nevis and Guyana, but Antigua will host the quarter-finals, semi-finals and the deciding game.
The West Indies, which won its only title in 2016, are optimistic about their chances of dethroning defending champions Bangladesh, as the former has a talented and versatile squad.
“Coming out of the last camp in Antigua, we’ve seen a lot of improvement and development in the players, and we came up with a very good squad,” head coach Floyd Reifer said on the Cricket West Indies website. “I am convinced that we have a well-balanced team going into the World Cup, and we have the team to do very well in the tournament. We have a lot of talented players and what we are working on is the tactical side of our preparations. We have a batsman who can bowl well and bowlers who can also bat, so we have a good balance.”
The team is led by batsman Ackeem Auguste, with all-rounder Giovonte Depeiza as his deputy.
Auguste said it is a great honor to be chosen to lead the boys in auburn and show his leadership skills.
“It is a special privilege to represent the people of our region and it is a very exciting time for me and my teammates and we know that this is a great opportunity on the international stage,” he said on the Cricket West Indies website . “We had the UK tour earlier this year and it was a good experience for all of us. I learned a lot about leadership on that tour and I would say I’ve grown since then. We have worked hard to get to this stage and we are ready for the World Cup.”
The West Indies squad is well prepared and ready for battle after a string of recent warm-up games against South Africa in St Vincent and the Grenadiens, which saw spinners Onaje Amory, Anderson Mahase and Jaden Carmichael, pacers Johan Layne and Mckenney Clarke and batters Matthew Nandu, Giovonte Depeiza and Teddy Bishop impressed.
As for the favourites, India, which has won a record four World Cup titles, and Australia, a three-time champion, are sure to make their presence felt, as well as Bangladesh. The World Cup lineup includes Uganda, a debutant, young cricket nations United Arab Emirates and Papua New Guinea; and Scotland has been tapped as a late replacement for New Zealand, which is skipping the event due to COVID concerns.
The U19 World Cup is one of the showcase events of the International Cricket Council, a 50-player competition that never fails to thrill, with both first-class cricket and entertainment galore. Some of cricket’s elite talents – India’s Virat Kohli, England’s Joe Root, Australian Steve Smith, West Indian Shimon Hetmyer, New Zealand’s Kane Williamson and Pakistani captain Babar Azam – have gritted their teeth during recent tournaments.
“We are looking forward to the 2022 edition to see who will be the stars of the future,” said ICC Head of Events Chris Tetley on the ICC website.
So far, West Indian fast bowler Jayden Seales is the only 2020 World Cup class alumnus to debut on the international stage. And he’s apparently well on his way to stardom – the youngest West Indian to score a five-for in the region’s 93 test history. He reached that milestone last year against Pakistan in a test in which the precocious Trinidad was named Man of the Match.
Seales, 20, praised the U19 World Cup for having given him the confidence to excel at the highest level of cricket.
“Playing in the U19 World Cup gave me that extra push and confidence. Playing on the international scene for the first time allowed me to see how it plays out in that environment and understand the things I had to do to become an international cricketer,” he said on the Cricket West Indies website.
The World Cup consists of four groups: A — Bangladesh, England, Canada, United Arab Emirates; B — India, Ireland, South Africa, Uganda; C — Afghanistan, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Zimbabwe; and D — Australia, Scotland, Sri Lanka, West Indies. The top two teams from each of the four groups advance to the Super League to determine the champion.
The matches will be broadcast on ESPN Caribbean.