Starry-eyed teenagers drawn from nine Test-playing nations and seven Associate and Affiliate Members –Afghanistan, Canada, Fiji, Namibia, Nepal, Ireland and Scotland – will battle for supremacy in the 19-day event that will unveil the stars of the future. 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.
The previous ten editions have thrown up stars such as Brian Lara, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Chris Gayle, Virender Sehwag, Michael Clarke, Yuvraj Singh, Steven Smith, Virat Kohli, Brendon McCullum, Angelo Mathews, Kagiso Rabada, Mushfiqur Rahim, Joe Root and others, and the 2016 event promises to be no different. Three-time winner India is coached by batting great Rahul Dravid and captained by wicketkeeper-batsman Ishan Kishan, who hails from Jharkhand, the same state as World Cup-winning skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The Indians showed it will be the team to beat as it piled a mammoth 485/3 against Canada in a warm-up match and then defeated Pakistan by five wickets in another practice game ahead of the tournament.
Two rounds of warm-up matches for all the teams produced eight centuries and eight hauls of five wickets or more to raise prospects of exciting contests ahead. England, seeking to end 18-year drought after winning its only title way back in 1998, is led by Brad Taylor, an off-spinning allrounder from Hampshire who is one of nine players in the squad to have played county cricket at the senior level. Two-time champion Pakistan warmed up for the tournament by winning a tri-series against Australia and New Zealand in the United Arab Emirates earlier this month, albeit on run-rates after all three teams secured two wins each in the double-leg event.
Bangladesh will fancy its chances on home turf with a side that boasts of five players who also took part in the previous edition in the UAE in 2014. Mehidy Hassan Miraz will captain the host nation for the second time – he led the team in the UAE two years ago when he was just 16. South Africa will defend the title under Tony De Zorzi, hoping to repeat its UAE performance where it defeated Pakistan in the final to make up for two runners-up spots in 2002 and 2008.
The seven non-Test-playing nations are determined to stand up and be counted as well, especially fast-improving Afghanistan, which finished seventh two years ago and is aiming to progress even further in the tournament. The tournament opens with a potential Group A humdinger between Bangladesh and South Africa in Chittagong, a match in which the host nation hopes to continue the recent winning streak over the defending champion both at home and away. With Scotland and Namibia the other teams in their draw, the winner of that match will fancy its chances of topping the group, but Bangladesh’s captain was not looking too far ahead.
De Zorzi, the South Africa captain, played down his team’s recent defeats against Bangladesh, saying he now knows what to expect from the hosts: 'It works both ways. If they know a lot about us, we also know a lot about them. On the day, it will just come down to who wants it more.'
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