India have been one of the stronger teams through the history of U-19 World Cups, with three titles and two runner-up finishes. They were also the only unbeaten team going into the final of the 2016 edition in Bangladesh, but a strong bowling performance by the Windies denied them a fourth title.
India are a strong side this time too with seven of their players having the experience of first-class cricket. Opener Prithvi Shaw, who once made 546 in an inter-school match in Mumbai in 2013 and has already knocked up five first-class centuries, is their high-profile captain.
The side completed a clean sweep in both the 50-over and four-day formats in England recently but could not make it to the knockout stages of the Asia Cup in Malaysia which was won by Afghanistan. The boys had a camp in Bangalore under the watchful eyes of coach Rahul Dravid, where they played three practice matches against the batch of 2016.
Australia did not participate in the previous edition in Bangladesh because of security concerns, but, like India, are one of the high-profile teams. They have also won the title three times and were triumphant both previous times the tournament was held in New Zealand – in 2002 and 2010.
Ryan Harris-coached Australia’s preparations for the upcoming tournament included a five-match one-day series against Sri Lanka at home, which they won 4-1 in April. Austin Waugh, the son of Steve Waugh, is one of the players to have garnered a lot of attention. The team also includes Will Sutherland, the son of James Sutherland – the chief executive of Cricket Australia. Jason Sangha, the captain, recently became the youngest Australian to score a first-class hundred against England.
Zimbabwe were one of the crowd favourites in Bangladesh two years ago and defeated South Africa in the Plate semifinals. As a part their preparations for the World Cup, Zimbabwe have toured Malaysia, South Africa, Namibia, Australia and India. At home, they beat Kenya 4-0 in a 50-over series.
Captain Liam Roche, who has already played first-class cricket, scored an unbeaten 108 in one of the matches. Before that, he had made two half-centuries against the Windies in a series that Zimbabwe lost. The squad also played practice matches against a senior franchise team. After a long camp at home, the squad travelled to New Zealand in early December to have a month’s time to acclimatise.
Papua New Guinea have qualified for their eighth World Cup after remaining undefeated in the East Asia Pacific Qualifier 2017 in Samoa. They needed to beat Samoa in the final match, and the eight-wicket win was achieved without much difficulty. PNG had lost out to Fiji in the qualification race for the previous edition. PNG’s last appearance in the World Cup came in 2014 in the United Arab Emirates.
This article first appeared on ICC-Cricket.com, reproduced with permission