The thirteenth edition of the under-19 World Cup will be held in South Africa from 17 January to 9 February. 16 teams are set to compete in the premier under-19 tournament and the teams are separated into four groups of four teams each with the top two advancing to the Super League stage. With the World Cup less than 10 days away, we take a glance at some of the key players — some of whom already boast of recognition and fame — for the upcoming World Cup.
Priyam Garg (India)
After being left out of the last under-19 World Cup squad two years back, Priyam Garg will lead India's challenge this time around in South Africa. Garg made his first major appearance for the Uttar Pradesh senior side in 2018 in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. On his Ranji debut a month later, the right-hander slammed a century against Goa and has since not looked back.
By racking up 814 runs in 10 matches by the end of the 2018/19 season, he finished as the second-highest run-scorer for Uttar Pradesh. A first-class average of 66.69 and a List A average of 47.13 speaks volumes about the kind of consistency Garg possesses. In the ongoing quadrangular series in South Africa, Garg has made a century and a half-century against the South African youth side. Having acclimatised himself to the conditions in the country, Garg will be a key player for India this World Cup.
Noor Ahmad (Afghanistan)
Afghanistan's left-arm wrist spinner just turned 15 years old and is already a regular in the under-19 side. Noor Ahmad recently hit the headlines when he was shortlisted as the youngest player in the Indian Premier League auctions. In the youth ODIs against the Indian side in Lucknow late last year, Ahmad picked up three-wicket hauls in two matches and proved to be a tricky bowler to face even for the wristy Indian batsmen.
Ahmad has impressed coach Raees Ahmadzai with his wide repertoire of variations and could be an x-factor player for the formidable Afghanistan unit this World Cup. It was Ahmadzai who first spotted his talent in the under-19 trials. When he turned head coach, Ahmadzai brought Ahmad to the setup and he immediately made an impact. Earlier in 2019, the wrist-spinner was among the leading wicket-takers — eight wickets at 21.87 for Mis Ainak Knights — in the Shpageeza T20 League. In the upcoming under-19 World Cup, Noor Ahmad could be one of the breakout stars if his impact so far is anything to go by.
Bryce Parsons (South Africa)
The South African youth team skipper for this World Cup, Parsons is a left-handed opener and a slow left-arm bowler. The 18-year old who represents Central Gauteng made his debut for South Africa under-19 in India in February last year. In the quadrangular series also involving India U-19 'A' and 'B' sides and Afghanistan U-19, Parsons was a regular in the South African youth side and picked up seven wickets at an average of 18.42 in the One dayers.
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In the longest format games, Parsons scored 239 runs and also picked up a six-wicket haul with the ball. Parsons was the under-17 Cricketer of the Year in 2017 and in 2018 won the Khaya Majola Week Cricketer of the Year. Having captained his school sides, Parsons was deemed apt to lead Proteas' challenge in the home under-19 World Cup and will be keenly watched upon.
Towhid Hridoy (Bangladesh)
Towhid Hridoy is probably the most exciting player in the under-19 circuit these days. Hridoy who made his first-class debut for the Rajshahi division in 2017-18 has already played an under-19 World Cup in 2018 and made a century against Canada in that tournament. Having played in the Bangladesh Premier League for Sylhet Sixers, he was named as the vice-captain for the upcoming under-19 World Cup in South Africa.
Hridoy has, meanwhile, been piling on the runs at under-19 level. Last month, the right-hander made scores of 82*, 123*, 115 and 111 against the Sri Lanka youth side in Chattogram. Since the end of the 2018 under-19 World Cup, Hridoy has over a 1000 runs in the format, being one of only two players, alongside Bangladesh teammate Mahmudul Hasan Joy, to achieve the feat. In 22 List A matches, the Bangladesh teenager has 770 runs at an average of 45.29 with a century and six half-centuries.
Jordan Cox (England)
A product of Kent County Cricket Club, Jordan Cox is already a professional English cricketer having signed a contract with Kent in 2018. Cox, an attacking batsman who has played as a middle-order batsman and opener, was named player of the tournament in the ECB Super-4s developmental T20 competition in 2018. Last year, he became a regular in the Kent side with Sam Billings injured. A standout innings — a 122* as opener — against Bangladesh for the England under-19 side raised his reputation and he played a couple of County Championship games for Kent following that.
In December last year, he made another striking century against the Sri Lanka youth side at Coolidge. He ended the tri-series, also involving the West Indies side, as the second-highest run-scorer and will be a key figure in the England side this World Cup.
Yashasvi Jaiswal (India)
India are on the hunt for a fifth under-19 World Cup title and lending some extra firepower for them at the top is the Mumbai opener Yashasvi Jaiswal. A blazing double century in his maiden Vijay Hazare Trophy shot Jaiswal into the limelight. Against a Jharkhand attack boasting of International quality bowlers like Varun Aaron and Shahbaz Nadeem, Jaiswal took just 154-ball innings to make 203, a knock adorned with 12 maximums.
In his maiden IPL auction, Jaiswal attracted a bidding war, eventually being snapped up by Rajasthan Royals for a whopping Rs 2.4 crores. Jaiswal is now the youngest to hit a List A double ton and at 18, already possesses the aura of a superstar. The under-19 World Cup is a golden opportunity for him to showcase that he belongs at the highest stage. He heads into the World Cup with some good form behind him - a century against Afghanistan at Lucknow was followed by scores of 89* and 78 in the quadrangular series in South Africa. In 13 List A games, Jaiswal averages a stunning 70.81 with three tons and as many half-centuries.
Gerald Coetzee (South Africa)
Gerald Coetzee is no stranger to under-19 World Cups having shone in the last one for the Proteas with eight wickets in four matches. He also snared a five-wicket haul in that tournament and is the only player in South Africa's 2020 under-19 World Cup team to have played the last World Cup. The right-arm pacer has 17 wickets in four first-class matches, an average less than 20 in List A games and has already made an impact in the Mzansi Super League for Jozi Stars with his pace.
Coetzee suffered a hamstring injury that cut short his MSL, but the pace bowler is back and raring to go as he showed with a spell of three for 19 against the India youth side at Durban in the ongoing quadrangular series. Having bowled alongside Kagiso Rabada and Duanne Olivier at the MSL, Coetzee seems to be learning fast and could be South Africa's go-to bowler this World Cup.
Mohammad Shehzad (Pakistan)
If Pakistan's latest sensation in the national circuit is 16-year old Naseem Shah, at under-19 level it is Mohammad Shehzad who is all of 14 years old. Hailing from Southern Punjab, Shahzad is a batting all-rounder who has made all the right strides so far.
He made a mark in the PCB Inter-Regional under-13 T20 tournament in 2017 with two half-centuries in three matches, a performance that helped him get into the Multan under-16 team. He then caught the eye of the under-19 selectors in the recent under-16 domestic tournament, where he was among the runs and also picked up big wickets with his medium pace. The junior team coach Saleem Jaffer likened Shehzad's all-round capabilities to that of Abdul Razzaq. Under-19 coach and former cricketer Ijaz Ahmed is also impressed with Shehzad's potential. A fan of Imran Khan and Babar Azam, Shehzad has the potential to become Pakistan's next young sensation and the upcoming under-19 World Cup will be a good chance for him to showcase his skillsets to the world.
Ashmead Nedd (West Indies)
A star player in the West Indies emerging side that lifted the Super 50 Cup in 2019, Ashmead Nedd is a left-arm orthodox spinner who has a knack of picking up wickets. In the Super 50, Nedd picked 11 wickets at a stunning economy of 3.27 for the emerging side. Later in the tri-series involving England and Sri Lanka under-19 teams in the Caribbean Islands in December last year, Nedd picked up a five-for 27 against England in the first game. Nedd had earlier risen through the ranks with success at under-15 level and is already starting to make the right noises at under-19 level. The upcoming under-19 World Cup is as good an opportunity as any for the Guyana player to make a huge mark as a spinner.
Mackenzie Harvey (Australia)
The nephew of former Australian cricketer Ian Harvey, Mackenzie Harvey is already a name in the Big Bash League having turned out for the Melbourne Renegades in their title-winning campaign in 2019. He was named captain of the Australian under-19 side for the series against the New Zealand youth side in July and made scores of 55, 54* and 83* in the three matches. Harvey had earlier shone for the Prime Minister's XI against a visiting England side in a warm-up ODI game with a 48-ball 59. Even if his impact at the Big Bash wasn't huge, a few good cameos for the Renegades, including tonking mystery spinner Qais Ahmad for back-to-back sixes, put Harvey on the map. At the World Cup, in a pretty good-looking Australia team that also has 17-year old teenage sensation at Victoria, batsman Jake Fraser-McGurk, Harvey will want to make a good impression.
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In a statement, the 37-year-old seasoned campaigner said he has been lucky to play alongside the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli in his career.
The Committee, headed by Mike Gatting and which also includes the likes of Kumar Sangakkara, Sourav Ganguly and Shane Warne, stressed on maintaining balance between bat and ball.
Jaffer, who quit as Uttarakhand coach owing to a dispute with the state association, has rejected the charge by the Cricket Association of Uttarakhand officials that he favoured Muslim players in the team.