Photo Credit: Cricket West Indies
It’s 34 years since the hosts of the ICC Under 19 Men’s Cricket World Cup went on to lift the trophy – but West Indies captain Ackeem Auguste believes his side has what it takes.
The Caribbean has welcomed 15 teams from across the world and the home side West Indies kick off the 14th edition of the tournament in Guyana on Friday against Australia, the only team to win the tournament as hosts back in the very first edition in 1988.
West Indies have been champions once before, winning in Bangladesh six years ago, and Auguste is excited by the potential of the class of 2022.
He said: “I think the enthusiasm from the guys has been good, I think we have gelled well as a unit and looking forward we are very confident as a team.
“I think we are a very talented bunch, everybody in this team can pull their weight. We are a team full of quality batters and bowlers and a good fielding unit too. Overall, we are very confident.
“As a team we are always looking to improve, so that’s how I see it [rather than any specific areas to work on].”
England have not won the tournament since 1998 but have a chance to prove their credentials from the off against defending champions Bangladesh on Sunday.
England will also face Canada and United Arab Emirates in Group A and captain Tom Prest is confident they can make a run at the title.
“Obviously, we’ve come over here with the intention of winning the tournament. That’s kind of our ultimate goal as a side,” he said.
“We’ve had good run outs against West Indies and Sri Lanka in the summer series in England and then we went out to Sri Lanka before Christmas in December.
“We’ve had good experience against some good quality international sides, so it will be a great experience for us all to play against more opposition, top-class players from all around the world. Hopefully we can come out on top.
“It would be amazing to win. To even be at a global tournament, at a World Cup is a great feeling for all of us. I think to win the tournament as well would be an unbelievable feeling for all of us.”
South Africa are gunning for a second ICC U19 Men’s CWC title after triumphing back in 2014 and skipper George van Heerden has promised an exciting brand of cricket, even on unfamiliar Caribbean pitches.
“We want to be as aggressive and attacking as we possible can without being frantic,” explained Van Heerden.
“We’ve learned a lot about the conditions – playing in St Vincent, the pitches were quite a bit slower than we were used to and turned quite a lot more than the pitches back in South Africa.
“With all the different grounds in West Indies, we’ve looked at the average scores and some of them are a bit lower than we’re used to back home.
“We might have to be a bit more measured in our approach and it won’t be as helter-skelter as the T20s were. We’ll still stick to our brand of being attacking and aggressive though.”
South Africa open their Group B campaign against India in Guyana on Saturday, a side beginning their bid for a fifth title.
They will be captained by Yash Dhull and head coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar believes the youngster has the perfect temperament for the job.
“The primary quality you need to become a captain of any team is that you should have the respect of your team,” explained Kanitkar.
“Without that, you can be a good captain or player, but you would not be able to do the job. Yash has got the respect of all his players.
“He is able to take tough calls on the field when it is needed, every time a captain cannot be told to do things. The captain needs to take his own decisions and Yash can do that.
“It is pretty instinctive – Yash’s instincts are fine and he is able to do justice to the job.”
And for his part, Dhull knows exactly who he is looking to emulate with his captaincy responsibility.
He said: “Virat Kohli’s attitude on the field while batting and leading the side, I have the same and I try to do the job in the same manner.”
Meanwhile, UAE captain Alishan Sharafu has a target in mind and that’s to reach the Super League stage after narrowly missing out in South Africa two years ago.
“I think obviously we want to go match by match but our collective goal would be to at least go through to the Super League which we couldn’t do last time,” he said.
“That would be the biggest goal of the tournament. Obviously we go one match at a time and prepare for every game separately and pretty much do well in all of them.
“They’re all very good teams, and we want to focus on one game at a time, not the group as a whole, and prepare for every game differently based on our strengths and not worry about the opposition too much. We just want to back our preparation and go from there.”