The U19 Cricket World Cup, which is sometimes seen as a springboard to the future, has produced a number of players who have gone on to have prosperous senior international careers.
With the competition starting on January 16, the ICC looks at a handful of players who are expected to do well in South Africa.
India is in Group A.
After reaching the ACC U19 Asia Cup semi-finals, India began their preparations for the event in South Africa with a tri-series against the hosts and Afghanistan. They easily won the series, with Uday Saharan leading the way with 112 against the Proteas in the final. Saharan also led the team in scoring against Australia in their official warm-up (74).
At the Asia Cup, Arshi Kulkarni led the squad in runs, while Raj Limbani surprised everyone by taking 7/13 (9.1) against Nepal at the ACC U19 Asia Cup. During the tri-series, vice-captain Saumy Pandey led the side in wickets, with 6/29 against Afghanistan.
Ashiqur Rahaman Shibli was a standout in the ACC U19 Asia Cup, scoring 378 runs at 126 and winning the event with two century and two fifties.
After his undefeated 116* in the same event, Ashiqur produced 129 (149) in the final versus UAE, and Sri Lanka may be pleased they avoided him during the group stage and Super Sixes.
Maruf Mridha, the left-arm seamer, has taken nine wickets in the last three matches of the winning campaign, including 4/41 in a Player of the Match effort against India.
In addition to a victory over Zimbabwe in the run-up to the tournament, Philippe le Roux’s men won a junior ODI against England in August, easily defending 333 and restricting their opponents to 261.
Scott MacBeth’s 48-ball 90* flipped the match on its head, aided by Gavin Roulston’s 73 and Jordan Neill’s 77. Roulston also hit 81 in the first match against Zimbabwe, while Daniel Forkin had 4/53 and 3/64 against England.
Captain Rishi Ramesh was an easy choice to lead the squad in South Africa, having been praised by American observers for his great energy and confidence. Utkarsh Srivastava, who can bat up and down the order, will most likely be a key player on the batting side.
With three seasons of Minor League Cricket under his belt, seamer Ateendra Subramanian enters the competition as the most experienced senior player.
England is in Group B.
In addition to participating in multiple junior tours, a few of England’s team players have signed professional county contracts and are perhaps the most qualified.
Durham’s captain, Ben McKinney, batted at 129 in four innings in the recent home Youth ODI series against Australia, with Warwickshire’s Hamza Shaikh topping the run tally in the same series (235 at 47). Eddie Jack, a bowler, has fared well on previous junior tours, most notably a five-wicket haul against Bangladesh, while Jaydn Denly should contribute with both bat and ball.
Following in the traditions of his father Dale and grandpa Martin, vice-captain Luc Benkentein was named to the tournament squad for the first Pakistan Junior League in 2022 for his efforts with the Gwadar Sharks. Luc is a leg-spinner all-rounder who took 6/42 against Glamorgan in a one-day match. Charlie Allison, an Essex teammate with two List A fifty, joins him at the county, as does all-rounder Noah Thain.
The Republic of South Africa
Left-arm quickness Kwena Maphaka has made a name for himself early in his cricket career, not just for the U19s but also for the South Africa Emerging side (which he has also led) that competes in Provincial Division Two.
Maphaka, who often takes the new ball, competed in the last U19 World Cup as a 15-year-old and is in terrific form for the 2019 edition, collecting a five-wicket haul in their tri-series match against Afghanistan.
Batter Steve Stolk also shone in the U19 tri-series, which featured India, scoring 180 runs at an average of 45 and a strike rate of 134. Stolk smashed ten sixes in the first four innings of the series. Look out for right-armer seamer Nqobani Mokoena, who may provide crucial runs down the order.
The West Indies
Jordan Johnson, a 16-year-old Jamaican hitter, returns to the event after making List A and First Class debuts, the latter for a West Indies A squad against South Africa A in December.
Barbados wicketkeeper-batter Jewel Andrew contributed runs on a young tour of Sri Lanka, while fast bowler Isai Thorne was a handful for Ireland’s Emerging group, claiming 12 wickets for the West Indies Academy in two First Class matches. Vice-captain Nathan Sealey, a left-arm spinner who is also expected to improve his batting, has also been identified as a potential senior international.
Batter Jamie Dunk was a star in the Europe Qualifier, leading the field with 244 runs at 85. He was followed by off-spinning all-rounder Alec Price (208 at 69.33), who scored 82 against the Dutch. Price can also contribute with the ball, as seen by his 4/29 (10) versus Jersey in the same competition.
One of the tournament’s biggest storylines will be 18-year-old hitter Bahadar Esakhiel, who is also considered as one of the greatest fielders in the group. Ferguslie teammates Uzair Ahmad and Qasim Khan are also expected to do well.
Australia belongs to Group C.
Sutherland product Sam Konstas has always been tipped for greatness, and the 18-year-old has earned a senior New South Wales call-up in First Class cricket.
On their August UK visit, Konstas scored an undefeated century against England in an U19 one-day match, with the tourists winning the 50-over and four-day series.
Raf MacMillan took ten wickets in Australia’s five-match Youth ODI series against England, while Harjas Singh was the aggressor with the bat, scoring 139 runs with a strike rate of 124 and an average of 46.33.
Mahli Beardman has List A experience for Western Australia, but Harry Dixon, who has a huge Bash League contract with the Melbourne Renegades and liked the red ball portion of the UK trip, is a huge unknown.
Sineth Jayawardena, a brilliant batting all-rounder who should bat at No. 3, leads Sri Lanka.
Jayawardena and Dinura Kalupahana, both of whom had half-centuries against Pakistan and the UAE, will be looking to convert beginnings into higher scores.
On the bowling front, Malsha Tharupathi is highly regarded for his leg-spin and has 12 wickets in his past five U19 ODIs, as well as over 30 senior domestic white ball wickets in only 20 appearances.
Garuka Sanketh and Supun Waduge should have great tournaments as well.
The young Chevrons ramped up their preparations for the tournament with two matches against Ireland, whom they will meet in an official warm-up on January 14.
In the first match, the squad coached by Matthew Schonken successfully defended 236 runs, but fell 17 runs short of Ireland’s 265 runs in match two. Schonken and Newman Nyamhuri, who turns 18 on the first day of the event, both took five wickets in the two matches.
Ryan Kamwemba, who can also maintain wicket, scored 103 from 112 balls in the second game.
Namibia could benefit from familiar South African conditions, with many squad players in senior team contention and several excelling in local cricket. Captain Alexander Volschenk, for example, plays and attends school south of the border.
Jack Brassell made a big impression in his domestic 50-over debut, taking 7/9. Brassell has also gone to England for his cricket development, although he aspires to play for the senior squad.
Gerhard Janse van Rensburg has represented Namibia in unofficial internationals against Uganda, as has Zacheo van Vuuren, Rudie’s son, who has represented Namibia in both the Cricket and Rugby World Cups in 2003. Zacheo is a solid all-rounder who bowls seam up, much like his father.
Afghanistan, Group D
The conveyor line of Afghan spinners continues to roll for the 2024 edition, with Allah Mohammad Ghazanfar, 16, ready to appear.
Ghazanfar, a tall off-spinner, has garnered comparisons to Mujeeb ur Rahman, and his name has been on final auction lists for various T20 competitions.
Meanwhile, Hassan Khan Eisakhil follows in the footsteps of a legendary father: Mohammad Nabi. Hassan bats first and recently scored a half-century in the team’s tri-series warm-up match against India in Johannesburg.
There is a lot riding on the shoulders of 17-year-old Saad Baig, who not only leads Pakistan in the competition but also bats at No.4 in the batting order. Baig has three half-centuries in his past four innings for the team and seems to relish the responsibility in crucial situations. After being a traveling reserve two years ago, seamer Mohammed Zeeshan could play a significant role.
Meanwhile, Naseem Shah’s brother, Ubaid Shah, will try to build a name for himself in the international game. Ubaid, a fellow fast, has a somewhat taller motion and is capable of hitting yorker lengths when needed.
The country of New Zealand
To avoid regional qualifying for this year’s event, New Zealand took a detour via Darwin last June, winning the East Asia-Pacific competition. Craig Cumming’s son, Zac Cumming, was crucial with both bat and ball.
Looking at the remainder of the group, the familial motif continues. Matt Rowe is Hannah’s cousin, while Tom Jones is the grandson of New Zealand great Jeremy Coney. Jones led the East Asia-Pacific Qualifier with 283 runs at 70.75.
Fans may recognize captain Dev Khanal and Gulshan Jha from previous Nepali senior team performances, but there are a lot of other players in the squad keen to make a mark and knock on the senior selection door.
Arjun Kumal has scored numerous runs in warm-ups in the ACC U19 Asia Cup, while Durgesh Gupta is a left-arm seamer who has performed well in junior domestic cricket.