ICC U-19 World Cup | India Begin Title Defence Against Sri Lanka

Cricketnext Staff

The Indian U-19 cricket team will begin their quest to defend the ICC U-19 World Cup title when they begin their campaign with a group match against Sri Lanka at Bloemfontein on Sunday (January 18).

India will be overwhelming favourites to win the junior global meet for the fifth time with at least six players, including skipper Priyam Garg having played senior cricket (first-class, List A or T20).

Not to forget four players -- Yashasvi Jaiswal, Garg, Ravi Bishnoi, Kartik Tyagi -- who have already landed fat contracts in the IPL.

India have been the team to beat on the junior cricket circuit since Virat Kohli's team dominated the proceedings in the 2008 edition. India have won four U-19 World Cup titles, making them the most successful team in the history of the competition since the first edition was held in South Africa in 1988.

India also won the last edition in 2018, and enter the tournament as one of the favourites. Led by Garg, the other teams in India's Group A are Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Japan.

However, he is not the only talent that India have on their books. Mumbai batsman Jaiswal is also one to watch out for, after making 779 runs in 13 List A innings, and the fact that he was bought for 2.4 crore by Rajasthan Royals in the IPL auctions is testament to his talent.

India also has the talented spin duo of Atharva Ankolekar and Ravi Bishnoi. Ankolekar, a left-arm orthodox spinner has been in top form in the lead up to the tournament, helping India win the U-19 Asia Cup in Sri Lanka with a match winning five for 28 against Bangladesh.

He continued to take 15 wickets at a spectacular average of 11.80 in the next seven matches, and has also done so in South African conditions. His experience will be vital to India's chances.

Ravi Bishnoi, on the other hand will play the role of containing the batsman and locking one end up to create as much pressure as he can, enabling the likes of Ankolekar to strike when it is most favourable.

India will begin the tournament having won both their warm-up encounters against Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, respectively. Sri Lanka beat South Africa but lost to Pakistan in their two warm-up games.