Bangladesh hopes to use home advantage and an experienced squad to make a flying start in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup Bangladesh 2017 by beating defending champion South Africa in the tournament opener in Chittagong on 27 January.
According to the event format, the top two sides from each of the four groups will progress to the Super League Stage and the bottom two will feature in the Plate Championship.
With Scotland and Namibia the other sides in Group A, a victory for Bangladesh over South Africa will go a long way in helping the host nation top the group and avoid a potential quarter-final clash against a power-packed India coached by batting great Rahul Dravid.
The Bangladesh squad boasts five players who also played in the 2014 event in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It includes Mehidy Hassan Miraz, who enjoys the rare distinction of being captain for the second time in a row. The off-spinner and right-hand batsman, who celebrated his 18th birthday in October, had not turned 16 when he lead the team in the UAE two years ago.
With experience on his side and a recent winning streak against South Africa, both at home and away, Mehidy was confident that Bangladesh, which finished ninth in 2014, will be a force to reckon with on home soil.
“South Africa is the defending champion but we have dominated it since its World Cup triumph,” the skipper said, adding: “If we play to our potential, then we know we can beat it.
“South Africa is first up and it is crucial that we make a positive start because then we will have a very good chance of topping the group as we are stronger than both Scotland and Namibia. If we win the group, the pressure will ease a lot.”
South Africa’s captain Tony de Zorzi admitted the task ahead was not easy, but said his team will attempt to justify its status as the defending champion. Having lost two finals – to Australia in 2002 and to India in 2008 – South Africa proved third time lucky when it defeated Pakistan by six wickets in the UAE to bag the title.
“Defending the title will not be an easy task, knowing the amount of talent offered from around the world, but knowing my group of players and their abilities, anything is possible,” de Zorzi said.
“The end-goal would obviously be to defend the World Cup, but as a team we also want to show that we are worthy custodians of this massive honour, and we will do our best to represent our country.”
“The squad is thrilled to be part of such a huge event and we all can’t wait to get there,” said Scotland’s captain Neil Flacks.
“Our aim for this World Cup is to finish in the top eight, which means getting out of our group. The lads are in great form coming into the World Cup after a busy summer together. We are full of confidence and have a belief that we can go far in this tournament. We are a closely a knit team which puts us in good stead to go further in the competition.”
Namibia captain Zane Green, who along with team-mate SJ Loftie-Eaton will be taking part in his second World Cup, said the aim was to better his nation’s best finish of 11th in Kuala Lumpur in 2008.
“For a small nation it is a very big honour to compete in the biggest age-group tournament," he said. “We are most definitely looking at moving past the group stages and the focus will be to win two of the three group stages. It will not be an easy task but we believe that we have the players to be competitive who can cause a few upsets.”
South Africa - Tony de Zorzi (capt.), Ziyaad Abrahams, Dean Foxcroft, Dayyaan Galiem, Willie Ludick, Wandile Makwethu, Conner McKerr, Rivaldo Moonsamy, Wiaan Mulder, Luke Philander, Farhaan Sayanvala, Lutho Sipamla, Liam Smith, Kyle Verreynne and Sean Whitehead.
Coach - Laurence Mahatlane
Bangladesh - Mehidy Hassan Miraz (capt.), Jaker Ali Anik,, Saleh Ahmed Shawon Gazi, Mohammed Saif Hassan, Zakir Hasan, Shafiul Hayet, Mehede Hasan, Mohammad Abdul Halim, Joyraj Sheik Imon, Ariful Islam Jony, Sanjit Saha, Najmul Hossain Shanto, Saeed Sarker, Shaif Uddin.
Coach - Mohammad Mizanur Rahman
Scotland - Neil Flack (capt.), Haris Aslam, Ryan Brown, Scott Cameron, Harris Carnegie, Mohammad Azeem Dar, Mohammad Ghaffar, Rory Johnston, Ihtisham Malik, Finlay McCreath, Mitchell Rao, Owais Shah, Simon Whait, Jack Waller, Ben Wilkinson.
Coach - Gordon Drummond and Cedric English
Namibia - Zane Green (capt.), Petrus Burger, Charl Brits, Fritz Coetzee, Niko Davin, Sj Loftie-Eaton, Mushi Honga, Burton Jacobs, Lohan Louwrens, Jurgen Linde, Michael Van Lingen, Chrischen Oliver, Francios Rautenbach, Warren Van Wyk, Eben Van Wyk,
Coach - Rangarirai Manyande
Group A schedule:
27 Jan: Bangladesh v South Africa, Chittagong
29 Jan: Scotland v Namibia, Cox’s Bazar
31 Jan: Bangladesh v Scotland, Cox’s Bazar; South Africa v Namibia, Cox’s Bazar
2 Feb: Bangladesh v Namibia, Cox’s Bazar; South Africa v Scotland, Cox’s Bazar