India faces challenge as W Indies, S Africa eye for Super League

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Kualalumpur, Feb 6 (UNI) India is placed in the toughest group B along with West Indies, South Africa and Papua New Guinea (PNG) and will fight it out for just two places in the Super League of the U/19 Cricket World Cup (CWC).

Although it won this event in 2000, India's under-19 team has been overshadowed in the past two tournaments by its traditional rival Pakistan, which is going for a hat-trick of victories having prevailed in 2004 and 2006.

Under the guidance of former Sri Lanka and Bangladesh coach Dav Whatmore, the side will be strongly fancied to do well at the event.

Captain Viraat Kohli has made 373 runs at an average of 53 in the five first-class matches of his career to date, including a top score of 159.

Kohli had a strong domestic season, having averaged 72.67 for Delhi in last season's Cooch Behar Trophy.

Another player in good nick is Shreevats Goswami. He has been in excellent form with the bat, scoring 104 against Bangladesh under-19 and 97 against South Africa u-19, in a triangular series in Pretoria recently.

Others to watch out for will be left-handed batsman Tanmay Srivastava, who is making a name for himself with the senior Uttar Pradesh team in the Ranji Trophy, and left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla.

''Hopes are high and the boys have talent,'' said Kohli.''However, all the teams are good and none should be taken lightly. It is a question of which team plays better cricket than the other on the big day,'' he said.

And with the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif and Piyush Chawla amongst the stars who have gone on to senior honours after playing at this event, the eyes of India will be on Malaysia to see who will be the stars of the future.

Up against India will be the 2004 beaten finalist, the West Indies, which is coached by former Test batsman Larry Gomes. Much responsibility will rest on the shoulders of captain and first-class cricketer Sharmarh Brooks, who participated in this tournament in 2006 and is a very well-regarded all-rounder.

Adrian Barath is considered to be the best under-19 batsman in the Caribbean at present, having scored 485 runs at 53.88 in his six first-class appearances, and is also valued for his fielding skills.

Devon Thomas is also highly rated and Darren Bravo, the younger brother of senior international Dwayne, will be hoping to follow in his sibling's footsteps.

Perhaps the crunch game of this group will be South Africa against India which will take place in Kinrara Cricket Academy, Kuala Lumpur.

The team boasts a number of key players, who are capable of swinging a match their team's way. Skipper Wayne Parnell is an all-rounder with strong leadership qualities and he has plenty of experience having been part of the 2006 squad.

Jonathan Vandiar is a talented left-handed batsman who also bowls leg-spin while South Africa will also be relying on Reeza Hendricks, Pieter Malan, Jon-Jon Smuts and Rilee Rossouw for big contributions with the bat.

The group outsider is Papua New Guinea, who qualified for this tournament from the East Asia-Pacific Region, and although there is plenty of cricketing talent in PNG, it will be a huge task for the side to make it through to the Super League from such a tough group.

Schedule: Feb 17: India v PNG, Feb 18: West Indies v S.Africa, Feb 19: India v S.Africa, Feb 20 : India v West Indies Feb 21: S.Africa v PNG, Feb 22 : West Indies v PNG Team India: Virat Kohli (captain), Abhinav Mukund, Ajitesh Argal, Shreevats Goswami, Tanmay Srivastava, Manish Pandey, Taruwar Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Saurabh Tiwary, Duvvarapu Siva Kumar, Pradeep Sanghwan, Siddharth Kaul, Einstein Napoleon, Perry Goyal, Sayyed Abudllah Iqbal.

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