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ICC U-19 cricket World Cup 2018: Top 5 international players to watch out for

From Pakistan pace superstar Shaheen Afridi to Australian batsman Jason Sangha, a look at the Top 5 international players to watch out for in the tournament.

cricket Updated: Jan 11, 2018 20:09 IST
Bihan Sengupta
Bihan Sengupta
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
ICC U-19 cricket World Cup 2018,ICC U-19 World Cup,ICC U-19 World Cup Players to watch out for
The ICC U-19 cricket World Cup 2018 will take place between January 13 and February 3. (ICC)

The ICC U-19 cricket World Cup 2018 is just round the corner. The tournament will be held between January 13 and February 3 with Pakistan facing Afghanistan in the opener. Two other matches will also begin simultaneously with Zimbabwe taking on Papua New Guinea and Bangladesh facing Namibia. The fourth match of the opening day will see hosts New Zealand take on West Indies. (FULL SCHEDULE)

From Pakistan pace superstar Shaheen Afridi to Australian skipper Jason Sangha, here’s a look at the Top 5 international players to watch out for in the tournament -

Shaheen Afridi

Born: April 6, 2000

Country: Pakistan

Batting style: Left-hand bat

Bowling style: Left-arm bowl

He’s just 17, and he stands at six feet six inches! Besides the uncanny similarity of his name with that of the former Pakistan international Shahid Afridi, this teenage sensation too, has enough artillery in his cabinet to leave the opposition bamboozled.

Afridi ticks all the boxes when it comes to sorting out qualities of a fast bowler hailing from Pakistan. He has the ability to swing the ball both ways, deliver Yorkers and has a gifted raw pace that only adds as an icing on the other two qualities.

Shaheen Afridi will lead the Pakistan pace attack in the ICC U-19 cricket World Cup 2018. (Twitter)

And although he has no relation with the senior Afridi, who slammed a 37-ball 100 on his ODI debut with the bat, Shaheen too has had a sensational first-class debut and picked up eight wickets while giving away just 39 runs in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. His returns are still the best figures by a Pakistani on one’s first-class debut.

He idolizes the legendary Wasim Akram and the under-19 World Cup should be a perfect platform for the southpaw given the conditions in New Zealand are tailor-made to assist pacers.

Jason Sangha

Born: September 8, 1999

Country: Australia

Batting style: Right-hand bat

Bowling style: Leg-break

Jason Sangha had hogged the limelight a couple of months back when he slammed a cracking ton against the visiting English side before the start of the Ashes series. Just days after that feat, he was handed the responsibility to lead the under-19 Australian side in the ICC U-19 cricket World Cup.

While that ton, which came against a bowling line-up that consisted of the likes of Moeen Ali and Mason Crane, made him the youngest Australian to hit a ton against England, it also made him the second-youngest since the legendary Sachin Tendulkar who had hit one aged 17 years and 107 days.

Also, when the 18-year-old leads the Baggy Greens on the pitch on Sunday against India, he’ll add yet another record to his name by becoming the first cricketer of Indian origin to lead an Australian side in a World Cup.

Sangha has been slowly climbing up the ladder since his debut back in 2016 for the under-19 side when he struck a 102 to help his side beat Pakistan. From being selected in the preliminary squad for the 2016 under-19 World Cup, which eventually the Aussies gave a miss owing to security concerns, to leading the side two years later perhaps speaks of the kind of growth that the player has had.

Baheer Shah

Born: February 21, 2000

Country: Afghanistan

Batting style: Right-hand bat

Bowling style: Right-arm off break

He has an average of more than that of Sir Donald Bradman. Yes, you read that right. This Afghanistan batsman averages 121.77 so far from seven matches and among players to have more than 1000 first-class runs, he sits on top of the pile when it comes to averages.

Baheer’s journey had a staggering start. An unbeaten 256 in his first professional knock meant he notched up the highest score on first-class debut in the history of the game before scoring his first triple hundred just five innings later. Only Javed Miandid had scored a first-class triple hundred at a younger age.

Baheer Shah, who is part of the Afghanistan Cricket team for the ICC U-19 cricket World Cup, has a first class average better than Don Bradman. (ICC)

While there are quite a few cricketers, including Shapoor Zadran, Rashid Khan and Mohammed Nabi, who are making a name for themselves from the country, Shah’s escalation came as a surprise. After joining the squad to New Zealand, Shah has continued his rich form and has already scored a century and 98 against a strong Central District’s XI side.

His favourite player is South Africa’s Hashim Amla for the latter’s ice-cool approach to situations and his side would undoubtedly bank on a similar approach from him if his side is to reach the latter stages of the tournament.

Kirstan Kallicharan

Born: December 29, 1999

Country: West Indies

Batting style: Right-hand bat

Bowling style: Right-arm off-break

When one’s touted as the next Brian Lara, there’s surely something special about the cricketer. For 18-year-old Kallicharan, who has been appointed as the vice-captain of the West Indies under-19 squad, his prime responsibility will be to live up to those lofty standards and help his side reclaim the title.

While the senior side has had a drastic dip in their reputation in the 50-over format and will have to play qualifiers to earn a qualification for the next World Cup in 2019, the juniors have already set a benchmark and had won the title two years back in Bangladesh.

Kirstan Kallicharan will be an asset for West Indies in the upcoming ICC U-19 cricket World Cup. (ICC)

For Kallicharan, who was the youngest in that lot, fame gripped him when he slammed an unbeaten 404 back in 2014 for his school in an under-14 tournament. Hailing from Trinidad, the same place that had gifted Lara to the world, Kallicharan is also a handy off-break bowler and can be relied to bowl through a few quick crucial overs if required.

Kallicharan had been part of only two games in the previous edition of the under-19 World Cup but should make the opportunity count this time around.

Kamindu Mendis

Born: September 30, 1998

Country: Sri Lanka

Batting style: Left-hand bat

Bowling style: Right-arm off-break, slow left-arm orthodox

This one’s a mystery bowler too. No, his action isn’t as difficult to read as that of the veteran Ajantha Mendis but Kamindu can simply leave the batsmen perplexed owing to his ambidextrous abilities. He can bowl using both his arms and can generate a bit of turn as well.

He had generated quite a bit of a buzz in the cricketing fraternity in the last edition of the U-19 World Cup after he rolled up his sleeves to bowl from either end of the pitch in their game against Pakistan, thus ensuring that the ball moved away from the batsmen from either ends.

His action has also led to confusion at times. Speaking to ICC, he admitted: “I just tell the umpire and let the batsman know,” he said. “But sometimes they look at me like, ‘what are you going to do now?’”

The skipper this time around, Mendis is quite a handy asset even with the bat and has four half-centuries in the under-19 ODIs. His ambidexterity doesn’t extend to his batting skills though, but he’s the sort of a perfect all-rounder that every team would want to have them in their side.

First Published: Jan 11, 2018 20:07 IST