India to battle Bangladesh in U19 World Cup quarters
The five India players who were in isolation due to Covid are back in training, including captain Yash Dhull, and in contention for the match.
When India and Bangladesh last met each other at the U-19 World Cup, in the final of the 2020 edition in South Africa, Bangladesh’s three-wicket win culminated in an unsavoury post-match scuffle that marred the occasion. The ICC sanctioned two players from India – Ravi Bishnoi and Akash Singh – and three from Bangladesh – Towhid Hridoy, Shamim Hossain and Rakibul Hasan – for the scenes that played out in Potchefstroom on that February evening.
The two teams are set to battle at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua, on Saturday, but it's a spot in the semi-finals that is at stake this time. The personnel are very different too. While the boys in blue have an entirely new squad considering Indian players can now take part in only one U-19 World Cup, left-arm spinner Hasan and medium-pacer Tanzim Hasan Sakib are the only two Bangladeshis from that title victory who are part of the current set-up.
Both teams have had a comfortable passage to the quarters. Despite a Covid outbreak in the India camp that sent five players into isolation for their two most recent games – including skipper Yash Dhull and vice-captain Shaik Rasheed – they notched up three wins out of three in the group stage. Bangladesh suffered a crushing seven-wicket loss to England in their opening game but bounced back against relatively lightweight opponents in Canada and United Arab Emirates.
Covid isolation over for Indian players
The good news for India is that Dhull, Rasheed, Manav Parakh, Siddarth Yadav and Aaradhya Yadav – who were in isolation – are available for selection after having tested negative for Covid.
“They have been given the green signal medically. They joined the team on Friday for training,” said an official with the India U-19 team.
Nishant Sindhu, who was stand-in skipper for the last two games in the absence of Dhull, has contracted Covid though. “He tested positive after the final group game against Uganda. He is in quarantine and ruled out of the Bangladesh game,” the official said.
Never mind the outcome of the 2020 final, India will consider themselves slight favourites. They defeated Bangladesh by 103 runs in the semi-finals of the U-19 Asia Cup just last month, which offers a more accurate assessment of how the current teams stack up.
“In the knockout stages, you need some luck and fit players on the park,” said S Sharath, chairman of the junior selection committee. “It is not easy for those who have come out of Covid. We have to give it to the boys for the way they have played so far.”
Afghanistan through to semis
Until three days before the U-19 World Cup started in the Caribbean on January 14, Afghanistan’s participation in it was uncertain. With the UK embassy in Kabul shut after Taliban’s takeover, Afghanistan – who were flying to the Caribbean via UK – had decided to apply for visas in the UAE in December, where they were playing the U-19 Asia Cup. But a delay in getting the transit visas had heightened the possibility of Afghanistan missing the event.
The issue was finally sorted on January 11 and they travelled to the Caribbean a day later. Their two warm-up games on January 10 and 12 were cancelled while their opening game was pushed from January 16 to January 18. All the hassle has been worthwhile as they have entered the semi-finals of the event for the second time after 2018. They defeated Sri Lanka by four runs in a low-scoring contest at Coolidge in Antigua on Thursday to set up a clash with England for a place in the final.
Afghanistan managed only 134 with the bat after being sent in by the Sri Lankans. But the Lankans were reduced to 43/7 in reply, and even a face-saving 69-run stand between Dunith Wellalage and Raveen de Silva for the eighth wicket wasn’t enough to take them over the line.