AS the ICC U/19 World Cup commences, players selected for their respective nations will be eager to put their name in lights, marking the beginning of long and fruitful cricket careers.
With this year’s edition held in New Zealand, 16 cricketing nations will do battle from the 13th of January, culminating with the final booked for the 3rd of February.
Of the two-hundred and forty players selected, NextGen Sports has devised the top five players to watch throughout the tournament.
1. MAX BRYANT (AUSTRALIA)
Set to open the batting for the green and gold, bowlers will be cautious not to let the big-swinging Queenslander off the leash. Playing a handful of List A matches for the Cricket Australia XI in late 2017, Bryant had a telling strike rate of 107. The Brisbane Heat contracted 18-year-old will be looking for boundaries in abundance, and is as exciting a prospect as any in this tournament. With potential to dominate the limited overs arena, there is unlikely to be a dull moment with the aggressive batsman at the crease. An important asset for Australia, if Bryant lets loose, expect him to take the game away from the opposition swiftly.
2. KATENE CLARKE (NEW ZEALAND)
Set to earn a spot in New Zealand’s middle order, the aggressive right-hand batsman represents notable peril for the tournament’s bowlers. Hailing from Mount Albert Grammar in Auckland, Clarke has established a name as a destructive all-round cricketer. Known to waste no time at the crease, the 18-year-old will look to dominate bowlers early. Though a more than handy medium-pace bowler, Clarke’s ability in the field is a more prominent part of his game, possessing a deadly right-arm throw. Like Harvey, Clarke will be confident of transforming recent form into the competition, which saw him crowned top run-scorer of New Zealand’s domestic Under 19 tournament. With 383 runs overall, Clarke blitzed 120 more runs than the next most prolific scorer.
3. RAYNARD VAN TONDER (SOUTH AFRICA)
After seven first-class outings over the past two summers, The South African skipper should feel comfortable throughout the tournament, so expect a weighty amount of runs from the 19-year-old. The Grey College product is vastly experienced compared to many of his Under 19 competitors. Already with a first class half century, added to two List A half centuries, van Tonder will head into the tournament self-assured in his ability to lead the South African lineup.
4. PRITHVI SHAW (INDIA)
Shaw, an 18-year-old Indian prospect, has begun a cricket career in flawless fashion. Earning Man of the Match honours in a first-class semi-final debut for Mumbai with a second-innings ton, Shaw immediately drew comparisons to Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar. Standing at the identical height of 165cm, combined with prodigious right-hand batting skills and serviceable right-arm off spinners, the Indian captain will be fuelled with confidence in his bid to lead his nation to World Cup glory. After a challenging upbringing, which included the passing of his mother, expect a resilient and fearless Indian leader to pile on the runs.
5. SHAHEEN AFRIDI (PAKISTAN)
Likely to have Pakistani cricket fans excited merely due to the similarities in the left-arm quick’s name to that of Shahid Afridi, the 17-year-old could tear through opposition lineups throughout the competition. Considering himself an all-rounder, Afridi already has two first-class matches to his name. On debut in October of 2017, Afridi recorded staggering figures of eight wickets for 39 runs from his 15-over effort, the best ever by a Pakistani on first class debut. His ability to annihilate batting lineups will have opposition wary, along with his well-documented big-hitting ability.