Bangalore, Aug 5: Picking two qualifiers from Group D of the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup 2012 seems to be an uphill task as Sri Lanka, South Africa and Bangladesh are fully capable and prepared to play in the Super League stage while Namibia can turn out to be the surprise package of the event which will run from August 11 to 26 in Queensland, Australia.
Group D matches will be played in Brisbane and on the opening day, Sri Lanka will take on Bangladesh at the Allan Border Field.
Sri Lanka finished fourth in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2010 after losing a close semi-final to eventual winner Australia by two wickets. Sri Lanka then suffered a four-wicket defeat against the West Indies in the third/fourth position play-off.
Sri Lanka has played in all the previous eight ICC U19 Cricket World Cups and its best finish has been in 2000 in its backyard when it ended up as the losing finalist to Mohammad Kaif's India. It has twice finished third - in South Africa in 1998 and Bangladesh in 2004 -, lost to New Zealand in the quarter-final in Malaysia in 2008, finished fifth in the inaugural event in 1988 in Australia and ended up sixth when the event was again held in Sri Lanka in 2006.
South Africa lost to Sri Lanka by 146 runs (D/L method) in the quarter-final of the ICC U19 CWC 2010 before defeating New Zealand by nine wickets in the fifth-sixth position play-off match.
South Africa, in seven appearances, has twice featured in the final but it is still searching for its maiden title. It reached the final in 2002 in New Zealand and in 2008 in Malaysia but lost to Australia and India, respectively.
South Africa also finished strongly in 2000 in Sri Lanka where it won the Plate Championship, while four years later in Bangladesh South Africa finished fourth.
South Africa U19 will be led by KwaZulu-Natal's opener Chad Bowes while another player to keep an eye on is opener Quinton de Kock.
Talking about Group D, Bowes said in a ICC media relaease: "No group in a World Cup is easy. But we are confident that high quality cricket will be played and that we can progress to the next stage.
"South Africans are known for their fighting spirit and this team is no different. We have a culture of being physically and mentally strong and when we bring this onto the field, we are very hard to beat. We are a strong unit and within this unit there are players who can put us on top at any stage."
Bangladesh are ranked ninth after a dismal performance in New Zealand in 2010 where it defeated Ireland in the ninth/10th position play-off.
But the Asian side has put up some very strong performances in the previous events. It thrice won the Plate Championship (in 1998, 2004 and 2010), once lost the final of Plate Championship (2000), finished fifth in 2006, lost to South Africa in quarter-final of the 2008 event.
Bangladesh will be led by wicketkeeper-batsman Anamul Haque who has played in 19 first-class matches. Middle-order batsman Soumya Sarkar and Haque were a member of the side that finished ninth in New Zealand two years ago.
"For us it is not just a question of reaching the knock-out stage. We are confident that if we play to our potential we will get there," remarked Bangladesh captain Anamul, adding: "The challenge is to go one better every time the opportunity presents itself.
"Bangladesh probably had the best U19 team in 2006 when we had players like Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Tamim Iqbal and yet no Bangladesh team, including the class of 2006, has ever made it to the last four (of the Super League stage). So that's a good target to have."
Previewing Group D, Anamul said: "It is important for us to get a win at, least, out of the first two games and after that we will have four days before the match against Namibia. Given the shape of the group, that match could turn out to be crucial in the race for reaching the knock out stage."
Namibia are returning to the ICC U19 CWC after missing out on the 2010 tournament. Namibia is one of the six Associate and Affiliate Member sides which came through the qualifying tournament staged in Ireland last year.
Namibia will be led by fast bowler Steve Baard who has played two first-class matches. Other players to have played first-class cricket in the side are Wian van Vuuren, Zhivago Groenewald, Andre Engelbrecht, Chris Coombe, Gerhard Erasmus and Bredell Wessels.
Baard admitted his side was in a difficult group. "We are in a very difficult group but that always encourages the players to improve on their performances against some of the top teams in the world. Going in as the underdogs, our expectation is always to upset the Test nations and measure ourselves against the best," he said.
Baard said the event was an important one for Namibia. "The ICC U19 CWC is hugely important for Cricket Namibia and for the development of cricket in Namibia. We have a population of 2.3 million people and have a limited pool of cricketers to select from. By playing in tournaments like the ICC U19 CWC and excelling here will hopefully encourage more young promising cricketers to play the game and improve the level of cricket throughout the country."
Bangladesh: Anamul Haque (captain), Abu Haider, Abu Javed, Asif Ahmed, Dewan Sabbir, Liton Das, Al-Amin, Naeem Islam Jnr, Noor Hossain, Salman Hossain, Mosaddek Hossain, Nasum Ahmed, Nurul Hasan, Soumya Sarkar and Taskin Ahmed
Namibia: Steven Baard (captain), Justin Baard, Luke Bolton, Jano Coetzee, Christopher Coombe, Jason Davidson, MP Delport, Andre Engelbrecht, Gerhard Erasmus, Zhivago Groenewald, Malan Kruger, Pelham Myburgh, Xander Pitchers, Wian Van Vuuren and Bredell Wessels
Sri Lanka: Sanitha De Mel (captain), Amila Aponso, Nirosha Dickwella, Anuk Fernando, Shehan Fernando, Angelo Jayasinghe, Tharindu Kaushal, Ranitha Liyanaarachchi, Lahiru Madushanka, Chamodh Pathirana, Jason Perera, Pulina Taranga, Kasun Vidura, Pabasara Waduge and Sandun Weerakkody
South Africa: Chad Bowes (captain), Gihahn Cloete, Murray Coetzee, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock, Corné Dry, Jan Frylinck, Vincent Moore, Solo Nqweni, Shaylin Pillay, David Rhoda, Diego Rosier, Calvin Savage, Prenelan Subrayen and Lizaad Williams
Group D schedule:
Sat 11 Aug - Sri Lanka v Bangladesh, Allan Border Field, Brisbane
Sun 12 Aug - South Africa v Bangladesh, Allan Border Field, Brisbane
Mon 13 Aug - Sri Lanka v Namibia, Allan Border Field, Brisbane
Tue 14 Aug - South Africa v Namibia, Peter Burge Oval, Brisbane
Wed 15 Aug - Sri Lanka v South Africa, Peter Burge Oval, Brisbane
Thu 16 Aug - Bangladesh v Namibia, Peter Burge Oval, Brisbane