The Asian Cricket Council’s Youth Asia Cup 2016 got off the ground with a colourful Opening Ceremony at the Galadari Colombo on December 14.
Eight Asian teams will vie for honours in this tournament that is being held after a lapse of two years. This is the first international tournament to be held in Sri Lanka after the Asian Cricket Council headquarters was set up in Colombo this year.
The tournament is due to be conducted in two Groups. The teams participating in group A are India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Nepal. These teams will play their fixtures at the CCC, NCC and De Soyza Stadium Moratuwa. Group B will comprise Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Singapore. These teams will have their fixtures on the coastal belt of Galle, Matara and Surrey Village in Maggona.
Defending champions India will come out firing all cylinders as they will be out to retain the crown. They will however face stiff opposition from Pakistan and Sri Lanka who will also be prepared to give off their best during the two week long tournament.
Considering that Sri Lanka has the home advantage the islanders should endeavour to use their best outfit to outclass their strong opponents. They are expected to rest key players against the weak opponents like Malaysia and Nepal. India will be one of their opponents in the league stage and if Sri Lanka can show their fighting spirits and get the better of India in this stage then they should have a good chance to enter the final.
Before that, they might face some stiff challenges by way of Pakistan and the ever effervescing Bangladesh XI. These two teams are like to enter the semi-finals. Sri Lanka should remember how they went down to Bangladesh in a nail-biting match for third place in the U-19 World Cup played this year in Bangladesh. This means that Bangladesh cannot be taken lightly in this tournament as they may field the same team. They are also well guided in their preparation with Sri Lankan coaches doing duty for them.
Pakistan too is a good team that will look to go a long way in this tournament. They have been faring very well in tournaments played in this region offering stiff challenges to their main opponent India at whatever stage.
Fortunately, the West Indies team, that won the U-19 world cup beating India in the final, will not be there but the thought of beating India will be worrying the Sri Lankan camp.
Commenting on the significance of this tournament, the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe extended his best wishes to the participating teams. “As a sports enthusiast myself, I believe that sports strengthens bonds and sustains the principles and values that must be passed on to future generations. This is particularly relevant to cricket, which remains a sport close to my own heart as a Royalist and also to the youth of Sri Lanka,” said Wickremesinghe.
Fixtures (all matches in December)
15th, India vs Malaysia at CCC
15th, Pakistan vs Singapore at Galle
15th, Sri Lanka vs Nepal at NCC
15th, Bangladesh vs Afghanistan at Matara
16th, Malaysia vs Sri Lanka at Moratuwa
16th, Singapore vs Bangladesh at Galle
16th, Nepal vs India at CCC
16th, Afghanistan vs Pakistan at Matara
18th, India vs Sri Lanka at Moratuwa
18th, Pakistan vs Bangladesh at Galle
18th, Malaysia vs Nepal at NCC
18th, Singapore vs Afghanistan at Surrey
20th, Semi-final 1 at RPICS (D/N)
21th, Semi-final 2 at RPICS (D/N)
23rd, Final at RPICS (D/N)
(Day games will start at 9.45 a.m. and the day/night games will begin at 2 p.m.)