India might not have won a single ICC event, both men’s and women’s, at the senior level since the 2013 Champions Trophy. However, they have been serial winners at the under-19 level. The Men’s Team have won two of the last three Under-19 World Cups, while the Shafali Verma-led side won the inaugural Under-19 Women's T20 World Cup in 2023.
The 2024 Under-19 World Cup is set to get underway in South Africa on Friday (January 19), and India will once again enter the tournament as red-hot favourites. However, some other teams are also in great form and have players who have already made a name for themselves. So, here are some of the non-Indian players to watch out for in the competition.
Harry Dixon (Australia)
The left-handed opener idolises David Warner and is one of Australia’s most promising batters. The 18-year-old from Victoria already has a BBL contract with Melbourne Renegades. Dixon has modelled his game on Warner, and just like his idol did against Pakistan in 2017, the young batter smashed a century inside a single session against England.
In two youth Tests against England in September 2023, Dixon scored 167, 83, 51 and 105. And all those runs in the series came at a strike rate of 88.45. Against the same opponent in February, he smoked 148 off 125 in a 50-over game, and followed it up with a 56-ball 84* in a T20 encounter. “He can score off balls that others can't,” former Australian opener Chris Rogers recently told Cricket.com.au.
So, expect Dixon to set the Under-19 World Cup on fire.
Mohammad Zeeshan (Pakistan)
Everyone is talking about Naseem Shah’s younger brother Ubaid, but Zeeshan could steal most of the limelight once the tournament gets underway. Standing tall at six feet and eight inches, the right-arm pacer was the second-highest wicket-taker in the Under-19 Asia Cup. Zeeshan took 6/19 against Nepal and then followed it up with a four-wicket haul against India.
He also claimed 14 wickets @ 13.21 in the Pakistan Junior League, the most by any bowler in the competition. Zeeshan, who is also a handy hitter down the order, has the ability to generate additional bounce thanks to his height. He has already made his List A debut for Central PNJB and took the wicket of former Pakistan batter Umar Amin.
Ashiqur Rahman Shibli (Bangladesh)
The 18-year-old has been in some form coming into the World Cup. The wicketkeeper-batter had an Under-19 Asia Cup to remember where Bangladesh won the event for the first time, and Shibli emerged as the leading run-getter. The right-hander amassed 378 runs in five innings @ 126, studded with two tons and as many fifties. He also crafted a fifty on his List A debut for South Z (BD) in December last year.
Tom Jones (New Zealand)
The grandson of Jeremy Coney, who played 52 Tests and 88 ODIs for New Zealand, Jones was the leading run-scorer in the ICC Under-19s East Asia Pacific World Cup Qualifier. The right-hander hit 283 runs in five innings at an impressive average of 70.75. Jones bats at No. 3 and will be the key batter for New Zealand in the showpiece event.
Luc Benkenstein (England)
The son of former South Africa international Dale Benkenstein, Luc is a legspin-bowling allrounder. The 19-year-old has already featured in 11 List A games for Essex, claiming 11 wickets in six innings at an average of 17.9. He also has a List A fifty for the club, but his best performance came against Glamorgan where he took six wickets in the game.
In a national youth tournament in South Africa, Luc hit four 50-plus scores and picked up seven wickets and was named player of the tournament. This performance helped him get a deal from Essex. He has also been in good form of late, having managed seven 20-plus scores in his last eight games. Apart from a couple of fifties, Luc has also taken four wickets.
Kwena Maphaka (South Africa)
The left-arm pacer, who will be playing his second U-19 WC, has already played two first-class, as many List A and five T20 games at the senior level. He is also part of the Paarl Royals squad in the SA20 League. Maphaka has that raw pace, can swing the ball both ways and is being touted as the next Kagiso Rabada.
Maphaka is making quick progress through the ranks and has already played a red-ball game for South Africa A in Sri Lanka, where he picked up three wickets. “Kwena’s an unbelievable freak of nature. The thing about him is his setup ball doesn’t miss. The less-experienced guys have a plan, but they can’t execute; Kwena doesn’t miss,” his director of cricket at St Stithians told the Daily Maverick.
Malsha Tharupathi (Sri Lanka)
A beguiling spinner from Sri Lanka?
Yes, that’s not a new story.
The 19-year-old legspinner is a pure wicket-taker and has 28 scalps in 20 white-ball domestic games at the senior level. That’s not it, Tharupathi has nine wickets in his last five under-19 games. Also a handy batter down the order, Tharupathi will be expected to lead Sri Lanka’s bowling attack in the World Cup.
Allah Mohammad Ghazanfar (Afghanistan)
Afghanistan have been producing quality spinners for a while now, and Ghazanfar is notable one amongst them. The 16-year-old offspinner is six feet and two inches tall and is in the mould of Mujeeb Ur Rahman. Besides featuring in the Shpageeza League and the Pakistan Junior League, Ghazanfar was also part of Team Abu Dhabi in the Abu Dhabi T10 League.
In the recently concluded tri-series against South Africa and India, Ghazanfar scalped 10 wickets at an average of 15.7. He followed that up with a five-wicket haul against England in a warm-up game. He is also a massive fan of India’s ace offspinner R Ashwin.
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