|Malaysia, 2012 ACC U-16 Elite Champions|
The six top-ranked youth teams in the region – Malaysia, Nepal, Oman, Thailand, Singapore, Bahrain – are gathering in a slightly stormy Kuala Lumpur to test themselves ACC competition for the first time. For many, the chance to play in the ACC U-16 Premier will not only be their first journey outside of their countries, it will be their first international competition. "It's the start of what we hope, for all of them will be a long and productive relationship with their nations’ cricket," says ACC Events Manager Sultan Rana.
Malaysia are defending champions, having won the ten-nation ACC U-16 Elite in 2012 and Virandeep Singh, the Man of the Match from the epic final against Nepal, is now 15 years old and captain of the home side. The win by the schoolboys was Malaysia’s first multi-nation tournament triumph. Malaysia, inspired by the 2014 successes of their seniors, along with a strong youth support program and a core of dedicated coaches, and home advantage, can be fancied to repeat their success. However, Nepal have been consistently strong and it will be no surprise to see them win another ACC title. Singapore have players of skill and flair, and Singapore themselves were U-16 Elite winners in 2010.
Bahrain and Oman are distinguished by having five Arab players in their squads, a necessary condition for ACC U-16 competition. If they can match their physical stature with and skilled prowess, and make the necessary adjustments to the demands of turf, they too have a chance of going all the way. Thailand with a fully native side, are capable of upsetting anybody at this level. A much improved side, according to ACC Development Officer Venkatapathi Raju, they’ve been training hard and in their last outing in 2012 just missed out on a semi-final place.
“Wearing the national team’s shirt is always a matter of great pride and honour,” says the ACC Events Manager, “being an U-16 international is no guarantee one will be a full international but it is a very constructive step on a journey that can take a player to U-19 level, possible World Cup qualifiers and then senior team cricket and all which that involves. Most importantly, it’s a chance for the player to test themselves against a different and possibly even stronger opposition, to see what they’re made of, to learn what it takes to succeed.” As the players develop, so, one hopes, will the opportunities in the developing world.
ACC U-16 Premier Tournament Page
Filed August 13th, 2014