Hong Kong's team at Kai Tak

Defending ACC U-19 Elite champions Hong Kong arrive in Thailand on a high, with two of their star players, allrounders Aizaz Khan and Nizakat Khan fresh from a barn-storming victory in Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 3 just a few days before the start of this event. The two were also part of the squad that did so well in winning the title in Kuwait two years ago.

Hong Kong will be up against some strong competition,eaten finalists in 2009 Afghanistan are sure to be in the mix along with Nepal who have several talented players with plenty of international experience and any one of the Gulf countries - Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, UAE - are likely to feature too in the semi-finals. "The defining thing about youth tournaments is that what is being measured is not just talent on the field but systems off the field. At any one time, a batch of young cricketers can win a tournament. At many times a country's young cricketers can win tournaments - if they're all trained, nurtured and developed properly. For Hong Kong and Afghanistan to again get to the Final and again go to the ICC U/19 World Cup Qualifier and again from there go to the U/19 World Cup, if it happens, will be testament to the systems in place. And with the lessons learnt in competition with the rest of the world, the teams which get through from Asia have to be not just the best in Asia but able to compete with the best in the world.

This could be Malaysia's year

"It's an amazing stepping stone for these countries to rub shoulders with the top teams," says ACC Development Officer Venkatesh Prasad who is in Bangkok for the duration of the ACC U-19 Elite Cup. "Raw talent makes every one equal up to a certain age, after that the quality of coaching and frequency and standard of match play determines competition success," he adds.

UAE could go all the way

Thailand as hosts, playing at this level for the first time on merit, are in what is already being called the 'Group of Death' with Hong Kong, Afghanistan, UAE, and Oman. Fifth place will mean demotion down to the Challenge group but it is not something they want at all. "We have worked too hard for too long ever since (winning) the ACC U-19 Challenge to give it up now," says Cricket Association of Thailand Development Officer Saurabh Dhanuka, "staying in the Elite will be a huge boost for this generation of players and all those who will come after them."

Dark horses Oman

All the teams have been practising seriously, on tours or at home, in preparation for this event. Bowlers are going to decide the event, spinners to the fore.

Matches start at 9.30 AM (0230 hrs GMT)
Matches in italics will have live commentary on the Asian Cricket Council facebook page
Tues, Feb 1 Bahrain v Hong Kong at Prem
Malaysia v Qatar at Gymkhana
Thailand v Afghanistan at TCG
Nepal v UAE at AIT
Wed, Feb 2 Qatar v Singapore at Prem
Bahrain v Malaysia at Gymkhana
Nepal v Oman at TCG
Thailand v UAE at AIT
Thu, Feb 3 Hong Kong v Singapore at Prem
Afghanistan v Oman at TCG
Feb 4
Hong Kong v Qatar at Gymkhana
Afghanistan v Nepal at AIT
Feb 5
Malaysia v Singapore at Prem
Bahrain v Qatar at Gymkhana
Oman v UAE at TCG
Nepal v Thailand at AIT
Sun, Feb 6 Bahrain v Singapore at Prem
Hong Kong v Malaysia at Gymkhana
Thailand v Oman at TCG
Afghanistan v UAE at AIT
Tues, Feb 8 SF1: A1 v B2 at TCG
SF2: A2 v B1 at AIT
Weds, Feb 9 5th/6th Playoff: A3 v B3 at TCG
7th/8th Playoff: A4 v B4 at AIT
9th/10th Playoff: A5 v B5 at BPS
Thu, Feb 10 FINAL: Winner SF1 v Winner SF2 at TCG
3rd/4th Playoff: Loser SF1 v Loser SF2 at AIT

Tournament page

Filed January 31st, 2011