Preview: NEPAL LOOK TO DEFEND THEIR UNDER-16 CROWN

The Asian Cricket Council Under-16 Eastern Region tournament is being staged for the second time as players from eight teams from across the Eastern half of Asia take their first steps on the international ladder. The tournament is being held in Chiang Mai in Thailand from 20th to 28th April 2019 and there is now a pathway that could see the best players take part in T20 Internationals and One-Day Internationals for their countries within the next few years.

2017 Winners: NEPAL
2017 Runners-up: SINGAPORE

Nepal who recently gained ODI status are the defending champions after they beat Singapore by 71 runs in the final held in Bangkok in December 2017. Hong Kong, China beat Malaysia in the play-off for third place and these four sides are seeded to meet in the semi-finals.

The same eight teams which competed in 2017 have been divided into two groups with Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar playing in Group A and Singapore, Hong Kong, Bhutan and China playing in Group B. All teams will play three group matches with the top two in each group qualifying for the semi-finals.

There is also an ACC U-16 Western Region tournament which was held for the first time in January 2018. The six teams involved were Bahrain, Kuwait, Maldives, Oman, Saudi Arabia and UAE. The tournament was held in UAE and it was the hosts who became champions by beating Kuwait in the final.

These under-16 age group matches marked the Asian Cricket Council’s return with a new regional set-up after the ACC U-16 Premier and Elite competitions were held in 2014.  Nepal were also U16 Premier champions in 2014 by winning all five of their matches as they finished ahead of Malaysia, Singapore, Bahrain, Oman and Thailand.

ACC’s new regional structure, dividing the region into East and West, has taken over from what was originally a two tier structure with promotion and relegation between first and second divisions. Thailand staged the 2012 U16 Challenge Cup and the winners were Afghanistan who at that time were starting their rapid progress from newcomers to becoming one of the leading teams in world cricket.  Afghanistan has become the jewel in ACC’s crown and has not looked back ever since.

Afghanistan’s under-17 team had also visited Thailand in 2008. Remarkably three players, Afsar Zazai, Hasmatullah Shahidi and Yamin Ahmadzai played in the ACC U17 Challenge Cup final against Oman at Polo Club in Bangkok in November 2008 and a decade later also played for Afghanistan against India in Bangalore in their inaugural Test match.

This is a clear example that boys taking part in these ACC competitions now know that the pathway exists to take them right to the top of world cricket if they are competitive enough. Afghanistan is a wonderful example to follow as the team has produced some exceptional players and Nepal is also producing some wonderful young cricketers, none more so than young leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane.

Tournament page

Filed April 1st, 2019