Preview: ACC U16 EASTERN REGION ALL SET TO GO

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.

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 eight teams will play three group matches with the top two in each group qualifying for the semi-finals.

Team Captains

Two matches will be held every day during the group stages and will be played at the magnificent David Buck Oval at Prem International School and at the newly expanded ground at Royal Chiang Mai Golf Course and Resort. The semi-finals will be staged on Saturday 27th April with fthe final and play off for third place being held on Sunday 28th April.

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 to staging age group competitions 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.

Nepal are being regarded at favorites again for this competition as they have such a fine record at age group level and both their coach and captain were in confident mood on the eve of the tournament.

Coach, Basant Shahi: ‘We are highly optimistic about our performance in this tournament. We were champions in U16 Premier Tournament in 2014 and Eastern Region Tournament winners  in 2017.  This shows always give consistent performances at under 16 level, so we are looking forward to defending the title.’

Captain, Bishal Bikram KC: ‘Tournaments like this are very helpful for upcoming players like us. It helps in creating a platform for us. We’ll do our best. We don’t want to take things easy as all the teams have done their homework. We’ll put our best effort into every game and look forward to defending the title.’

Nepal are leaving nothing to chance as they have been preparing well in a closed camp and have been playing a number of warm-up matches before leaving for Thailand, but the defending champions will face strong competition from other teams, notably from Singapore.

Singapore have always been deemed a contender for the trophy and have a good track record at ACC U16s tournaments. With this in mind, Singapore will want to win the trophy in 2019 after missing out in the final by losing to Nepal in the 2017 event.

Singapore’s preparations have also been thorough as the team has been training three times a week over the last six weeks and this has recently been intensified to daily training. Singapore have also been playing practice matches and their coach was positive about the role played by captain Raoul Sharma.

'Singapore has a number of players to look out for but skipper Raoul Sharma, who is playing in his second ACC Eastern Region Trophy and should contribute positively as a pace bowling all rounder who will bat in the middle order. His experience from the last event should prove very valuable to the team he that he has been chosen to lead and will look to carry his team through.'

Having finishing in third place last time, Hong Kong, China are another team to watch out for as their senior team has already made an impact at ODI and T20 levels so it will be interesting to look out for the next gerneration of young players being produced by their intensive coaching set up.

'For many players this will be their first tournament so naturally it will provide a great introduction to international tournament cricket. From a holistic point of view we hope that this experience provides a valuable learning experience that supports our players’ long term development both as people and cricketers. Naturally the desire is to win the tournament. To do that we will be focusing on taking one game at a time, putting in consistent performances that earn us the right to compete in the finals.'

'Aarush Bhagwat and Raunaq Kapur have been consistently involved in our Under 16 and Under 19 programmes for the last two years so we will be looking to them to call on that experience to lead the squad.'

Malaysia and Thailand will meet early in the tournament and the winner of this contest may well prove decisive in deciding which of the two teams can reach the semi-finals. Malaysia and Thailand senior teams finished level on points in the recent ICC T20 Qualifier so the teams may be as evenly ranked at under-16 level.

Bhutan, Myanmar and China make up the list of eight teams and these countries will be looking at the tournament to gain experience for their young players with opportnnities for competitive action much more limited amd with much less access to turf pitches and fully fledged cricket grounds in their countries.

The action in the ACC U16 Eastern Region competition gets underway in Chiang Mai  on Saturday 20th April with defending champions Nepal facting Myanmar at Prem and losing finalists Singpaore meeting Bhutan at Royals. Nepal have recently celebrated gaining ODI status and so spectators could soon be watching the next player who will follow in the footsteps of Sandeep Lamichhane who has already been able to make a big impact on world cricket.

 

Tournament page

Filed April 21st, 2019