At any International Cricket Council (ICC) tournament‚ the Asian block is always one to worry about considering how well India‚ Pakistan and, to an extent‚ Sri Lanka have fared in the Under-19 World Cup.
They have the biggest contingent in the 16-team tournament and this is how they are expected to perform in the biennial age-group event that starts on Friday in Kimberley.
It is difficult to look past the defending champions‚ who again come into an Under-19 tournament with a well-drilled side.
They cruised to their fourth title in New Zealand two years ago and that side has already produced a Test-match centurion in Prithvi Shaw.
They have dealt well with the burden of expectation and it should not be any different this time.
India should be able to see off New Zealand‚ Sri Lanka and Japan in Group A.
They may be without Naseem Shah‚ who has graduated to Test cricket‚ but they still have a formidable side that is accustomed to SA conditions.
They were here in 2019 when they whitewashed their SA counterparts 7-0.
Their group‚ though‚ is a tricky one as it contains a feisty Zimbabwe side and an unpredictable Bangladesh. It is never easy having Test teams in your group.
In beating SA in a warm-up game‚ Sri Lanka have again showed their ability to marshal their cricketing resources.
However‚ they will have difficulty navigating past India‚ but New Zealand and Japan should be easy enough to see off.
Sri Lanka have punched way below their weight at the Under-19 tournament‚ which goes against their gritty full international abilities.
Bangladesh have been able to produce reasonably good age-group teams‚ but they have not quite graduated to top of the World Cup podium.
However‚ they have given the world some very good players and that should continue to be the case.
Pakistan in Group B is going to be their toughest task while Zimbabwe will also be difficult.
That game could decide which of those teams progress to the Super League quarterfinals.
Just how decent this Afghanistan side is will be seen on Friday when they play SA in the opening Group D game in Kimberley.
Their talented youngsters tend to graduate into international cricket quicker than most.
That dilutes the strength of their team but with the impressive strides they have made at international level‚ they are bound to improve at age-group level.
They should be able to see off the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Canada in their other group matches
UAE (Asia Division 1)
It is the UAE’s second visit to the Under-19 World Cup and they did it with some ease after breezing through the Asian Division 1 tournament.
They easily won their five games in the qualifying tournament that was held in Malaysia in April 2019.
SA and Afghanistan‚ though‚ will be tough teams to beat.
Japan (East Asia Pacific Division 1)
They qualified for the tournament after Cricket Papua New Guinea suspended 10 of their team members for breaching the team’s code of conduct ahead of the final game against the Japanese in the qualifying tournament that was held in Japan.
Both teams were unbeaten heading into the final game and the suspensions of the 10 meant Papua New Guinea were unable to field a team.
Japan‚ though‚ have India‚ New Zealand and Sri Lanka in Group A to contend with.