A 14-member Bahrain under-19 cricket squad leaves for Singapore today on a three-week tour as part of their preparation for the upcoming ICC Men’s U19 Cricket World Cup Asia Qualifiers scheduled to be held in Oman in September.
The team will play four one-day, 50-over matches against a Singapore Select XI before heading on to the Indian city of Chennai on July 28, where they will play four more games in the same format against two school teams.
“This tour is essentially intended to give our boys some practice on turf wickets and in similar conditions to what they will experience in Oman,” Bahrain Cricket Federation (BCF) head coach Aashish Kapoor told the GDN yesterday. “It won’t be about winning or losing. It’ll help me to assess who will eventually play in the qualifiers.”
The Under-19 World Cup was first played in 1988 in Australia, under the title ‘Youth World Cup’. Held as part of Australia’s Bicentenary celebrations, the tournament was won by the hosts. The tournament was not held again until 1998 in South Africa, with England winning the trophy. India have won five titles, the most by any team, with the last one claimed earlier this year.
The host nation for the 2024 event, which is held every two years, has not been confirmed yet. Along with hosts Oman, teams from Bhutan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Qatar will be competing alongside Bahrain in the Asia Division Two qualifiers to see which two teams graduate to Division One.
“We will be playing four 50-over, day-night games in Singapore,” the team’s assistant coach, Prachur Shukla, told the GDN. “We will also have intensive practice sessions before and after each game so that our players can get used to the experience of playing on turf wickets and grass outfields – conditions we don’t have here in Bahrain.”
Kapoor, a former spin-bowling all-rounder who played for India from 1994 to 2000 and assumed charge as the BCF head coach earlier this year, said the tour will provide him with the opportunity to see which of the players should be selected for the qualifiers.
“This will give me the chance to see them properly for the first time,” he explained. “I’ve seen them in patches before, in net sessions. But, recently, most were on vacation or had exams. So, this tour will give me the chance to see who’s good at what position, where we can use them.”
The fact that all the matches were practice games would allow him to experiment a bit, Kapoor added.
“I’ll give every member of the squad some game time,” he said. “I will be basing it on my experience as a coach across age divisions in India. Our aim there, especially in the under-19 teams, was to give the chance to play to as many kids as possible. That helped to build our bench-strength and I want to do the same with the Bahrain team. Also, I want to see at least a few of these boys go on and play for the senior side.”
Shukla, who is also the bowling coach for the team, added that some of the players in the current under-19 team had also come up through the system in the same way.
“Some of these boys were in the under-16 team that made it to the semi-finals of an Asian Cricket Council (ACC) tournament in 2019,” he explained. “All these boys are a talented bunch, but the lack of proper infrastructure – which we are in the process of developing now – has proved to be a bit of an obstacle. But we’ve been making steady progress at all levels: the senior men’s and women’s teams, this under-19 team, the junior level teams have all been coming along nicely.”
Meanwhile, Kapoor said that the prospect of Bahrain coming up against more experienced international teams in the tournament, such as Hong Kong and Singapore, along with hosts Oman, didn’t bother him at all.
“In cricket, reputation, experience, better infrastructure, etc, are of no consequence on the day you take the field,” he said. “What matters is how a team performs that day. It’s what you do when it is required that counts.”