The Asia Qualifier Division 2 for the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup is being held in Thailand from 9th to 17th December with ten teams playing in group matches in Bangkok and Chiang Mai before the semi-finals and final are held in Bangkok to decide the two teams which will move forward towards the next U19 World Cup to be held in South Africa in 2020.
The ICC U19 Cricket World Cup has always held an important place in the global cricket world as it often provides the first chance for the best young cricketers to shine on the world stage in a major international competition. The event is staged every two years with the next competition due to take place in South Africa in January and February 2020 with India looking to defend the trophy they won in New Zealand in 2018.
The eleven leading countries have already been awarded places in the 16-team competition but the qualification process is well underway with a total of 50 countries across five regions competing for the last five places.
The long journey began in Essex in England in July and August with three teams, Netherlands, France and Denmark, moving up from Europe Division 2; three more teams, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Tanzania qualified from Africa Division 2 which was held in Potchefstroom, South Africa in August; and a busy year will come to a close with Asia Division 2 being held in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand from 9th to 17th December where the top two teams will progress to the next stage.
This will complete the full list of teams for the Division 1 Qualifiers for the five regions, Asia, Africa, Europe, East Asia Pacific and Americas, with each holding a six-team competition during 2019. The winners of these Division 1 tournaments will qualify for the next ICC U19 Cricket World Cup in South Africa.
The top two teams from this Asia Division 2 Qualifier will join Nepal, Malaysia, Singapore and UAE in the Asia Division 1 competition which will be staged in Malaysia in April 2019 and the winners will be one of the 16 teams which will compete in the 13th edition of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup.
Ten teams from across Asia are taking part in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup Asia Division 2 competition with the teams divided into two groups, Group A held in Bangkok and Group B held in Chiang Mai. Bhutan, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia join hosts Thailand in Group A, while Bahrain, China, Hong Kong, Kuwait and Maldives make up Group B.
Every team will have the opportunity to play four 50-over contests against the other teams in their group with matches being played at Terdthai Cricket Ground and at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok, and at Gymkhana Club and at David Buck Oval at Prem International School in Chiang Mai.
The group matches will be played over six days from 9th to 14th December with games being played on all four grounds each day no fewer than four times in an extremely busy schedule for players and officials.
The two leading teams from each group will move on to the semi-finals which will be held at TCG and AIT in Bangkok on 16th December when the two semi-final winners will qualify to take part in the Asia Division 1 Qualifier in Malaysia. The tournament will conclude on 17th December with the final being held at TCG and the 3rd place play-off at AIT.
Over the 30-year history of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup, many of the greatest Test and ODI cricketers in the world have made their first appearances on the world stage at Under-19 level and it is particularly true of players who emerge from Asian countries.
Probably the greatest current batsman India’s Virat Kohli played in the 2008 Under 19 World Cup in Malaysia before he had even made his IPL debut and the newest face in the Indian Test team, Pritvi Shaw, was captain of India U19s in the 2018 competition.
For countries like Afghanistan and Nepal, the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup provides an even more important stepping stone for emerging talent as the likes of Rashid Khan and Mujeeb-ur-Rahman (Afghanistan) and Sandeep Lamichhane (Nepal) have shown, moving from school boy cricketers in distant corners of the globe to rising stars on the international stage.
The next generation of talented cricketers from ten Asian countries will have their chance to show off their talent over the next ten days and will be hoping to help their countries to reach the next stage of a qualification process that could see them take part in the next ICC U19 Cricket World Cup in South Africa in 2020.
Play gets underway at all four grounds in Bangkok and Chiang Mai at 9.30 am on Sunday 9th December: in Bangkok, Thailand face Saudi Arabia at TCG, Oman play Bhutan at AIT; in Chiang Mai, Hong Kong face China at Prem, while Maldives play Bahrain at Gymkhana.
Afghanistan beat Nepal by 61 runs at TCG in February 2011 in the final of the last major Under-19 competition played in Thailand. These two countries have moved on to greater things in recent years, which teams will follow in their footsteps?