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Canada face a stiff challenge from Bermuda in their bid to return to the Under-19 World Cup when the five-team round-robin Americas U-19 Qualifier begins at Mapleleaf CC, King City in Toronto on Monday (August 13).
Argentina, Caymans Islands and debutants Bahamas are the other teams taking part in the week-long competition. The winner will join the ICC’s 10 Full Members, hosts Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Ireland (who recently qualified from the East-Asia Pacific and European Regions respectively) at the 16-team U-19 World Cup to be played in Malaysia next February. Canada missed the 2006 event in Sri Lanka but participated in the 2002 and 2004 tournaments.
Familiar home conditions, an improving infrastructure and more international exposure helps Canada to start as firm favourites and coach Courtney Gonsalves is optimistic that his players are ready for the event. “All the players attended the elite programme we started last October in which we set up talent hunt and training camps throughout Canada,” he said. “Our goal is to qualify for next year’s U-19 World Cup and I am sure that the combination of this elite programme along with exposure in the premier division will help us achieve our target.”
However, Canada are likely to be tested by Bermuda who have been bolstered by the inclusion of allrounders Malachi Jones and Stefan Kelly, who played in the recent full World Cup, while the youngsters' captain Rodney Trott narrowly missed the event. The trio will rejoin the senior Bermuda team for the match against Ireland in the ICC Intercontinental Cup after completing the Toronto assignment.
Bermuda coach Arnold Manders believes his team’s hopes of earning a finals berth are better than ever. “I think our chances of winning are greater than previous years because we have played more matches as a team and the players are confident in their individual roles.”
Bermuda prepared for the tournament by playing eight domestic 50-overs-a-side competition matches between May and June besides participating in the Sir Garfield Sobers Cricket Tournament in Barbados which was also used as a training camp for the Americas U-19 Qualifier.
“We have worked tirelessly on the team concept, and the individual discipline of the players have really improved. Our team this year is mentally stronger [than previously] and combined with the intense training the players received from the coaches, this should result in a good team combination. The players have the knowledge and now they need to produce.”
For Argentina, it will be their first appearance in this event as an ICC Associate Member. They have previously struggled at the junior level but it would be dangerous to discount them, particularly after the senior team’s heroics in Darwin in June where they earned promotion to the World Cricket League Division 2 by qualifying for the final of the Division 3 tournament.
Middle-order batsman Pedro Bruno, left-arm seam bowler Santiago Irigoyen and allrounders Ignacio Redruello and Tomas Birnie were part of that successful campaign in Darwin, but instead of making big predictions, coach Hamish Barton has set his sights on winning at least once in Toronto. “Basically our main goal is to win one game. We feel this is a realistic goal for the Argentine team considering the team’s past performances and the stage of its development.”
Barton said the sport is still in the embryonic stage in Argentina and the team has prepared as best it can in the tough winter season. “The players are very much in the development stage and we are aiming to do the basics right and achieve our specific goals for each skill area, the experience and exposure to international cricket.
“The team has prepared as best it could as it is winter in Argentina at the moment and training has been extremely difficult at times. But the team has trained well and the development of the players over the last three months has been very pleasing.”
Caymans Islands have always been very competitive at youth level and nobody is expecting them to be far behind this time. Captain Ramon Sealy, along with top-order batsman Darren Cato and bowler Kervin Ebanks, have played in the Caymans Islands domestic Division 1 tournament for the last two years.
Sealy sees batting as his team’s strength. “I think the team has a good chance of winning because we have a strong batting line-up which is not only capable of setting high totals but chasing them as well.”
Bahamas are the only Affiliate Member in the group and are fielding a team for the first time. The senior team will participate in next year’s ICC World Cricket League Division 5 to be played in Jersey in May.
Bahamas captain Gregory Taylor hopes that the Americas U-19 Qualifier will help his country’s bid towards earning ICC’s Associate Membership. He said: “We hope to achieve recognition as an Affiliate power house and to show the ICC and the world that we are ready to become an Associate Member of the ICC. Two years ago we did not have a full U-19 team, but we worked hard under the guidance of coach John Welch to achieve this. Jonathan Barry, Jeremy Jesubatham, Rodrick Mitchel and I came up in the U-15 program from 2001 and have played a lot of cricket with the seniors.”
The United States of America, who took part in their first U-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka in 2006 are missing this time as the USA Cricket Association is currently suspended as an ICC Member.
Argentina Juan Tomas Birnie (capt), Alejo Tissera, Augusto Mustafa, Facundo Duggan, Hernan Fennell, Horacio Esperon, Ignacio Fermani, Ignacio Redruello, Juan Pablo Bordacahar, Pablo Siracusa, Pedro Bruno, Ramiro Rodriguez Delgado, Santiago Iritxity Irigoyen, Santiago Paez Nicoletti.
Bahamas Gregory Taylor (capt), Adrian Dean, Ambry Moss, Anwar Sawyer, Corie Frazer, Franz Taylor, Fritz Stubbs, Jeremy Jesubatham, Jermaine Adderley, Jonathan Barry, LaSalle Thompson, Marc Taylor, Rodrick Mitchel, Rudolph Fox.
Bermuda Rodney Trott (capt), Christopher Douglas, Dennico Hollis, Greg Maybury, Hodsoll Kyle, Jordan De Silva, Khiry Furbert, Lamar Richardson, Malachi Jones, Marico Bassett, Stefan Kelly, Steven Bremar Jr, Tamauri Tucker, Terryne Fray.
Canada Abishek Krisnamoorthy (capt), Chris Monohar (vice-captain), Arsalan Qadir, Asif Manjra, Hasan Raza Zaidi, Jaskeerat Singh Kalon, Kevin James, Khushal Gangopadhyay, Majid Usman, Pratik Patel, Riayzkhan Pathan, Rustum Bhatti, Ruvindu Gunasekera, Usman Iqubal.
Cayman Islands Ramon Sealy (capt), Corey Cato, Dale Parker, Darado Thompson, Darren Cato, Earl Hart, Kervin Ebanks, Patrick McConvey, Robert Hewitt, Sacha DeAlwis, Shane Cato, Vincent Ebanks, Zachary McLaughlin.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and AfricaFeeds: Martin Williamson
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Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.