Three-time champions India and Australia will lock horns in their tournament opener of the ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup, to be held in New Zealand from January 13 to February 3 next year.
India are clubbed with Australia, Zimbabwe and East Asia Pacific qualifier Papua New Guinea in Group B, an International Cricket Council (ICC) release stated on Thursday.
Prior to the start of the main event, India will face South Africa (January 9) and Kenya (January 11) in their two warm-up fixures.
Defending champion West Indies will play host New Zealand in the inaugural Group A day-night fixture at Bay Oval on the opening day of the event, featuring 16 teams across seven venues in four cities: Christchurch, Queenstown, Tauranga and Whangarei.
The other teams in Group A are 2012 champion South Africa and Africa qualifier Kenya.
The 10 Test playing nations (prior to Afghanistan and Ireland’s recent inclusion) gained automatic qualification to the event along with the best finishing associate from the last edition, Namibia.
They are joined by five regional qualifiers in the biennial tournament that showcases future stars every two years.
Bangladesh, Canada, England and Namibia comprise Group C while two-time champion Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Asia qualifier Afghanistan and Europe qualifier Ireland form Group D in what is the 11th edition of the tournament and the third to be held in New Zealand.
The top two sides from each group will advance to the Super League while the remaining eight teams will figure in the plate championship.
The quarter-finals, semi-finals and final of the Super League will be among the 20 matches to be broadcast live. The final will be played at Bay Oval on February 3 while both semi-finals will be played at Hagley Oval in Christchurch on January 29 and 30.
The plate tournament will run simultaneously but end with the final at the Bert Sutcliffe Oval in Christchurch on January 28.
Commenting on the upcoming tournament, ICC Head of Events Chris Tetley said: “The ICC U19 World Cup plays an important role in the progression of young talent onto the global stage.”
“The list of past and current players who had their first taste of a major event at this tournament is a long one and I have no doubt we’ll be witnessing some of tomorrow’s stars in New Zealand next year,” he added.
The captains of the teams coming through the qualifiers are looking forward to the tournament, which is a stepping stone in the development of all participants — players and match officials.
“The aim is the same as that of any cricketing nation — this dream of winning the World Cup. For us it is also the same, to go out there and play some positive cricket and lift the trophy for the country,” Afghanistan captain Naveen-ul-Haq said.
Canada captain Abraash Khan said: “We have the skill and the strong mental belief that we can upset any full-member nation on a given day.
“As any other team, we set ourselves on the goal of hopefully winning the World Cup and proving that Canada is another up and coming massive cricketing nation.”
Ireland captain Harry Tector: “The guys are obviously delighted to be going to the U19 World Cup. It is a great stage to showcase their talents and we hope we can go to New Zealand and show how good a team we are.”