SL Under-19 can be dark horses, warns coach


Naveed Nawaz

The Sri Lankan team can be a dark horse in the ICC Under-19 World Cup currently underway in the United Arab Emirates, according to their coach Naveed Nawaz.

Sri Lanka won both their warm-up matches against India and Namibia before beating New Zealand in their first game of the tournament on Friday.

Nawaz was pleased with their wins against the defending champions India and New Zealand. "The victory against India was huge, considering we lost to them in a close encounter in the semis of the Asia Cup. It was a big boost for the confidence of the boys heading into the opener," he said, adding that the experience of playing in the Asia Cup in UAE was a big plus.

"We played here two months back in the Asia Cup, so we are quite familiar with the conditions and wickets. Other than that, we as a team have been progressing well. The boys are beaming with confidence and we hope to have a good tournament," revealed Nawaz.

Both the Sri Lankan senior and junior teams were in the UAE around the same time last year and they were mostly training together back home, something which has done wonders to the confidence of the youngsters.

"In Sri Lanka, we always play together and the U-19s get a chance to bowl to the seniors and bat against the senior bowlers. So that helps. As individuals, you get the confidence of playing the bigger players. The national selectors have backed this move a lot and that has done wonders," Nawaz said.

Sri Lanka have two more games in the first round against England and hosts UAE and are expected to make it to the quarter-finals with a win in one of those two games. Victory in both games will help them to avoid a quarter-final clash with the strong Indian side.

"I think it is one of the strongest groups we are in — England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and hosts UAE. So, it is one of the strongest groups where you got three frontline cricket-playing countries and we are glad we beat New Zealand," he said.

Nawaz felt that spinners will play a key role in today’s game against England in Dubai.

"The spin department is going to have a lot of responsibility. We have two left-arm seamers, two left-arm spinners and two off-spinners. So, it’s quite a balanced bowling attack."

Sri Lanka’s last group game against UAE is on Tuesday in Sharjah.

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