Windies, Indians favourites to progress to WC U-19 Super League stage:
Third seed West Indies and two-time former champion and number-six seed India are odds-on favourites to qualify for the Super League stage from Group C of the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup 2012, which will be staged from 11 to 26 August in Queensland, Australia.
Apart from the two powerhouses of cricket, Zimbabwe and Papua New Guinea are the other two sides in the group whose matches will be played in Townsville.
The West Indies has only once appeared in a Super League final (2004 Bangladesh) where it lost to Pakistan. However, it has lost four times in the semi-finals, twice to Pakistan (in 1988 and 2010), once to Australia (2002 in New Zealand) and once to England in 2004. While in 2006, it lost to India in the quarterfinal before winning the Plate Championship in 2008 in Malaysia.
Test opener Kraigg Brathwaite who has played in nine Tests will captain the West Indies side. Apart from Brathwaite, Ronsford Beaton, Kavem Hodge and Amir Khan are the players who have played first-class cricket, while John Campbell is the only player in the side who played in the previous World Cup in New Zealand.
Previewing the group, Braithwaite said: "We expect to play good cricket, and if we do, we expect to advance to the second round and beyond. But we will not underestimate the opponents. Cricket is a great game and you have to be at your best at all times, no matter who you play against. We have to go out there and play every game hard."
Braithwaite hoped the West Indies will be able to break its title drought, adding the preparations for the event have been excellent.
"I believe we can win this tournament. We just need to believe in ourselves, go out there, play as a team to our full potential, and I know we will win," he said.
"We have good players in all departments. We have an experienced batting line-up and a solid group of fast bowlers. We also have some very good all-rounders who we can move up and down the order, according to the state of the match," he added.
"We had tours to Dubai, Florida and India last year and also had two one-week camps in Barbados earlier in the year. We also had a two-week camp in Australia before the World Cup. I believe the squad is really confident, highly motivated and really looking forward to playing some good cricket and bringing the World Cup home for the first time," Braithwaite said.
India has been seeded sixth for this year's ICC U19 CWC 2012, but it has been a two-time former champion.
Top order batsman Unmukt Chand will lead the side while other first-class cricketers in the line-up are off-spinner and top order batsman Baba Aparajith, left-arm spinners Harmeet Singh and Vikas Mishra, openers Akhil Herwadkar and Manan Vohra, and right-arm fast bowler Sandeep Sharma.
Talking about his side's strength, weakness and challenges, Chand said: "We have a strong batting and bowling line-up. The batsmen and bowlers have delivered in crunch situations. Our fielding is an asset, as well. We have it in us to go the distance.
"We are bound to face challenges, with so many quality teams in the fray. However, what might work in our favour is that we have played in Australia, as recently as April 2012. It should not take us long to acclimatise and adjust to the conditions in Australia.
"Every match will be a test. We will definitely not make the mistake of taking things lightly. It is important to be focussed, and not get complacent."
Previewing the tournament, Chand said: "The tournament is a wonderful platform for youngsters from all over the world. You can expect outstanding displays of batting, bowling, fielding, and most importantly, teamwork. Many cricketers will stake their respective claims to play at the highest level, by excelling in the competition.
"It is heartening to have more than a billion people behind us. We will do our best to make them happy," said Chand, who averages just under 44 in 11 first-class matches for Delhi.