By RON FANFAIR
Canada’s youth cricket team now in New Zealand preparing for the International Cricket Council (ICC) Under-19 World Cup is the strongest and best prepared of the two previous participating sides, says manager Wijay Senathirajah.
The youth side is returning to the tournament for the first time in six years after competing in 2002 and 2004 in New Zealand and Bangladesh respectively. Canada was part of the Americas side that took part in the 2000 series in Sri Lanka.
“We played in the Americas tournament and the Under-19 World Cup qualifier last year which were two major tournaments,” said Senathirajah who is Cricket Canada’s junior coordinator. “We also took part in a camp that included three matches last month.
“Most of the guys have been playing cricket non-stop and practicing extremely hard in the past 12 months in preparation for the upcoming World Cup. No other youth team has had as much preparation and training for a global youth series.”
Victoria Park left-arm spinner, Parth Desai, who was overlooked for the global qualifying tournament in the Greater Toronto Area last summer, is included in the 15-member squad.
“Based on his performances for his club since that tournament and also his impressive showing in the three matches we played during our camp in St. Kitts last month, we felt he deserved a place,” said head coach Wilbert Plummer. “He has proven that he has what it takes to compete at the highest level in his age category.”
All-rounder Abishek Krishnamoorthy, who played in three matches in last September’s qualifying tournament, is skipping the World Cup to concentrate on his university studies.
The full Canadian side is Rustum Bhatti (capt.), Manny Aulakh, Parth Desai, Darius D’Souza, Ruvindu Gunasekera, Hardik Kotak, Nitish Kumar, Usman Limbada, Zain Mahmood, Asif Manjra, Hiral Patel, Riyazkhan Pathan, Harpreet Singh, Arsalan Qadir and Hamza Tariq.
Former Canadian players Farouk Kirmani and Ingleton Liburd are the assistant coach and TV analyst respectively, Arvind Patel is the assistant manager, Candice Thomas is the physiotherapist and Richie Kemraj is the tour director.
Canada takes part in the first of three practice matches tomorrow before the eighth bi-annual youth competition starts on January 15. The national youth cricketers meet Zimbabwe in its opening game before opposing host country New Zealand a day later and Sri Lanka on January 18.
At the end of the junior World Cup, Bhatti, Kumar and Patel will travel to the United Arab Emirates to join the senior team preparing for the ICC Twenty/20 World Cup qualifier to be played between February 9 and 13 and a four-day Intercontinental Cup fixture against Afghanistan February 17-20.