Cricketing rivalry between India and Pakistan has always been compelling. It generates tremendous anticipation among the fans and media alike around the world. Even the under-19 matches between the arch-rivals are played with cracking intensity and players from both the countries leave no stone unturned to win the match. Under-19 cricket has produced some thrilling matches between India and Pakistan. In the recently concluded under-19 Asia Cup, they met in the final and fought valiantly as the match ended in a tie.
Now they're slated to lock horns in the quarter-final of ICC under-19 World Cup 2012. World Cup is regarded as the pinncle of limited-overs cricket and both teams are vying to outdo each other on this grand stage. Pakistan won all their three group matches comfortably and are full of confidence. On the other hand, India lost their first match of the tournament to West Indies but came back well to win the next two and qualify for the quarter-final.
On the basis of current form, Pakistan are a shade ahead of India. Babar Azam and Sami Aslam form a formidable opening pair and both of them are in superb form. Aslam, in particular, is a major threat for India. He smashed two centuries against India in the Asia Cup and the dashing left-hander has earned comparisons with former Pakistan legend Saeed Anwar.
Imam-ul-Haq and Umar Waheed are the fulcrum of Pakistan's middle-order and are in fine touch. They build on the good starts provided by the openers and nudge the ball around to pick singles and doubles with deft finesse. Mohammad Nawaz is an emerging allrounder for Pakistan who's very promising.
The trump card of India's batting is their captain Unmukt Chand who is hailed as a 'big-match' player. He was ‘Man of the Series’ in the last two tournaments and hammered centuries in the final of both the tournaments. He has a sturdy temperament to go along with towering talent. India, thus, would be hoping another big score from their skipper. Prashant Chopra has proved to be a worthy opening partner of Chand. He replaced Manan Vohra, who was struggling for runs, and has cemented his place in the Indian squad by notching up two half-centuries.
Vijay Zol is another very talented batsman who has done well in this World Cup and pushing him higher up the order would give him more balls to play. India's allrounder Baba Aparajith is bowling well but has been ordinary with bat in this tournament. The middle-order is a bit inexperienced and Pakistan must be looking to exploit it.
Both the teams have some fine bowlers. Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan has already created waves and is spoken highly of by many current Pakistan cricketers, including Misbah-ul-Haq. He is a difficult bowler to take apart and India's opening pair must be vary of him. Ehsan Adil and left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz are other bowlers Pakistan is banking upon.
For India, medium-pacers Sandeep Sharma and Kamal Passi are in astounding form as both of them have grabbed five-wicket hauls in the tournament, thought against the weaker teams. Aparajith leads the spin department and he's a canny bowler.
The team winning the toss will have an advantage. Fielding first seems to be an obvious choice unless there would be a change in the nature of the pitch or weather conditions. India lost to Pakistan in the final of the ICC U-19 World Cup 2006, when Anwar Ali blew them away, and they surely would look to seek revenge.
India and Pakistan have played 16 matches in Under-19 cricket and India have won nine out of them while Pakistan clinched seven matches, but Pakistan have outshone their India counterparts in World Cup matches, having won five of the six contests in the World Cup. India's only victory in the U-19 Cricket World Cup came in 1998 in Durban where they beat Pakistan by five wickets.
New Zealand will play the West Indies in the last quarter-final match at Endeavour Park 1 tomorrow.
The winners of India-Pakistan and New Zealand-West Indies matches will play in the second semi-final at Tony Ireland Stadium on Thursday.
India: Unmukt Chand (C), Akshdeep Nath, Baba Aparajith, Prashant Chopra, Sandipan Das, Harmeet Singh, Akhil Herwadkar, Rush Kalaria, Kamal Passi, Smit Patel (wk), Ravikant Singh, Sandeep Sharma, Hanuma Vihari, Vikas Mishra, Vijay Zol.
Pakistan: Babar Azam (C), Umar Waheed, Azizullah, Ehsan Adil, Faraz Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Nawaz, Saad Ali, Salman Afridi (wk), Sami Aslam, Shahid Ilyas, Usman Qadir, Zafar Gohar, Zia-ul-Haq.