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    India to launch U-19 World Cup title defence against Pakistan

    Defending champions India will open their ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup campaign against arch-rivals and two-time winners Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on February 15.

    Dubai: Defending champions India will open their ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup campaign against arch-rivals and two-time winners Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on February 15.

    The tournament will be staged across seven venues in the UAE from February 14 to March 1 and will also be participated in by Afghanistan, Canada, Namibia, Papua New Guinea, Scotland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), besides the 10 Full Members.

    India, which also won the tournament under Mohammad Kaif and Virat Kohli in 2000 and 2008, respectively, defeated Pakistan by one-wicket in an enthralling semi-final before going on to beat Australia by six wickets in the 2012 final in Townsville, Australia.

    In the 2010 event in New Zealand, Pakistan beat India in a last-ball thriller in the quarter-final in Lincoln. The two sides also met in the final of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2006 in Colombo where Pakistan defended a modest total of 110 to win by 39 runs.

    According to the format, 16 teams have been divided into four groups, with the top two teams progressing to the Super League quarter-finals, while the two bottom teams from each group qualify for the Plate Championship quarter-finals.

    India have been clubbed with Pakistan, Scotland and PNG in Group A.

    On the opening day, four matches will be played, with 1998 winner England taking on the UAE at Zayed Cricket Stadium; Zimbabwe locking horns with Canada at Abu Dhabi Oval 1; New Zealand meeting Sri Lanka at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, and South Africa taking on the West Indies at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

    In the 16-day tournament, 48 matches will be played across seven venues, which are: Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi; Abu Dhabi Oval 1; Abu Dhabi Oval 2; Sharjah Cricket Stadium; Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai Sports City; ICC Academy Oval 1, Dubai, and ICC Academy Oval 2, Dubai.

    ICC General Manager, Cricket, Mr Geoff Allardice, while announcing the groups and fixtures in Dubai, said: "The ICC U19 Cricket World Cup is a hugely important event for international teams and for the ICC, as it showcases the future stars of international cricket.

    "The tournament has produced more than 40 Full Member players that have gone on to captain their side in international cricket in different formats - Brian Lara, Graeme Smith and Inzamam-ul-Haq, to name a few. The ICC U19 CWC gives the world's best young cricketers a chance to test their skills in a truly global event.

    "Teams will need to be at their best every day if they want to win the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup. We expect to see some spectacular cricket."

    Sri Lanka's ODI captain Angelo Mathews played in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cups 2006 and 2008, and, reflecting on his time at these events said: "Having played in a couple of ICC U19 Cricket World Cups, I can tell you that this is the best stage for any raw talent to polish his skills. The lessons that I learned in Bangladesh in 2004 and in Sri Lanka in 2006 have, in hindsight, been truly invaluable.

    Anwar Ali, who took 5 for 35 when Pakistan skittled India out for 71 in the 2006 final in Colombo, said: "Succeeding in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup gives upcoming players a tremendous boost, and raises their profile and standing.

    "For us from Pakistan, doing well there, and especially against India, assures you of a place under the spotlight and in the radar of the selectors.

    "I fondly remember my performance against India in the 2006 ICC U19 Cricket World Cup final in Colombo. Taking five for 35 there and playing a major role in landing my country the biggest U19 title there is in the world did a world of good to my confidence, and set me on my way to representing my country in the senior ranks."

    The UAE tournament will be the 10th edition of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup since its inception in 1988. Australia won the tournament in 1988, 2002 and 2010, England was the champion in 1998, India held aloft the trophy in 2000, 2008 and 2012 and Pakistan was the winner in 2004 and 2006.