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U19 World Cup: Massive global audience for youth tourney

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No fewer than 10 matches at the upcoming ICC U19 Cricket World Cup (U19 CWC) in Malaysia will be televised live and beamed around the world by ICC’s host broadcaster ESPN STAR Sports (ESS).

Following on from its successful broadcasting of the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa last year, ESS has ensured that a global audience of millions will get to see the next generation of cricket stars by putting in place an impressive schedule that takes in all matches at Kinrara Cricket Academy (KCA) in Kuala Lumpur, including both semi-finals and the final on 2 March.

ESS has lined up a raft of broadcasters for the tournament and it is estimated to attract viewers in more than 100 countries worldwide. Nearly all participating nations will have live coverage of the tournament in their home countries including in such places as Malaysia, India and Namibia.

In addition to cricket’s traditional heartlands in south Asia, England and Australia, the coverage will also be seen across the continents of Africa, throughout the Middle East and in the nations of the West Indies. In addition, viewers in North America will see the action in what will be the most coverage enjoyed by any U/19 CWC to date.

The broadcaster has also put together an experienced team of commentators for the tournament that includes former international cricketers Ranjit Fernando of Sri Lanka, Danny Morrison of New Zealand and Australia’s Colin Miller.

For Fernando, the U/19 CWC is an important part of young players’ progress as they seek to make names for themselves in the world of cricket.

“I was brought up in a system where school cricket plays a huge role in the development of cricketers,” he said.

“Under-19 and under-20 cricket in Sri Lanka is played with the same seriousness as first-class cricket. I have always believed that it is at the under-19 age group that serious national cricketers are fashioned. There is no better way to do it than exposing them to a World Cup in this manner.

“The U/19 CWC is indispensable and I see that every country is taking it with the seriousness it deserves. I find that there is very little to choose between many of the teams competing at this level,” he said.

“There is no doubt that it is the stepping stone to international big-time cricket. Sri Lanka has a high percentage of players that made their beginnings at U/19 CWCs, such as Sanath Jayasuriya and Farveez Maharoof. It exposes the players to everything that is done at the senior level. Coaches are very professional and players learn to start thinking like professional cricketers. Mentally it makes them very well prepared for future events.”

Huw Bevan, Senior Vice-President of Production at ESS, added: “We are committed to working towards growing and developing the great game of cricket. It is especially exciting for us to capture some of these talents as they are coming into their own, some of whom will become the next big names for the sport and play in the major ICC tournaments in years to come.

“Our global production has been strengthened with various initiatives such as multiple-camera coverage, including super-slow-motion cameras and stump cameras, player profiles, special reports covering the tournament for various editions of SportsCenter and many more. We believe it will provide fans around the world with a great viewing experience,” he said.

Along with the 10 Full Members and the host Malaysia, Nepal (Asia), Ireland (Europe), Bermuda (Americas), Namibia (Africa) and Papua New Guinea (East Asia-Pacific) qualified from their regions to get to this stage.

The 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.

A total of 44 matches, including 24 in the first round, seven in the Super League and 13 in play-offs will be played at seven venues across the three cities of Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor.

Defending champion Pakistan will get its ICC U/19 Cricket World Cup campaign underway by playing the host Malaysia on 17 February at Johor Cricket Academy.

Pakistan is the only team to have won back-to-back titles at this level, having triumphed in 2004 and 2006 in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, respectively, and will now aim to make it a hat-trick as it goes into the event as top seed.

The winner from 2000, India, is seeded second, with Australia (winners in the inaugural event back in 1988 and 2002) seeded third and England (winners in 1999) fourth.
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