Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE national Under-19 cricket team coach Prosper Utseya is targeting the Super League stage of the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup. His team was placed in Group C which includes two-time winners Pakistan, Bangladesh and Scotland.
The 16-team tournament, that showcases the world’s future cricket stars, will be played between January 17 and February 9 across eight venues in Benoni, Potchefstroom, Bloemfontein and Kimberley in South Africa.
The young Zimbabwean side is expected to seize the opportunity after they benefited from the lifting of the ICC ban. The ban affected the senior men and women’s teams recently.
Utseya and his backroom staff will leave no stone unturned in the final preparations. The youth team has been preparing for the event for the past few months.
They toured South Africa twice this year and hosted Nigeria as part of the build-up.
According to the schedule released by ICC yesterday, Zimbabwe will open their campaign at the 16-team tournament against Bangladesh at the JB Marks Oval in Potchefstroom on January 18.
They will then face Pakistan and Scotland on 22 and 25 January respectively at the Witrand Oval, also in Potchefstroom.
The top two teams from each of the four groups at the tournament will advance to the Super League, while the remaining teams will feature in the Plate championship.
“It’s a given that every team would want to progress to the Super League stage. That said, should we play to our potential, we can achieve greater world-class heights,” Utseya told the Zimbabwe Cricket website.
“There’s no easy group in a World Cup. As Zimbabwe, we are going to mainly focus on things we can control — that is our game — not so much who is in our group.”
The former Zimbabwe national cricket team captain is expected to announce his final 15-member squad early next month.
Zimbabwe have made 11 appearances at the tournament since 1998 with their best performance being a sixth place finish in the 2004 edition.
The team has received a fair draw considering they managed to evade hosts South Africa, holders India and giants Australia.
Zimbabwe were in the same group with India and Australia at the 2018 edition and they lost to both nations and crashed out at the group stage despite the victory over Papua New Guinea in the opening game.
The Indians, who have won the tournament a record four times, this time headline a difficult Group A which also has New Zealand, Sri Lanka and first timers Japan.
Three-time winners Australia are in Group B along with England, West Indies and debutants Nigeria. Hosts South Africa are in Group D with Afghanistan, UAE and Canada.
Cricket South Africa have stepped up preparations for the event.
Group A: India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Japan
Group B: Australia, England, West Indies, Nigeria
Group C: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Scotland
Group D: Afghanistan, South Africa, UAE, Canada