The Board Of Control For Cricket In India (BCCI) are considering deploying two Under-19 teams for a home series involving Sri Lanka and Bangladesh ahead of the U-19 World Cup in the West Indies.
The upcoming edition of the World Cup is only four months away, and the pool of players is lacking in preparation and match experience. This has become the case as there has been no cricket at the youth level since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The BCCI are set to resume U-19 domestic cricket with the Vinoo Mankad trophy, slated to start by the third week of September 2021. This will be followed by the Challenger Series, which serves as a platform for players to be shortlisted and selected for the tournament in the Caribbean next year.
Since there can only be two domestic tournaments scheduled before the World Cup, the BCCI are heavily considering implementing an invitational tournament featuring two U-19 teams from India. NCA head Rahul Dravid is in favor of giving the players plenty of opportunities before the final list of players is drafted.
Speaking to TOI, a top BCCI official said:
"This is why the board has thought of fielding two teams. Bangladesh are a tough opposition in U-19 cricket. This tournament help will test out the players."
Bangladesh are the reigning U-19 champions. They defeated India in the finals of the event held in South Africa two years ago.
COVID-19 pandemic has interfered with the routine U-19 domestic structure: BCCI
Usually, the process in selecting the squad for an event like the World Cup includes a well drawn out domestic campaign as well as several bi-lateral or multi-nation series, both home and away. However, due to the pandemic, a schedule structure of this kind has not been possible. The official added:
"The board usually arranges multiple U-19 series - both home and overseas - to prepare a crop of U-19 cricketers for the World Cup. The pandemic has hampered the normal process. It's important for the young boys to have some international experience."
A panel of selectors to pick the squads is yet to be determined. The committee is expected to be formed by the first week of September.
The state associations are also in a state of frenzy in terms of outlining their respective squads for the upcoming Vinoo Mankad trophy. The teams will have to complete a seven-day quarantine before the tournament commences.