UAE Under-19 team strikes a pose before their departure for South Africa to take part in the Youth World Cup. Image Credit: Courtesy: ECB

Dubai: The UAE Under-19 cricket team, captained by Aryan Lakra, are confident of showing that they will not be there to make up the numbers in the

ICC Under-19 World Cup in South Africa which gets under way from January 17.

Speaking to Gulf News on the eve of their departure for South Africa, Lakra said: “We had great preparation for this World Cup as we played even a series against Scotland Under-19 team. We are all matchfit and raring to give our best.”

Lakra had sparkled in the match against Scotland with an unbeaten 150 at the ICC Academy ground last week. He had also bagged eight wickets from the three warm-up matches with his accurate left-arm spin. Talking about the conditions expected in South Africa, Lakra said: “South African wickets are known to assist pacers but we cannot go in with a notion that the wickets may only help pacers as wicket can change and assist spin too. The nice aspect about our team is that we have a balanced side to adapt to any condition and hence we are not going to worry about the wicket there.”

The UAE captain’s confidence stems from the fact that they have a number of experienced players such as wicketkeeper-batsman Vriitya Aravind, leg spinner Karthik Meiyappan and batsman Jonathan Figy who have already been drafted into the UAE senior team. “We are not short in experience and I am sure if we can play to our potential, then we can stun any team,” said Lakra, who played a big role in the qualifiers to guide the UAE into the Under-19 World Cup by emerging as the highest wicket taker of the event.

The UAE is in Group D alongside hosts South Africa, Canada and Afghanistan. In the first match, they take on Canada on January 18 followed by Afghanistan on January 22 and against hosts South Africa on January 25. When asked whether the first two matches will be most crucial, Lakra said: “We are aiming to do well not only against Canada and Afghanistan but even hosts South Africa as we have worked hard on our fitness and skills. We will also play two warm-up games on arrival after a practice session on the first day tomorrow. The first warm-up match will be against New Zealand and second against Japan,” he said.

Defending champions India are in Group A along with Japan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. “We all are keen to give our best and also we are ready to play matches with very few gaps in between. We are all in good shape,” said Lakra.

The team has another strong batsman in Ansh Tandon, who impressed legendary players like Darren Sammy and Andre Russell during the Abu Dhabi T10 tournament late last year. Players like pacer Rishab Mukherjee and Alishan Sharafu have been consistent in domestic cricket.

UAE team: Aryan Lakra (c), Vriitya Aravind (wk), Chathiya Dashan, Mohammed Faraazuddin, Jonathan Figy, Osama Hassan, Aryan Lakra, Karthik Meiyappan, Rishab Mukherjee, Ali Naseer, Wasi Shah, Alishan Sharafu, Sanchit Sharma, Kai Smith, Akasha Tahir, Ansh Tandon.