UNDER-19 CRICKET WORLD CUP PREVIEW - UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: A corruption scandal in the UAE have seen three members of the Under-19 setup already graduate to full international outings, but how much will that affect Aryan Lakra's team?
Captain: Aryan Lakra
Last time: DNQ
Previous best: 12th in 2014
Karthik Meiyappan: Captained the side at the Under-19 Asia Cup in September in the absence of regular skipper Aryan Lakra, collecting five wickets in three outings with his handy leg-spin.
Meiyappan has since gone on to debut for the men's national side, preparing for the trip to South Africa by taking 4-37 against an impressive Namibia outfit to seal an eight-run win in his latest ODI outing.
Ansh Tandon: The Delhi-born batsman earned a gig at last November's Abu Dhabi T10 tournament, featuring in three matches for a title-holding Northern Warriors side boasting Andre Russell, Darren Sammy and Sam Billings among other international stars.
Tandon had previously starred at the Under-19 Asia Cup in the autumn, reaching an unbeaten century against Sri Lanka, and in 2018 trained with the Mumbai Indians squad after impressing in the academy of batting coach Robin Singh.
Jonathan Figy: Plucked from his first year studying Maths and Statistics at the University of Leeds to make his full ODI debut for the UAE against Scotland in December, sprinting to the crease to score a steady 23 and set the platform for a seven-wicket victory.
The stylish Abu Dhabi left-hander – whose Instagram profile proudly links to his Wikipedia page – had previously caught the eye of coaches at Winchester College and secured one of their first sporting scholarships.
A squad packed with fresh-faced and talented players, representing the Emirates for only the second time at the Under-19 World Cup, and for the first time on merit, having qualified automatically as hosts in 2014.
Figy, Meiyappan and schoolboy wicketkeeper Vriitya Aravind are a rare breed to have garnered full international caps ahead of the tournament – even rarer following Pakistan's withdrawal of seamer Naseem Shah for Test duty – and their rapid rise will surely inspire teammates to think that bigger stages are right around the corner.
The anti-corruption investigation swirling UAE cricket in recent months has seen the senior national side decimated by player suspensions, and having Under-19 squad members called up to fill in the gaps will hardly have calmed nerves or encouraged focus on the World Cup itself.
Even before that, the team's winless performance at last year's Asia Cup – in which they were skittled for 127 and 125 by Bangladesh and Nepal respectively – suggests a concerning propensity for collapse against tough opposition.
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
Saturday, January 18: United Arab Emirates v Canada (Mangaung Oval, Bloemfontein)
Wednesday, January 22: Afghanistan v United Arab Emirates (Absa Puk Oval, Potchefstroom)
Saturday, January 25: South Africa v United Arab Emirates (Mangaung Oval)
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