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Mumbai: Former England captain Michael Atherton believes that the forthcoming Under-19 cricket World Cup will be a great platform for the young players to judge themselves against the best of their age-group.
Atherton, now one of the most respected cricket commentators and writers, played in the first edition in Australia in 1988 alongside teammate Nasser Hussain, West Indies great Brian Lara, Pakistan's Inzamam-ul-Haq and Sanath Jayasuriya of Sri Lanka.
"It is a fantastic competition and a wonderful opportunity for the best young players around the world to test themselves against the best of their age-group," Atherton, who went on to play 115 Tests and 54 One-Day Internationals (ODI) for England, said in a release on Thursday.
The tournament is due to start on January 27 in Bangladesh. Three-time U-19 winners (2000, 2008, 2012) India are clubbed in Group D alongside the other Ireland and New Zealand and Nepal.
Defending champions South Africa will open their title defence against host Bangladesh in Chittagong on January 27 at the Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium. The Proteas and Bangladesh are in Group A alongside Scotland and Namibia.
The 47-year-old said the upcoming tournament will also "produce its share of great international players of the future".
"Australia would have some of the strongest youth cricket, particularly when young players are given a chance to play against men in grade cricket," he said.
"India has more young cricketers than anywhere else where it is to an extent a numbers game. Pakistan could be among the most natural and instinctive. Beyond that, who knows," he added.
Group B comprises two-time winner Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Canada, while Group C has 1998 champions England along with the West Indies, Zimbabwe and Fiji.
A total of 48 matches will be played across eight venues and the final will be held on February 14 in Mirpur.
Apart from the 10 Test playing countries, six associate and affiliate member sides - Afghanistan, Canada, Fiji, Namibia, Nepal and Scotland - will also participate after winning the various regional qualifying events.
Atherton also shared fond memories of the inaugural event in 1988, which was then called the Youth World Cup.
"It helped develop me as a player in one important aspect: we were billeted out among families for the stay, firstly in Renmark and then in Adelaide, so it was a chance to grow up, meet new people, adapt to different conditions for virtually the first time as a player. It was stiflingly hot in South Australia and we had to adapt to pitches and conditions that were very alien to us," he said.
"It was also good to measure ourselves against the best young players in other parts of the world like Lara and Inzamam. I think we all enjoyed our experience, although it would have been better to have gone beyond the semi-final!" Atherton concluded. (IANS)