India will launch their ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup title defence against traditional rivals and two-time former champions Pakistan at the Dubai International Stadium on February 15 next year.
The tournament will be staged across seven venues in the United Arab Emirates from February 14 to March 1, and will also be participated in by Afghanistan, Canada, Namibia, Papua New Guinea, Scotland and the UAE besides the 10 Full Members.
India, which had won the tournament under Mohammad Kaif and Virat Kohli in 2000 and 2008 respectively, defeated Pakistan by one-wicket in an enthralling semi-final before going on to beat Australia by six wickets in the 2012 final in Townsville, Australia.
In the 2010 event in New Zealand, Pakistan beat India in a last-ball thriller in the quarter-final in Lincoln. The two sides also met in the final of the U19 World Cup 2006 in Colombo where Pakistan defended a modest total of 110 to win by 39 runs.
In the 16-day tournament, 48 matches will be played across seven venues - Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi; Abu Dhabi Oval 1; Abu Dhabi Oval 2; Sharjah Cricket Stadium; Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai Sports City; ICC Academy Oval 1, Dubai, and ICC Academy Oval 2, Dubai.
On the opening day of the tournament, four matches will be played with 1998 winner England taking on the UAE, Zimbabwe locking horns with Canada, New Zealand meeting Sri Lanka, and South Africa taking on the West Indies.
The format of the competition is such that the 16 teams have been divided into four groups, with the top two teams progressing to the Super League quarter-finals, while the two bottom teams from each group qualify for the Plate Championship quarter-finals.
ICC General Manager (Cricket), Geoff Allardice, while announcing the groups and fixtures in Dubai, said, "The ICC U19 Cricket World Cup is a hugely important event for international teams and for the ICC as it showcases the future stars of international cricket."
"The tournament has produced more than 40 Full Member players that have gone on to captain their side in international cricket in different formats - Brian Lara, Graeme Smith and Inzamam-ul-Haq, to name a few. The ICC U19 CWC gives the world's best young cricketers a chance to test their skills in a truly global event. Teams will need to be at their best every day if they want to win the World Cup. We expect to see some spectacular cricket," Allardice added.
Sri Lanka's ODI captain Angelo Mathews played in the U19 World Cups 2006 and 2008, and, reflecting on his time at these events said, "Having played in a couple of ICC U19 World Cups, I can tell you that this is the best stage for any raw talent to polish his skills and see if he's worthy enough of progressing to the biggest stage of them all - international cricket at the senior level."
"The lessons that I learned in Bangladesh in 2004 and in Sri Lanka in 2006 have, in hindsight, been truly invaluable," he added.
Anwar Ali, who took five for 35 when Pakistan skittled India out for 71 in the 2006 final in Colombo, said, "Succeeding in the U19 World Cup gives upcoming players a tremendous boost, and raises their profile and standing. For us from Pakistan, doing well there, and especially against India, assures you of a place under the spotlight and in the radar of the selectors."
The UAE tournament will be the 10th edition of the ICC U19 World Cup since its inception in 1988. Australia won the tournament in 1988, 2002 and 2010, England was the champion in 1998, India held aloft the trophy in 2000, 2008 and 2012 and Pakistan was the winner in 2004 and 2006.
The four groups are:
Group A: India, Pakistan, Scotland, PNG.
Group B: Australia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Namibia.
Group C: South Africa, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Canada.
Group D: New Zealand, England, Sri Lanka, UAE.