The Indian Under-19 squad will be odds-on favourites to score their third straight win in the league stage of the ICC Under-19 World Cup when they take on Zimbabwe at Mount Maunganu in New Zealand on Friday. The Rahul Dravid-coached team looks like the side to beat in the tournament and a confidence-boosting win against past champions Australia and demolition of Papua New Guinea has put India in a comfortable position and they can experiment a bit before the knockout stage.
The only test for the Indians was their tournament-opener against Australia, who they thumped by 100 runs, courtesy an all-round show by the last edition's finalists.
Indian fast bowlers Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi have impressed with their testing pace so far and it remains to be seen if Dravid fields them again or keeps them fresh for the quarter-finals.
Vidarbha bowler Aditya Thakare, called as a cover for an injured Ishan Porel, might get a chance. Porel is nursing a bruised left heal and was replaced by Arshdeep Singh in the match against PNG.
India's bowling unit has looked in complete control with left-arm spinner Anukul Roy complementing his pace colleagues well.
India's top-order batsmen, led by skipper Prithvi Shaw, are also in sublime form and are yet to be tested under difficult situations.
Barring an upset win for Zimbabwe tomorrow, India and Australia will progress to the quarterfinals from Group B. India will top the Group with their third win a row and will be followed by Australia, who have two wins from three matches.
India: Prithvi Shaw (capt), Shubman Gill, Aryan Juyal, Abhishek Sharma, Arshdeep Singh, Harvik Desai, Manjot Kalra, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Pankaj Yadav, Riyan Parag, Himanshu Rana, Anukul Roy, Shivam Mavi, Shiva Singh.
Zimbabwe: Liam Roche (capt), Robert Chimhinya, Jonathan Connolly, Alistair Frost, Taun Harrison, Wesley Madhevere, Tanunurwa Makoni, Donald Mlambo, Tinashe Nenhunzi, Nkosilatu Nunu, Kieran Robinson, Jayden Schadendorf, Milton Shumba.
Match starts at 6:30 a.m. IST
(With PTI Inputs)