Cricket: Patel's boys will follow scouts motto: be prepared

By David Leggat

Practice might not make perfect for New Zealand's under-19 cricketers at this month's World Cup, but it'll certainly help.

The squad of 15 head for Brisbane today for an intense week of preparation before flying to Malaysia for the 16-team tournament. Once there, they have a couple of practice games against India and Ireland before starting their campaign.

It's a far cry from the leadup to the last cup two years ago when coach Dipak Patel admitted the squad who travelled to Sri Lanka "basically had no show".

"We gave them two days preparation, so they were on a hiding to nothing," he said. "We didn't perform very well and it showed in our preparation.

"This time we're that much wiser and there's been a conscious effort from New Zealand Cricket's point of view that they've given them a lot more resources and training programmes appropriate to the conditions we'll face."

Five players have played first-class cricket this season - Northern Districts pair Kane Williamson, who captains the squad, and Twenty20 national selection Tim Southee - Central Districts' George Worker, Canterbury's distinctly promising Corey Anderson and Auckland fast-medium bowler Greg Morgan.

That backs Patel's assessment that this squad are on a par in terms of ability with the group of two years ago "but a bit more battle hardened".

New Zealand have four days at the Allan Border Academy in Brisbane en route to Malaysia, plus a couple of matches against Australia's under 19 team before two warmup games against India and Ireland after arriving in Kuala Lumpur. Their three pool games are in a tight four days.

Patel's got a good idea of the type of pitches they'll have in Malaysia - slow with low bounce - plus the likelihood of favourable swing bowling conditions for the white ball early on, which he hopes New Zealand can utilise through the likes of Southee, Anderson and Morgan.

They have lost one of their key batsmen, Jeet Raval, due to being unable to sort out visa issues, his place going to Central Districts' Andrew Dodd. Southee is the only survivor of the 2005-06 tournament, where New Zealand finished a poor 10th, beaten in the plate final by Nepal.

Patel says the quality of teams at the cup is impressive. He maintains about 85 per cent of teams have players good enough to play at first-class level.

He reckons Bangladesh, whose squad two years ago included four members of the national side in New Zealand last month and are "outstanding", and India will be the favourites, with Pakistan not far behind, fresh off beating Australia 5-0 in a series.

But the former New Zealand allrounder is quietly confident. First off they must make the quarter-finals and from there anything is possible.

"We're not going just to compete. The ultimate goal is obviously to go and win it."

There are two familiar surnames in the squad. Michael Bracewell is the nephew of national coach John Bracewell; Hamish Rutherford is the son of former New Zealand captain Ken Rutherford.

UNDER 19 WORLD CUP New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (captain), Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Anurag Verma, Tamati Clarke (all Northern Districts), Nicholas Beard, Michael Bracewell, Hamish Rutherford (Otago), Corey Anderson (Canterbury), George Worker, Andrew Dodd (Central Districts), Harry Boam, Fraser Colson (Wellington), Michael Guptill-Bunce, Greg Morgan (Auckland).

New Zealand's Group A schedule:

Feb 18: v Zimbabwe
Feb 19: v Pakistan
Feb 21: v Malaysia
Quarter-finals from Feb 24; final March 2
Group B: South Africa, West Indies, India, Papua New Guinea
Group C: Australia, Nepal, Namibia, Sri Lanka
Group D: England, Ireland, Bangladesh, Bermuda

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