The ICC have reaffirmed their commitment to holding an Under-19 Women’s World Cup, with the tournament now rescheduled from its original window at the tail-end of 2021, to January 2023.
As is always the case, you can argue that it should have been done sooner – the first men’s edition was held in 1988, and it has been a biennial feature of the calendar since 1998 – but we are where we are, and the important thing now is that it is being done!
With a firm(ish) date now agreed, thoughts immediately turned to who might play, with Indian journalist Snehal Pradhan tweeting:
Having Shafali on the team would clearly put India among the favourites to reach the final, alongside Australia, who will be able to field a squad full of seasoned WBBL pros, who will obviously be odds-on to win the tournament.
But we also need to remember that this is supposed to be a “development” competition. By January 2023, Shafali will likely have 50 caps, and be as automatic a pick in India’s full ODI team as she is currently in the T20 format, whence all of her 22 caps to date have come. She doesn’t need “developing” now… let alone in 18 months time!
The tournament regulations have yet to be firmed up, but in my view the “Under-19” label should be just that – a label, not a law. The tournament should exclude anyone who has a full international cap regardless of age, and also allow space for a limited number of players over the age of 19, with perhaps one wildcard pick up to 21 and another up to 23.
It could then play out similarly to last year’s Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy in England, where the unavailability of the England players for most of the tournament actually created the most exciting and competitive domestic season in recent memory.
If the Under-19 World Cup is serious about being a “development” competition, then that is what it needs to be… even if that makes it not technically an “Under 19” World Cup.