India begin their ICC Men’s Under-19 World Cup 2022 campaign in Guyana on Saturday with a Group B clash against South Africa. Led by Yash Dhull, India will be eyeing a record fifth title.

India have won the men’s U19 World Cup a record four times and also finished runners-up on three occasions. In the previous edition of the tournament, played in South Africa in 2020, India lost to Bangladesh in the final.

Speaking ahead of India’s opener, head coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar said his side will look to set short targets in the tournament.

“There is a huge legacy since India has done so well in this tournament. It doesn’t help that we have won four times. There is a new team, so you have to start afresh,” Kanitkar said during an online media interaction ahead of the marquee event.

“We don’t want to look too far ahead at things like the IPL auction and the Ranji Trophy. What we need to do is to just focus on what we can do in this tournament. We, as a coaching unit, keep them focussed on what they can do in the short term,” he added.

Asked about playing under difficult circumstances as players are being forced to stay in bio-bubbles, the former India cricketer said it is better to get used to it than complain.

“ is a challenge. What we need to realise is that this is the norm now. It is better to get used to it. It is the reality now, staying in the bubble, The boys will be able to learn from this, after this World Cup also, when they need to stay in bubbles, they will be up for it,” he said.

The Indians head into the Under-19 World Cup with a victory in the under-19 Asia Cup and the head coach said it was of great help as the team got to play together.

“It is important because we had not played together as a team. For us, it was important in terms of team building and getting matches under our belt. It has been of great help,” Kanitkar said of the win in the U-19 Asia Cup.

India have only once failed to make it past the group stage at an ICC Under 19 Men’s Cricket World Cup – at the opening edition in 1988 – and enter as the favourites to go all the way.

Lifting the 2021 Asia Cup served as perfect preparation, with spinners Vicky Ostwal and Kaushal Tambe shining as India defeated Sri Lanka by nine wickets in the final on New Year’s Eve.

The spin twins, therefore, head to the Caribbean full of confidence, as do the Asia Cup’s leading run scorers Harnoor Singh and Shaik Rasheed, and India’s strength with bat and ball will again make them formidable opponents.

Dhull will captain the side and will hope to join an illustrious list of names – including Mohammad Kaif, Virat Kohli and Prithvi Shaw – to have led India to victory in this competition.

Coach Kanitkar emphasised that the team had good fast bowling all-rounders with Rajvardhan Hangargekar of Maharashtra developing well. “It augurs well for the future. The talent is is about grooming and handling them well. Rajvardhan is a really exciting prospect and bowls at a fair clip.

“He has a good yorker and a bouncer and he is not a bad batsman. You will find that out in the tournament. He is keen to do well for the team. These are good signs,” he said.

Asked what went in favour of Yash Dhull that he got the captaincy, Kanitkar said he had the respect of the players which was important.

“The primary quality is to have respect from the players. I think that is what he has, the respect of the team. He is able to take tough calls. Every time, especially while fielding, he can’t be told to do things, he needs to take his decisions. He is up to it. I think his instincts are tuned fine and think he can do justice to the job,” Kanitkar added.

Captain Dhull, who looks up to the Indian Test skipper Kohli, felt it was important to take it game by game.

“The morale in the team was good. It is important to take it game by game and see how to improve game by game. We will keep our intent and take it as it comes,” he said.

India’s opening match against South Africa will begin at 6.30 pm IST on Saturday.

(With inputs from ICC and PTI)