ICC Europe Media Release
Italy and the Isle of Man, who met in the final of the Under 15 tournament in Bologna last year, are favourites to clash again on the last day of the ICC Under 17 Division Two European Championships next week.
The tournament gets under way in the Isle of Man on Saturday; the first time an ICC event has been hosted on the island. There are no fewer than 44 of the players who were in Italy last year in action again one age group up, with the Islanders hoping that home advantage counts again this time.
The selectors have certainly backed their Under 15s from last year with their 13-boy squad including 10 of the team that finished runners up 11 months ago including the player of the tournament, leg spinner Shaun Kelly. Along with Seb Aycock and Adam Killey, they played for the Isle of Man against MCC and skipper Daniel Hawke has already represented the senior side.
The Italians, however, will again be the team to beat as they would appear to have the perfect mix of youth and experience with seven of last year's Under 15 winning squad and three of the team that finished second in the Under 17 Division Two tournament in Germany in 2008. This year's captain, Roshendra Suroshan Abeywickrama, was one of that trio and he was also player of the tournament at the last European Under 19 championships.
Italy's biggest rivals in their group - the 10 teams in the tournament are divided into two groups of five - would appear to be Belgium who have six of the side who finished third in Bologna and who are the current holders of the Under 17 title. However, they do not have one survivor from the Germany tournament but the squad has been preparing well with games against Dutch and Danish sides this month.
France are captained by one of the potential stars of the tournament in Tom Liddiard who is a regular on the senior side and has attended the ICC European Centre of Excellence in La Manga. He also has four team-mates who were in Germany two years ago including Zain Zahir, who is in his fifth Euro squad, and Cameron Beauclerk who is in his fourth.
Gibraltar, who meet France on the opening day, are confident of improving on their seventh place finish in Bologna and sixth in Germany with an experienced squad who have been playing competitively in their domestic youth league and also playing for their senior clubs. In Julian Freyone, they have the only player in the Isle of Man who was involved in both tournaments over the last two years and who has just arrived from Guernsey where he took six wickets in two games in the senior championships.
Completing Italy's group are Hellas, who have five survivors from the team which took part in Germany two years ago but, for the moment, they have no Under 15 squad.
The hosts' first opponents are Germany and following their fourth place finish in Bologna, it promises to be the Isle of Man's toughest group game. Last year's captain, Tushar Marwaha, is one of six Germans playing in the older age group, while this year's skipper, Steven Richards is one of three who played on home soil in 2008, albeit finishing a disappointing ninth.
Switzerland finished one place higher in Bonn/Munchengladbach and also have three survivors in captain Trystan George, Nikhit Nanjungud and Ali Saleem while Ross Cameron, one of the stars in Bologna, is one of five making the step up.
The surprise package at the tournament could be Spain who finished third two years ago and while they did not have a team in Bologna this is the first squad to come through the country's new development programme. Coached by the experienced Neil Brook, their first game against Switzerland could be an indicator of the size of the task facing the hosts.
Austria are returning to this level after a few years' absence so it is an entirely new squad, although the coach, Siva Nadarajah, is unchanged. With the focus on youth development in the country, it is good to see 10 members of the squad were born in the country.