THE national cricket team will aim to capitalise on home-ground advantage to win the ACC Under-16 Elite on May 4-13 despite being placed in the same group as favourites Nepal.
A 14-strong squad have been named to carry the country's challenge and improve on the third placing of two years ago in Nepal, where Singapore stunned the hosts to emerge champions.
Team manager Balakrishnan Nair said as hosts, the team are targeting nothing less than winning the title.
"The squad have been finalised and will enter centralised training from Sunday until the start of the tournament and naturally we want to win the championship.
"But it is difficult to gauge the standard of the opposition, we don't really know them. Some have naturalised players but there is a ruling that there must be a minimum number of locals.
"It makes it difficult to predict the strength of the sides. But we should finish in the top two and once in the semi-finals we'll take it from there," said Balakrishnan.
Malaysia face Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran and Nepal in Group B with a strong chance of finishing among the top-two for a semi-final showdown with either Singapore or Hong Kong.
The squad, coached by Bilal Asad, include five players from the Kuala Lumpur team who have won the national Under-16 championship three years running: national team captain D. Thejas Rajah, Nalin De Silva, Dhilip Thiyagu and brothers Pavandeep and Virandeep Singh.
Virandeep is the youngest in the squad at 13 and is in the running to take on double duties as opening batsman and wicketkeeper.
Others expected to be included in the starting line-up are Selangor's Shankar Sathish Chandran, Penang's Shankar Goonasegaran and Perak's Sharvin Muniandy.
The original cast of 10 teams was reduced by one following Saudi Arabia's withdrawal.
Group A matches will take place at the Penang Sports Club in Georgetown while Group B games will be spread around the Klang Valley at Kinrara Oval, Bayuemas Oval and Selangor Turf Club.
SQUAD: D. Thejas Rajah (captain), Shankar Sathish Chandran (vice-captain), Virandeep Singh, Pavandeep Singh, Dhilip Thiyagu, Shankar Goonasegaran, Vinay Singh, Nalin De Silva, Ainool Hafizs Yatim, Amin Amanda Nazrul Shah Abdul Karia, Sharvin Muniandy, Syahir Ramli, Shaqir Idzeraf Mat Tajudin, Jeevantra Kuhilan Kumarasamy.
TEAMS -- Group A: Singapore, Hong Kong, Oman, Thailand; Group B: Nepal, Malaysia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran.