Bangladesh's long wait for a maiden global title ended when Rakibul Hasan flicked Atharva Ankolekar over midwicket to seal their victory at the 2020 U-19 World Cup on February 9, ending a 20-plus-year-long search for a crown. But according to their captain Akbar Ali the victory has just set the ball rolling for the future greatness that will come Bangladesh cricket's way. He felt that the win now sets these champion teenagers to be more successful when they eventually transition into the senior team.
Akbar dedicated the World Cup win to the people in Bangladesh because of their continuous support, irrespective of what results the team has brought in the past.
"This is the stepping stone for our future cricket," he said. "And this is just the beginning. We need to keep the momentum and the hunger when we go to the senior side."
"The way the Bangladeshi people supported our cricket team, they deserve a world title," he said. "We are very happy to deliver that. Bangladesh cricket supporters always back us. When the team is down, we get as much support from the public, so when we have won, all the more they deserve this."
It's not very often that Indian fans get outnumbered in any cricket game, but at the final in Potchefstroom, there were many more Bangladesh fans than those from across the border. Akbar said they were the team's 12th man in their victory. He also said that India-Bangladesh rivalries bring out the best from the team.
"Yes, we expected a good crowd, but expected an even crowd," Akbar said. "We were surprised by seeing more Bangladeshi people, so big thanks goes to them.
"India-Bangladesh rivalry brings out the best in us. Before the World Cup final, we had lost the Asia Cup final to them, so the boys wanted to take revenge."
Overwhelmed by the emotion of the win, Akbar said the fact that they are world champions had not yet sunk in. But one thing he confirmed was that this was always the goal. Anything lesser at the 2020 U-19 World Cup, and they would have left dissatisfied.
"When we started our journey, 1-and-half years back, we had a dream," Akbar says before correcting himself. "Not a dream, but a goal. We knew we had it within ourselves when the group was formed. So to reach the final and lift the trophy, it's a dream come true for us. Can't describe my feelings."
After their win, the Bangladesh players attended a prayer service before resuming their celebrations in the dressing room. In Dhaka, Sylhet and Chittagong, fireworks have already lit up the skies. And as the evening continues, the festivities at Potchefstroom within the Bangladesh camp will also go long into the night.
Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president Nazmul Hasan said the board has a long-term plan for the Under-19 players who have recently won the ICC U-19 World Cup beating India in South Africa.
Only a handful of U-19 cricketers from the past teams have made it to the national team while most of them failed to bring their age-level performance to the international stage and fell by the wayside.
But this time around, BCB does not want that to happen as Nazmul said they have a long-term plan for nursing the young cricketers and preparing them to serve the country in future.
“It’s a big problem that most of the players who played in the U-19 teams in the past few years failed to continue showing their prowess in international cricket and dropped out. We have discussed it for a long time. We know that despite playing a good brand of cricket, they will not get a chance in the national team now.”
“Then what will they do? If we engage them in the high-performance unit, that will not ensure a place for them in the national team. So we will come up with a new idea once they will back home on Wednesday,” Nazmul told the media on Monday at Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium.
Nazmul said the success in the ICC U-19 World Cup is the result of getting prepared for the event for the last two years. According to him, the board knew that these guys always had the ability to lift the trophy.
“We knew the problem of our age-level team. So we started preparing this team two years ago. We arranged many matches for them before the World Cup.”
“They did well in every series they have played in England, Sri Lanka and New Zealand. None of the members of this team thinks about personal glory. Instead, they are very focused on team effort. And its result is what they have accomplished in the final,” Nazmul added.
In a low-scoring final, Bangladesh first choked India to a meagre 177 in 47.2 overs and then did well enough to score revised target of 170 in 42.1 overs under Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) method. Once play resumed after a rain break , their target was revised to 170 and with seven runs to get and three wickets in hand, it became a cakewalk for the Cubs.
India's cricketing battles with Bangladesh have been filled with acrimony since 2015 World Cup quarter-final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and it had only amplified with the kind of boorish behaviour that some of the Bangladeshi players displayed.
On February 9 too, a few players from both sides nearly came to blows at the end of the game and it was India coach Paras Mhambrey, who was seen urging his boys to keep calm as opposition leading pacer Shoriful Islam was seen swearing expletives on camera.
Even then, Bangladesh's 18-year-old captain Akbar Ali, showed nerves of steel with a patient 43 not out off 77 balls, which negated more fancied opponent Yashasvi Jaiswal's 88 off 121 balls.
Akbar's cool quotient was there for everyone to see as he marshalled his resources brilliantly and then batted responsibly, seeing out India's threats from leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi and fast bowler Kartik Tyagi's spells before reaching the finishing line with ease.
There were two things that cost India dearly. While batting, India lost their last seven wickets for 23 runs. And then while defending, the number of extras (33) bowled did matter in the final context of the game.
Bangladesh's chase started in earnest with Parvez Hossain Emon (47 off 79 balls) and Tanzid Hasan (17) adding 50 in quick time, primarily due to former's impressive off-side play.
However, things changed once leg-spinner Bishnoi (4/30 in 10 overs) came into the attack and started bowling his googlies.
Earlier, India's batting wilted under pressure as a superb Bangladesh bowling attack shot the defending champions out for a paltry 177 in 47.2 overs.
Jaiswal (88 off 121 balls) was once again a standout performer but not for once did he look like dominating the Bangladesh bowling unit whose new ball bowlers Shoriful Islam (2/31 in 10 overs) and Tanzim Hasan Shakib (2/28 in 8.2 overs) literally stifled the Indians for runs.
The third seamer Avishek Das (3/40 in 9 overs) was the most successful bowler in terms of figures but it was Shoriful's first spell with channelised aggression that put the Indians on the back-foot from the onset.
Only 23 came off the first 10 overs and India never recovered from the slow start despite a sedate 93-run stand between Jaiswal and NT Tilak Verma (38 off 65 balls) in 23.2 overs.
Shoriful and Shakib were not afraid of sledging the Indian batsmen as they bowled full and got the ball to swing away from the left-handers. The fielding was also agile and top-notched, making it difficult throughout the Indian innings.
Once Jaiswal was out, the distinct lack of match-time for other Indian batsmen was evident as seven wickets fell for only 23 runs.
With inputs from Cricinfo, UNB.