The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) probably took a cue from the senior team’s home-stretch meltdowns to groom the colts, who would go on to win the U-19 World Cup. At 102/6 in the final against India, a typical Bangladesh side would have cracked under pressure. Akbar Ali and company proved to be a different kettle of fish.
“Yes, we put a lot of emphasis on the psychological aspects of the game. We wanted to make the boys tough nuts to crack. Not that we employed sports psychologists, but I had sessions with the boys on mental toughness. The coaching staff regularly spoke to them on this aspect and it helped. We wanted to make the boys self-confident,” BCB’s manager (game development and high performance) Abu Emam Kawsar, who was also the Bangladesh team manager at the U-19 World Cup, told The Indian Express.
He gave a low-down on the dressing-room atmosphere after the team had suffered a middle-order collapse in the final. “The dressing room was tense when we lost six wickets. But our message to the boys was simple, we needed one decent partnership. We told them that on this pitch, it became easier once a batsman was set. We never thought about losing the match.”
Bangladesh usually wilt under pressure; their senior team at least. The 2016 World T20 game against India in Bangalore was a case in point, so was the Nidahas Trophy final in Colombo two years later. On both occasions, the Tigers had snatched defeats from the jaws of victory. The ‘cubs’ refreshingly scripted a different story. The success didn’t come overnight. The seeds had been sown about three seasons ago, when Bangladesh revamped their youth cricket structure. “A structure was in place for the past seven-eight years, but about three seasons ago, we revamped the selection process, training process and also the education process for the coaching staff. We gave greater importance to international exposure and also developing human resource,” Kawsar informed.
Organised cricket in Bangladesh starts at school level, where schools from all 64 districts participate. Talented boys then move to the district level in three age-group categories – U-14, U-16 and U-18. “We organise district trials, open trials, and after that we do age verification through dental examinations and if required, bone tests. Selected boys are placed in three different age groups accordingly. The next step is divisional cricket, with 10 divisions playing and the better performers coming into the national team reckoning in age-group cricket. We pick U-14 boys for the U-15 national team, U-16 boys for the U-17 national team and U-18 boys for the U-19 national team,” Kawsar said.
The U-19 squad was assembled about 18 months ago and went through a thorough grooming process for the World Cup. The primary focus was on gelling the boys as a unit and giving them enough international exposure to ensure that they were big tournament-ready. Over the past 18-odd months, the Bangladesh U-19 side played 30 youth ODIs, winning 18 of them. “We reached the tri-series final in England where we lost to India. We won 4-1 against New Zealand. We beat Sri Lanka home and away. The team carried a winning mentality to the tournament. They were confident about going the distance. The team’s performance in the lead-up to the World Cup allowed us to raise the bar. We believed we could do it,” the team manager explained.
According to him, the title triumph is going to be significant for the future of Bangladesh cricket across all levels. “Winning a world title is something you take pride in. And that we withstood pressure and did it against India would give us immense belief. When these boys would graduate to the next level, they would carry the winning mentality. The success would bring pride to Bangladesh teams across all levels.”
Some players in the Bangladesh U-19 team looked good enough to qualify for the senior national side. The maturity that Ali showed in the final, Mahmudul Hasan Joy’s match-winning hundred in the semifinal against New Zealand U-19 and left-arm pacer Shoriful Islam’s bowling against a strong Indian batting line-up in the title showdown should augur well for the future of Bangladesh cricket. Kawsar, though, doesn’t want to fast-track them to the man’s world. In charge of high performance, he is in favour of a step-by-step approach.
“The boys must serve at least one year at the high performance centre. They must have adequate first-class experience before moving to the senior team. The difference between U-19 cricket and the senior level is big and the boys should prepare themselves properly for a bigger challenge. Fast-tracking them to the senior team might not yield the desired result.”
Match referee summons team officials
Kolkata: The ICC summoned representatives from both India U-19 and Bangladesh U-19 team management after the Senwes Park, Potchefstroom witnessed ugly scenes at the end of the U-19 World Cup final on Sunday. It is learnt that match referee Graeme Labrooy took the matter seriously and mentioned the whole incident in his report.
The post-match incident was basically a carry-over of the on-field friction between the two sides that saw players from both teams take their sledging and gesturing a little too far at times. After the match, players from the two teams were seen engaging in altercations and even some pushing. “What happened wasn’t good for the game. Both teams must share the blame. We warned our players and reminded them about the right behaviour that international cricket demands,” Bangladesh U-19 team manager Abu Emam Kawsar told The Indian Express.
Yesterday, at the post-match press conference, Bangladesh U-19 captain Akbar Ali regretted the incident. “What happened shouldn’t have happened,” he said. His Indian counterpart Priyam Garg, however, laid the blame on the Bangladesh players. “We were easy. We think it’s part and parcel of the game; you win some and you lose some. But their reaction was dirty. I think it shouldn’t have happened.”
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