At 102/6, Bangladesh looked down and out. They were the minnows, playing their first-ever U-19 World Cup final. Up against them was India’s might, the four-time world championships at this level. Ravi Bishnoi was spinning a web and India had smelt blood despite defending a paltry 177.
Bangladesh usually crack under pressure; at least their senior team. 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, Bangladesh had snatched defeats from the jaws of victory. At Potchefstroom yesterday, the colts proved to be a different kettle of fish.
Befittingly, exhilaratingly, their captain Akbar Ali stayed till the end to secure arguably the most memorable win in Bangladesh’s cricket history yet. It was a world title, their first-ever at any level. Ali had boasted about his team’s chances of winning the U-19 World Cup. He walked the talk. “This is the stepping stone for our future cricket,” Ali rightly pointed out post-match.
Bangladesh revel in cricket fanaticism. But until yesterday, they had been success-starved. Of course they had memorable wins at different levels, but their trophy cabinet was empty. This should trigger an upsurge. The character the young boys showed under pressure should rub off on their senior team as well. Every time, at any level, when Bangladesh will be under pressure in the future, they will have the U-19 World Cup final to fall back on.
Meticulous planning played a huge part in Bangladesh’s triumph. This group assembled in 2018 and over the next two years they played 30 youth ODIs. They beat England, won series against Sri Lanka and New Zealand and went to the U-19 World Cup with 18 wins from 30 matches.
Bangladesh cricket has had been on a slippery slope of late; their senior team. They flattered to deceive in the World Cup last year, lost limited-overs series in Sri Lanka, went down in a home Test against Afghanistan and had been hammered by India. To make matters worse, their best cricketer, Shakib Al Hasan, was banned for two years, with one year of that sentence suspended, for alleged corrupt offences.
Bangladesh cricket needed a spark to rekindle the positive vibes. The kids stood up to be counted. Their success also attested the fact that Bangladesh cricket is heading in the right direction.
In any sport, youth development is the foundation on which the ‘Manhattan’ is built. Indian cricket churns out world-class talent at a steady pace because of the structure in place. Bangladesh can’t have a vast talent pool like India, but at the Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Protishtan (BKSP), they have a nursery, good enough to take care of their future cricket. This U-19 side threw up some serious talent like Ali, Mahmudul Hasan Joy and Shoriful Islam; who should go on and make the grade. And when they will graduate to the senior team, they will bring on a winning mentality. Winning a world title ushers in belief, which the Bangladesh cricket had been lacking.
Also, this victory should help Bangladesh should calm their nerves. Bangladesh takes its cricket very seriously, and this has resulted in them investing a lot in high-profile World Cup games. From objectionable social media posts to an attritional environment in the stands and the ‘nagin’ dance on the field – cricket-wise, Bangladesh haven’t always backed words with action. Hopefully, the world title will see them walk the talk.
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