Bangladesh crowned World Champions: A tale of dreams, hard work and perseverance
The rain stopped play when Bangladesh Under-19 team was 15 runs away from a World Cup title. The anticipation was too much to bear for fans of both teams, India and Bangladesh. The low scoring match turned out to be thriller not because of last minute finishes but because of the cricket that was played for almost 90 overs.
A final to remember
The pacers of Bangladesh justified Captain Akbar Ali’s decision to send India to bat first by restricting India to only 8 runs in the first 6 overs. India’s first wicket fell at 9 runs. India rebuilt its innings and were scoring runs according to its liking when bowlers of Bangladesh attacked them ferociously which resulted in India losing their last 7 wickets within 21 runs. Intense bowling by the likes of Shoriful Islam, Tanzim Hasan Sakib and Avishek Das left India rattled.
Bangladesh had to reach a target of 178 runs in 50 overs. The opening batsmen started off decently. Soon after a 50 run opening partnership, the first wicket fell. Runs were being made but wickets were falling at regular intervals too. Indian spinner Ravi Bishnoi bowled a wonderful spell sending 4 of the batsman back to the dressing room. Verbal altercations between Bishnoi and the batsman ensued too. Opening batsman Parvez Hossain Emon who had retired to the dressing room hurt returned to the crease to bat. That is when Bangladesh saw the momentum shift in its favor. As long as Emon and Akbar Ali were on the pitch, fans were feeling very hopeful. Emon got out when Bangladesh was 35 runs away from victory. Rakibul came to bat with the skipper. After 21 dot balls, a run was added to Bangladesh’s run count. The run which was an extra from a wide ball dropped the runs required to 34. Bangladesh seems to be on the back foot even with 3 wickets remaining and ‘only’ some 30 runs to score.
Captain Cool and the Championship
Amidst all these, Captain Akbar Ali managed to keep his calm. With ice cold nerves, he carried Bangladesh to victory. After the rain break, the target was revised. Bangladesh had to score 7 runs in 5 overs. Bangladesh fans could feel the Cup getting more and more within their reach. Akbar Ali and Rakibul scored the 7 runs in the next 7 balls. Bangladesh was crowned as the champion of Under-19 Cricket World Cup. The players and the coaching staff led a wild celebration among themselves and with the spectators present in the stadium too.
“It’s a dream come true. It’s all about the hard work we have done over the last two years. The coaching staff…I just cannot thank them enough for how much support they have given us on and off the field.” — said Akbar Ali in the post-match presentation. He also expressed his gratitude towards the Bangladesh fans in the stadium. “Those who have supported us here have been our 12th man here. We really appreciate it.”- Akbar Ali added.
How to prepare for a World Cup
The Bangladesh Under-19 team has been preparing for the World Cup in South Africa for nearly 2 years. To make sure the players get used to overseas conditions and are comfortable enough to play in such conditions, the team travelled to England and New Zealand for one off series in 2019. These boys have practiced and played in specially made pitches like those in South African grounds at their training camp in Bogura. The pitches in South African grounds are usually bouncier than the ones in England and New Zealand. While the other Under-19 teams were busy playing matches before the World Cup, Bangladesh did no such thing. Instead the players were allowed to rest before the World Cup in an attempt to keep them fresh and in good shape and also to make sure that Bangladesh’s match strategies stay well hidden from other teams before the big tournament.
How the Bangladesh Under-19 team played the whole World Cup speaks volumes of their maturity on and off the field. The skipper was confident his team would make the final from the beginning of the tournament. The players did not let the intensity or pressure of the match get to them. Strength and conditioning coach Richard Stonier has been training the players for one and a half years. Stonier monitored the players throughout the year. What makes Bangladesh’s fielding exceptional is the rugby style fitness training the players undergo in the practice sessions.
The Under-19 team has been together for a long time and this has developed a family spirit between the players. The selectors stayed away from too much experimenting with the squad. The young players were given chances despite occasional poor performances as proof of the team management’s confidence in their capabilities. The players did not let the confidence and trust placed on them go in vain. They beat the defending champions India to clinch a championship title for Bangladesh.