Inspired by Rustom Deboo’s throwback to the 2000 Asia Cup, I wanted to look back on a more recent edition of the tournament.
It’s close to a quarter to seven on a Sunday evening. The heavy downpour of rain across Sydney has made my day very boring, bar the Bushfire Bash.
After donning the magenta at the SCG the night before, I wore my Bangladesh jersey feeling a combination of excitement and nervousness as they faced India in the ICC Under-19 World Cup final.
Captain Akbar Ali won the toss and sent India in. Usually, in a final, teams like to put runs on the board but Bangladesh wanted to exploit the moisture in the first hour of play, thus logically making the right decision.
India’s innings – overs 1-10
After putting my iPad on Kayo Sports 15 minutes before play and belting out the Bangladesh anthem with pride, it was time for the junior Tigers to take the field and restrict India to a below-par total. I felt like anything below 220 was in our favour and anything above 260 in a final was impossible.
The first few overs were top-quality bowling and fielding. Seamers Shoriful Islam and Tanzid Hasan Sakib applied heavy pressure on the Indian openers. Their body language was top notch as well, giving the openers a few glares and some possible words of wisdom when the ball kept on beating the bat.
That showed to the Indians we weren’t here to play, we came here to win. The seamers’ hard work paid off when first change Avishek Das had Divyansh Saxena to backward point for two. India managed to hit only two boundaries in the power play, ending with 1-23 after ten overs. This was a testament to the quality seam bowling by the Bangladesh seam trio.
India’s innings – overs 11-20
India’s star batsman Yashavsi Jaiswal started to change gears to exert some pressure back on Bangladesh. But Akbar Ali didn’t feel flustered at all. Bar an 11-run over in this period, India scored at only a shade over three an over. They were 1-63 after 20. Despite having nine wickets in the hut, I just felt that Bangladesh were just one wicket away from triggering a collapse. Jaiswal was the key wicket and the longer he batted, the higher the chances India would score 220-plus.
India’s innings – overs 21-30
Bangladesh continued the chokehold on Jaiswal and Tilak Verma. The duo ground out the runs, but they were hard to come by. Jaiswal reached his half-century off 89 balls and it seemed like a matter of time before he would cut loose. He smashed Sakib way over midwicket in the 29th over to show that the aggressive intent was there from the Indians. Sakib fought back in the over as Tilak Verma slapped a short one straight to the hands of deep backward point for 38. Captain Priyam Garg joined Jaiswal at the crease and India finished the 30th over at 2-107.
India’s innings – overs 31-40
Left-arm orthodox Rakibul Hasan began the fourth ten-over period brilliantly for the Bangladeshis when he got one to grip as Garg chipped one to cover for seven. Keeper Dhruv Jurel came in and started pretty solidly to get a partnership going. Jaiswal started accelerating and took on Rakibul in consecutive overs, hitting boundaries square and through cover.
Shoriful came back late in this ten-over period and struck just before things got out of hand. Bowling a hard length, Jaiswal looked to pull one that wasn’t short enough and went straight to short midwicket and boy did Shoriful make sure he wouldn’t forget about it. The big fish was gone for a well-made 88 and Siddhesh Veer would fall straight after for a golden duck. Bangladesh were suddenly all over the Indians as they were 5-156 with 60 balls remaining in their innings.
India innings – overs 41-50
The quality fielding effort would finally lead to a run out in the 43rd over when Jurel and Atharva Ankolekar ran towards the same end, with Jurel run out for 22. Ankolekar would be responsible for another run out as Shoriful ran out Ravi Bishnoi for two. But with Ankolekar still at the crease, I just felt India were in a shot of still getting 220. But those fears were gone soon as Das bowled Ankolekar and had Kartik Tyagi strangled down the leg side. The final pair would add only a mere five runs as India were bowled out for 177 in the 48th over.
Bangladesh had bowled splendidly and their fielding effort was as good as the fielding standards the Australian senior team set themselves to. India’s batting had crumbled as the reliance on Jaiswal had backfired today. The result? Losing their last seven wickets for 21 runs.
A total of 177 shouldn’t be enough. But this is Bangladesh, after all. They had failed to chase down 107 against the same opponents in the Youth Asia Cup last year. Bat sensibly and Akbar Ali’s men would be lifting the cup, especially if Kartik Tyagi and Ravi Bishnoi could be nullified.
Bangladesh innings – overs 1-10
India scored nine runs in their first six overs. Within six legal deliveries, Bangladesh raced off to 13 for no loss. Tanzid Hasan Tamim and Parvez Hossain Emon looked comfortable against Tyagi and Sushant Mishra, respecting the good balls and punishing the half volleys or anything with width. Garg threw the ball to Ravi Bishnoi but Tamim smashed him over midwicket for a massive six as Bangladesh reached 0-50 in the ninth over. Tamim had a rush of blood and tried to take on Bishnoi over the leg side despite long-on and midwicket stationed on the boundary, and India had their first breakthrough. Bangladesh ended the power play at 1-55 and despite the tiny blip by Tamim, the Under-19 World Cup was heading towards Dhaka.
Bangladesh innings – overs 11-20
Bangladesh were steadily heading towards victory. But Bishnoi had other plans. Bowling a deadly googly, Mahmudul Hasan played on and Bangladesh was 2-62. To make things worse for us, Emon went off the field with a hamstring issue. Suddenly we had two new batsmen in and a leg-spinner who was turning it both ways. The memories of last year’s Youth Asia Cup Final were starting to play on my mind and the excitement of winning our maiden Under-19 World Cup was far away from my mind. Bishnoi struck in the 15th and 17th overs.
Bangladesh were 4-65 with a longish tail and unsure whether Emon would come back to bat. Atharva Ankolekar’s first over was poor and released some pressure as Akbar Ali tonked him over midwicket for six and Bangladesh reached 4-85 with 180 balls left.
Bangladesh innings – overs 21-30
Sushant Mishra struck in the 21st over and now it was up to the bowlers to support their skipper in their quest for the cup. Ali counter-attacked with a lovely drive and cut shot the following over. Avishek Das was dropped twice in the 23rd over but wasn’t so lucky the third time, pulling it straight to the hands of deep square leg.
Bangladesh were 6-102 and I was oh so close to turning off the game, but I saw Emon pad up and walk in and I felt we still had a slight chance. The pair batted beautifully and despite Emon struggling to walk let alone run, they added 34 in the next seven overs. Bangladesh were 42 runs away from victory and I just couldn’t handle the pressure and excitement.
Bangladesh innings – overs 31-40
Garg took a gamble and gave Jaiswal’s part-time leggies a crack. It worked. Emon’s staunch innings of 47 came to an end and India’s chances rose again. Bangladesh needed 35 off 108 with three wickets in hand. Akbar Ali calmly communicated with his partner as the pair didn’t score a run for three overs straight. But slowly they started pinching runs.
In the 38th over, seamer Akash Singh bowled a wide yorker that landed on a footmark and jumped away for four byes. I was thinking “this is destiny, isn’t it?” But I didn’t celebrate yet. Rakibul Hasan and Akbar Ali calmly got the side to 7-162. Sixteen runs. Sixty balls. Three wickets. We were set up for a thriller.
Bangladesh innings – overs 41-50
The pair batted for another over, adding a solitary run before the heavens opened up and play was suspended. Bangladesh were ahead by 18 on the DLS system but the rain eased off and we had a revised target. Bangladesh would need seven off 30. When Rakibul Hasan cut Sushant Mishra through point for four, I was struggling to contain my excitement as only two runs were needed. Rakibul would end up hitting the winning runs in the following over and Bangladesh won their maiden ICC Under-19 World Cup.
I couldn’t control my emotions anymore. When Rakibul hit the winning runs, it was past 3am and I bellowed a massive roar. Luckily my neighbours didn’t wake up. But this Bangladesh Under-19 side deserved it massively. It was a thriller of a game where the quality of cricket was as good as a senior World Cup final. Both sides were on top at stages but Bangladesh held their nerve when it mattered.
The greatest trait I saw was how calm Akbar Ali was even when the chips were down. He knew Bangladesh had time on their side and he ensured they took advantage of that. His calmness reminded me of MS Dhoni in the early 2010s.
Commiserations to India, who put up a brave fight with a total well below par. They have more individual stars than this Bangladesh side, who will dominate India’s domestic scene for years to come. For Bangladesh, well this is the reward of the board investing for once. Their real test is now doing well consistently in domestic cricket before what I can hope are prolonged careers in international cricket.
This Bangladesh Under-19 side was something special. The players are tight-knit and form a very close bond – they have created a family environment. While former Sri Lankan player and current head coach Naveed Nawaz has done a great job with this squad, this article needs a special shout out to the strength and conditioning coach Richard Stonier. He has formed close relationships with every member of this squad and I heard him say “Shesh Kore Asho!” (Finish it boys!) and other Bangla phrases to egg on Akbar Ali and Rakibul Hasan.
It’s been a day since we clinched our maiden Under-19 World Cup but it still hasn’t sunk in for me let alone the players. When they land back in Dhaka, they will receive a reception the senior men’s couldn’t even think of in their lifetime.
Seeing videos of strangers feeding drivers or anyone on the road sweets to celebrate the victory shows how much it means to Bangladesh cricket and to the nation itself. I just hope that this leads to something big for Bangladesh senior team in the foreseeable future and that more progress occurs like this in Bangladesh cricket. This wasn’t the greatest Bangladesh Under-19 side in terms of talent, but they all worked hard for each other and showed that hard work always triumphs talent.