It was a historic Sunday for Bangladesh colts as they defeated the crowd favourite India in a thrilling U-19 World Cup final.
Captain Akbar Ali -- who played a match-winning knock of 43 not out in the final -- says it was hard work and self belief that helped Bangladesh clinch its maiden World Cup title.
It was quite a roller-coaster ride for the 18-year-old, who led the team to victory despite losing his sister in middle of the tournament.
Talking to Sportstar from Potchefstroom on Monday, an emotional Ali spoke about the atmosphere in the dressing room, his future plans and more.
Q. Do you think this could be a game-changing moment for Bangladesh cricket?
A. I think it will be a milestone moment for Bangladesh cricket. This victory will help us improve our game and take Bangladesh cricket forward. There is always a first time for everything and I believe this could be a beginning of our success. As far as U-19 cricket is concerned, we have showed the way and I hope, the performances only get better from here.
Have you received any calls from home? What are the fans saying about this historic feat?
The fans have really supported us throughout and we have been flooded with calls and texts, congratulating the team.
Ahead of the final, did you guys actually believe that it would be easy to beat India?
(Laughs) You call that easy? It wasn’t easy at all, trust me.
But throughout the game, your team maintained the dominance. Did you even expect that to happen against a rather strong Indian team?
That’s true. We did have the dominance over the opponents. We always had the self belief. We have been playing some really good cricket for the last one year, so that gave us the confidence. We had a fair idea about the Indian team as we played the Asia Cup final against them a few months ago. It’s a different story that we lost that game, but we knew that we are capable. We could maintain the process and execute our plans well.
What are the things that you think worked for your team in the final?
Hard work and combined team effort did the trick for us. We got tremendous help from the team management and the support staff, which kept us going. We could share everything with them and they were always ready to help. The physio, trainer, computer analyst and obviously the coaches were always there to back to the hilt. Those things worked for us.
In finals, low-scoring targets are always tricky. So, when wickets fell, you and Parvez Hossain Emon stitched a long partnership, which eventually won you the game. How challenging was the task? What was running through your mind?
It was challenging. Our plan was to tackle (Ravi) Bishnoi and (Karthik) Tyagi carefully and then attack the other bowlers. Bishnoi and Tyagi were bowling very well, so we had to manage them carefully. Bishnoi bowled really well, but he did not get any wickets after the first three-four overs. So, this shows that our plan worked.
It’s always a challenging task to graduate to the next level. After this win, what are your thoughts for the future? How confident are you of breaking into the senior team?
We should not be thinking of making it to the senior team yet. The primary target should be to break into the High Performance Academy and then prove our mettle.
I plan to take a few days rest and then focus on the Premier League.
After the final, some of the players from both the teams got into a confrontation. Being the captain of Bangladesh, how do you see the whole incident? Do you think this will be a learning experience for your team to keep calm in such intense games?
Both teams were playing to win, so in the heat of the moment, both of us have committed some mistakes. There is a lot to learn for us, in terms of how to control our emotions during such a game. I hope to learn from our mistakes and ensure such things don’t happen in the future.
These days, every young cricketer aspires to play Indian Premier League. Do you dream of making into the IPL sometime soon?
Yes, every cricketer wants to be part of the IPL, and I am no exception. But trust me, it’s not easy. I still have a long way to go.
You appeared to be quite calm and composed on the field. Who do you consider as your idol?
I don’t have any idols, but I like AB de Villiers’ style of play. I enjoy his explosive batting style. That’s why he is my favourite.
You lost your elder sister in the middle of the tournament. How did you manage to keep yourself motivated and guide Bangladesh to its maiden victory in such a situation?
(Pauses) Let’s not talk about it, please. Eta baad dyan dada (let’s skip this one, brother).
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