India were tipped to have a walk in the park affair in the ICC Under-19 World Cup final but Bangladesh saved their best performance for the big day. Ecstacy erupted at Potchefstroom as Rakibul Hasan hit the winning stroke and sent a sizeable Bangladesh contingent of fans into a frenzy.
Bangladesh held their nerve in the mouthwatering contest and outclassed tournament favourites. The World Cup winners bowled India out on a paltry 177 and then chased the untaxing target in 42.1 overs, courtesy of a patient knock from captain Akbar Ali who remained unbeaten on 43 and guided his team to the doorstep of victory.
Akbar showed his tactical acumen marvellously and marshalled his troops with admirable maturity in the nerve-racking clash.
The wicket-keeper batsman was complemented superbly by Parvez Hossain Emon, who despite a hamstring injury, battled hard and amassed crucial 47 runs in the low scoring thriller.
Thousands of people in Dhaka took to the streets and celebrated remarkable victory by a fabulous team that showed tremendous valour on the big stage and gave a resounding proof of their immense talent.
The euphoria is unabating and the victory has not only inspired the young cricketers but even the senior team captain Mominul Haque was buoyed by the morale-boosting win.
India had an upper hand in the head-to-head record and therefore the win on Sunday was a major upset that shocked India, who boast a strong domestic circuit as the BCCI has emphasised a lot on Under-19 setup over the years.
The professionalism in Bangladesh U19 level can be ascertained from the fact that they started preparations for the World Cup two years ago and the coaching staff worked meticulously with them which has clearly paid rich dividends.
Mental and strength conditioning coach, Richard Stonier, was very emotional after the victory and the involvement of support staff highlighted how a well-gelled committed unit can do wonders for a team.
"And this is just the beginning. We need to keep the momentum and the hungriness when we go to the senior side," skipper Akbar Ali was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is a fervent cricket fan, announced nationwide celebrations in a cabinet meeting yesterday and a warm reception is planned for the young superstars.
Many modern-day greats showed the first glimpse of their talent at Under-19 World Cups and then progressed to the national level.
Kane Williamson, Virat Kohli and Babar Azam are few examples of leading performers in the international circuit who top the rankings and they all leapfrogged their careers after strutting their stuff first at Under 19 level.
Akbar was full of gratitude for zealous Bangladesh fans who supported the side in the highs and lows. He dedicated the historic victory to the loyal Tigers supporters.
"We are very happy to deliver that. Bangladesh cricket supporters always back us. When the team is down, we get as much support from the public, so when we have won, all the more they deserve this."
Akbar envisages a bright future for the young cricketers and wants his confidantes to build on World Cup success and aim to represent Bangladesh at the top level.
"And this is just the beginning. We need to keep the momentum and the hungriness when we go to the senior side."