It was a historic Sunday for Bangladesh colts as they defeated the crowd favourite India in a thrilling U-19 World Cup final in Potchefstroom in South Africa. Captain Akbar Ali — who played a match-winning knock of 43 not out in the final — stresses that hard work and self-belief 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 braving the loss of his sister in the middle of the tournament. Talking to Sportstar, a strong but emotional Ali spoke about the atmosphere in the dressing room, his future plans and more.
Do you think this could be a game-changing moment for Bangladesh cricket?
I think it will be a milestone moment for Bangladesh cricket. This victory will help us improve our game and move forward. There is always a first time for everything and I believe this could be the beginning of our success. As far as U-19 cricket is concerned, we have showed the way and I hope the performances will 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 messages, 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 for most of the game, your team dominated. Did you even expect that to happen against a rather strong Indian team?
That’s true. We did have the dominance and 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 were capable. We could maintain the process and execute our plans well.
What worked for Bangladesh 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 us to the hilt. Those things worked for us.
In finals, low-scoring targets are always tricky. So, when wickets tumbled, you and Parvez Hossain Emon stitched a partnership, which eventually won you the game. How challenging was the task? What was running through your mind?
It was challenging. Our planning 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 his first three-four overs. So, this shows that our plan worked.
It’s always a challenging task to graduate to the next level. So, 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 wards to keep calm in such intense games?
Both the teams were playing to win, so in the heat of the moment, both of us 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 in the Indian Premier League. Do you dream of making it to the IPL sometime soon?
Yes, every cricketer wants to be a 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.