U-19s’ final shot at redemption
On the cusp of history, first-time finalists Bangladesh will attempt to dethrone defending champions India when the young Tigers face their neighbours in the final of the ICC Under-19 World Cup at the Senwes Park in Potchefstroom today.
Both teams enter the final unbeaten. While India -- who topped Group A -- won all five of their matches so far, Bangladesh survived a scare in their final group-stage game against Pakistan, when rain ensured a point that helped them top Group C.
For the Akbar Ali-led side -- who have already etched their names into the history books by becoming the first Bangladeshi team ever to earn a place in the final of an ICC event -- it may be a final opportunity for redemption against India.
This batch of the cricketers has never been able to win a tournament final against their Indian counterparts. After the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) formed the squad in September, 2018 with the aim of preparing the lot for the 2020 Under-19 World Cup, Bangladesh faced India in a tri-nation final in England in August 2019 that ended in a six-wicket defeat.
They faced the Priyam Garg-led side again in the 2019 Asia Cup final, losing by just five runs this time. Even in the 2018 Asia Cup semifinal, Bangladesh were just two runs shy of clinching a victory against India.
However, rain in Potchefstroom might play the role of spoilsport in the Tigers’ quest for redemption. There is a reserve day, February 10, but with rain forecast for both days, the two sides might have to settle for being joint-champions.
Neither side, especially the Bangladesh team that have been preparing for the big occasion for over a year, would want to share the spoils.
Bangladesh skipper Akbar also did not want to have their focus derailed by thinking of playing in a World Cup final.
“We might invite unwanted pressure if we think that we are playing a World Cup final or that we must win the World Cup. So, we are trying to play the normal cricket that we have been playing throughout the tournament and trying to play the final as just another normal game,” said Akbar yesterday.
While taking nothing away from the Indian side, Akbar said he had faith that his troops could get past the final hurdle.
“India are a fantastic side. They are very good in both the batting and bowling departments. They are unbeaten in the tournament, but we are too. If we can execute the plans we sketched for them, then hopefully the result will be on our side,” concluded Akbar.