Young Tigers' date with destiny
Bangladesh's youngsters are just one win away from reaching the final of the ICC Under-19 World Cup. To their fans, this very statement tends to bring the jitters.
Make no mistake; anything less would leave many disappointed. This is a final that analysts expected the junior Tigers to reach even before the start of the event. Considering the number of matches they have played and the sheer amount of first-class experience that they have, this particular group of cricketers have seemed much sharper than most of their peers for a while now.
However, the jitters tend to arrive when they realise that a win here would effectively give their side the recognition of being the second best cricket team in the world at this level.
It may be just the Under-19 World Cup and there may be a long way to go before any of these cricketers represent the national team. However, for a country that has witnessed its national team suffer losses for the longest of periods, a win today would mark a small step in a long-cherished dream: to be one of the top cricketing nations in the world.
But before all that can happen, Mehedi Hasan Miraz and Co will have to battle a resilient West Indian line-up at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur today. This may be the same West Indies team that the junior Tigers beat convincingly prior to the start of the Under-19 World Cup, but a lot has changed since then.
The boys from the Caribbean have seemingly found their vigour throughout the course of the competition. They dominated a spin-heavy Pakistan in the quarterfinal and stunned them with their ferocious pacers. They have with them one of the finest pacers of the tournament, Alzarri Joseph. With the Mirpur wicket expected to do quite a bit with the new ball, Joseph's pace will be key in the semifinal.
Along with his pace bowling partner Chemar Keron Holder, the duo can be quite troublesome, as witnessed during the Pakistan game.
Having played three games against them, Bangladesh will be aware of West Indies' strengths. They had a few nervous moments against Nepal in their last game, but were able to climb out of the hole that they had created and that's an experience that may help them in today's game as well.
While the West Indies will depend on pace, the hosts will look to strangle the visitors with their spin options.
There have been several players who have raised their hands in the time of need for the hosts. Nazmul Hossain Shanto has been their most consistent batsman, Mehedi has dealt with pressure well both with the bat and ball and then there's the wicketkeeper-batsman Zakir Hasan who loves to stay on the wicket and cuts the ball like his idol, Mominul Haque.
Bangladesh have beaten the West Indies 12 times at this level, while the West Indians have won five. However, when the two teams take the field today, all those statistics will be forgotten, because all that matters is the team that best handles the pressure in the most popular cricket stadium in the country.