‘New way’ of thinking can reduce gap post U19 level
Bangladesh U-19 cricketers brought glory to the country with a significant addition to the trophy cabinet, winning the country's first U-19 Asia Cup by beating the hosts UAE in the final in Dubai last Sunday.
A peek at the records would show that the results at this level for Bangladesh have been very inspiring in the recent past. However, the same quality of performance and achievement has not come through to the national team.
The Under-19 side's World Cup triumph in 2020 saw focus shift back to the age-level group and many players like Shoriful Islam, Tawhid Hridoy, and Mahmudul Hasan Joy have come through to the current national side from that unit. There have been others such as Akbar Ali, who is yet to make it into the national team.
There remains a gulf in quality between the age level and the international arena. While one demands the highest quality of cricket consistently, the other is for developmental purposes. Thus, winning such a tournament will not necessarily mean someone will do well in international cricket.
"When a player plays at the U19 level, the opponents are also from the same group. But after that, there is no age barrier as they even have to compete against 35-year-old players. When you pit yourself against those opponents, you need to have proper maturity to face them," said Hannan Sarkar, the Bangladesh Cricket Board's (BCB) U19 selector, addressing the surge in demand for quality in international cricket.
"The preparation [for getting ready for the national team] comes from the HP, Bangla Tigers or A team activities. Readying them properly would allow them to compete. Our departments are working well now but the process required, in that regard, maybe we have to think in a new way going forward. Or else the same thing will happen, since most players do come from the U19 level but the process has to be key to reduce that gap," he also added.
Despite the successes of a few like Hridoy or Shoriful, not many coming from the age level could carry on performing. Hridoy, in fact, played twice in the U19 World Cup, suggesting he still needed development playing at U19 level.
In terms of institutional processes, the U-19 program runs solidly with little interference while the absence of outside noise allows players a better atmosphere at U19 level. The same, however, is not true for the national team set-up.
Rabby, the Under-19 skipper, said the journey begins from now.
"I feel that after the [Under-19] World Cup [in January 2024], the important days will begin. If we neglect our work during those days then we will not be able to use that time and we will fall behind. In other countries, they have used good facilities and preparation to get into the national team. We will have to begin preparations from now on with the aim to do well in the national team," he told The Daily Star yesterday, showing understanding of the difficulty of the jump.
The U19 coaching setup and how they prepared has to be recognised as they played on sporting or bouncy tracks before the major tournament. The process needs to be continued.
National team selector Habibul Bashar feels that the individual player's responsibility is to prepare themselves. "I think the system is working better now. Previously, we saw that they were not making the DPL teams or elsewhere after the U19 level but now they get into the HP program which has improved a lot," he said.
Many of the U19 champions are now gearing up for the upcoming Bangladesh Cricket League one-dayers, slated to begin on December 24. The exposure to quality cricket, surfaces, and structure of cricket can go a long way to creating cricketers who can serve the national team in the long haul.