‘The honeymoon period is over’ | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 12, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 06:19 PM, February 12, 2020

‘The honeymoon period is over’

How many of us can remember the names of Ashikur Rahman Badhon or Mahmudul Hasan Limon? The nation is now celebrating and praising the Bangladesh Under-19 team and, of course, the captain Akbar Ali after the young Tigers created history by winning the ICC Under-19 World Cup in South Africa on Sunday.

Interestingly, Ashikur and Mahmudul led Bangladesh in the ICC Under-19 World Cup in 2004 and 2010 respectively, which begs the question: where are they now?

The likes of Aftab Ahmed, Nafis Iqbal and Mahmudullah Riyad went on to represent the national team after having played under Ashikur in the 2004 U-19 World Cup, when hosts Bangladesh ended as the plate group champions. But Ashikur -- who was rated as the future captain of the Bangladesh national team given the leadership qualities he showed from a tender age when he started playing cricket in BKSP -- opted to stay out of cricket and maintains a low profile, not even wanting to talk about cricket.

When this reporter called him yesterday to get his views on his successors' triumph, a now middle-aged Ashikur who works in an IT firm replied: "I can't talk about this at the moment because no one in my office even knows that I was captain of the Bangladesh U-19 team once upon a time. And I don't want them to know about it."

Those words from Ashikur may be a reflection of agony and pain, but most important is that a once-promising cricketer of the country wants to hide his past and does not even want to remember his achievements. But why?

Everything looked all set for Ashikur during the age-level days, but things changed dramatically afterwards, as is the case for many other age-level cricketers who were once considered sure shots to represent the senior team before eventually being lost in transition over the years.

While Ashikur was reluctant to speak, Mahmudul -- who captained the U-19 team in the 2010 U-19 World Cup in Australia -- seemed interested to reveal the challenges that are waiting for the high-flying U-19 cricketers in the current lot.

The likes of Soumya Sarkar, Anamul Haque, Mominul Haque and Sabbir Rahman once played under Mahmudul, who is currently playing domestic cricket and still fighting for his dream of playing for the national team.

According to Mahmudul, the real test for the members of the World Cup-winning team, including skipper Akbar Ali, will start after they cross the U-19 level, where they are going to experience some tough situations.

"One or two seasons after coming from the U-19 level, things start to become difficult for many cricketers. However, most of them will initially get all the support and will be included in the High Performance squad or even in the A team. But I have seen many players who eventually went on to quit the game. Can you remember Arman Badshah, the fast bowler who played in the 2010 U-19 World Cup? He quit playing after a couple of years later as he got injured and was unable to recover after that. There was another left-arm spinner, Shaker Ahmed, who was one of my main weapons in the World Cup. He now lives in the United States," said Mahmudul.

"Obviously, some of the players of the current lot will succeed but some of them will become overshadowed if they cannot perform for a year or two."

These players become individuals when they advance past age-level cricket, where they are pampered by the BCB. They then have to handle the pressure of staying fit for the domestic circuit. In some cases, negligence from the BCB also sidetracks them while others go astray due to indiscplined lifestyles.

Huge expectations are also often placed on them from families once they play for the U-19 side because the families believe it is a certainty their son will represent the senior team and become financially solvent in no time.

That puts a huge amount of pressure on youngsters who were merely enjoying the game during age-level period. They have to think about their careers and security, which often acts as a distraction.

"I think the real test starts once they step out of the U-19 level and become individuals outside the process. Not everyone gets the same facilities they got in age-level days. You have to mature quickly, which most of them are not able to realise at the time. I think the honeymoon period is over once you step out of the U-19 level. I think I was unable to fulfil the expectations placed on me but I am still trying to achieve the goal," he added.

Obviously, there are success stories like Mushfiqur Rahim, Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan and Mehedi Hasan Miraz, who went on to meet and surpass expectations, but Akbar and Co. should heed those who could not make it and learn from past mistakes.

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