At the end of the Under-19 World Cup 2020 final, India's Yashasvi Jaiswal (400 runs) and Ravi Bishnoi (17 wickets) finished as the most successful batsman and bowler of the competition respectively, but the title of world champions went to Bangladesh. That's because, on the big day, it was teamwork that made Bangladesh's dream work.
Like in the whole tournament, Jaiswal and Bishnoi were the best individual performers on the day, the opening batsman scoring 88 and the legspinner picking up a four-wicket haul to give India a sniff. But there were at least five performances from the Bangladesh players, none of which as sparkling as Jaiswal's or Bishnoi's, but added up to more on the day.
When Bangladesh captain Akbar Ali walked out to bat in their chase of 178, Bangladesh were 65 for 4 - all four wickets going to Bishnoi - and in the midst of an epic Indian comeback. Entering the match, Akbar had scored only 26 runs in three games and Bishnoi was turning the ball sharply both ways. Akbar had to not only get himself in, but navigate the game while protecting the lesser batsmen at the other end. He did so for 6.5 overs, guiding bowling allrounders Shamim Hossain and Avishek Das, but when both of them were sent back in quick succession, Bangladesh were tottering again at 102 for 6.
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But Akbar had one trump card in his ranks. Parvez Hossain Emon, the opener who had retired hurt on 25 due to cramps in the 13th over, had looked in control against the new ball. And he was going to come out if needed. When they met in the middle following Das' dismissal, they could see the clouds overhead turning greyer by the moment. They needed 76 more, and Akbar and Parvez had to score most of them. So they went for the counter-attack with Bishnoi out of the attack. Helped by wides and byes from the Indians, they eked out 41 runs in the next nine overs. As Bangladesh went ahead of the game again, they went from aggressive to defensive. And so, when Jaiswal, the part-timer, was introduced, Parvez looked to break the shackles, only to be caught at cover to depart for 47. But Bangladesh were 143 for 7 by then.
"Emon showed his character," Akbar said after the game. "He wasn't even at his 30%. When Emon came to the dressing room during cramping, that was the crunch moment with two new batsmen and India dominating. After the sixth wicket when Emon returned, the way he batted… I am really proud of him.
"Shoriful's 40th over changed the climate. Was a fantastic bowling effort to restrict India below 180. At the toss, we would've accepted anything under 220" Akbar Ali
"We wanted to keep things simple in the chase. Wanted to maintain the process. [Openers] Tanzid Hasan and Emon gave us a very good start, but Ravi bowled exceptionally well, so need to give credit to him.
"When I entered the chase, I knew we needed one big partnership from us. And we came to the party. When I was batting, the plan was to not lose many wickets since rain was around, so had to keep one eye on the DLS."
But it wasn't over. In walked Rakibul Hasan at No. 9, his previous highest score in top-flight cricket being 1 not out. With the team ahead of the DLS par score - albeit marginally - and plenty of overs to go, the objective changed for Akbar and Rakibul - stay put. The 35 runs needed, a win would come if they played their cards right. So, through the next 11 overs, Akbar blocked and blocked and blocked. He ran only if he could take twos, and if things went according to plan, Rakibul would not face more than one delivery per over.
Over by over, Akbar and Rakibul inched closer to the target. As the partnership grew, so did Rakibul's confidence, and Akbar began to rely on his partner a bit more. From facing one ball an over, Rakibul was facing three - he even played out a whole over from the dangerous Bishnoi. Every run took Bangladesh closer to the target, and they were all met with applause that increased in intensity.
With 15 runs to win and the team 18 ahead of the DLS par, the rain came down - in the 41st over. But that worked in Bangladesh's advantage because of how slow India's over-rate was. When the teams returned, eight runs were shaved off Bangladesh's target. They came on cue, from Rakibul, and sent the Bangladesh crowd - and players - into ecstasy. For his composed batting in the midst of pressure he had never faced before, Akbar collected the Player-of-the-Match award along with the big trophy.
"In the first half of the tournament, I wasn't getting much runs. In the final, opportunity came to me. I had to be the chase-man, the finisher, so happy to do that for my team," he said.
Akbar also praised Bangladesh's bowling attack, particularly left-arm seamer Shoriful Islam, who finished with 2 for 31 and ran Bishnoi out, doing the job in his follow through as the Indians were looking to steal a single in the 44th over. Two overs before that, Shoriful had delivered a double-blow, dismissing Jaiswal and Siddhesh Veer in consecutive deliveries. It triggered a collapse of epic proportions with the defending champions losing seven wickets for 21 runs to fold for 177.
"After winning the toss, we wanted to take early wickets," Akbar said. "We got the opener (Divyaansh Saxena), but Tilak Varma and Jaiswal had a very good partnership.
"In the middle of the innings, we thought we had to chase 240, but Shoriful's 40th over changed the climate. Was a fantastic bowling effort to restrict India below 180. At the toss, we would've accepted anything under 220."
It was this teamwork and togetherness than helped Bangladesh clinch the crown. Bangladesh's highest-run scorer of the tournament - Mahmudul Hasan Joy - finished at No. 15 on the list of highest run-scorers. But, importantly, Nos. 18 and 19 were also from Bangladesh - Tanzid and Shahadat Hossain, respectively. Their highest wicket-taker, Rakibul, finished joint sixth on the list of highest wicket-takers with 12 strikers, but Shoriful had nine, Tanzim Hasan Sakib had seven and Shamim Hossain five.
The Bangladesh players didn't necessarily produce performances that would dominate the World Cup highlights reel, but you don't need be there to be champions. That's what worked for them and, perhaps, proved the difference between victory and defeat for India.