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Bangladesh celebrates: Tales of 'Akbar the Great' and feeding sweets to strangers

Given their previous heartbreaks in finals, the cricket-watching public was cautious going into the game but could let it all go after

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
U-19 World Cup champions Bangladesh acknowledge their fans in Potchefstroom, Bangladesh v India, Under-19 World Cup, final, February 9, 2020

ICC via Getty

For a moment, a nation stopped breathing. People got out of their cars, while sitting in endless traffic jams, to celebrate with each other. Some went in search of a nearby TV, whether it was at an electronics store or a clubhouse tent, to celebrate with more strangers. There were chants of "Bangladesh, Bangladesh" across cities, towns and villages, with reports of victory processions in several places.
A Facebook video showed one man wearing a Bangladesh jersey, feeding pedestrians and rickshaw-pullers from a box of sweets. There was one photo of a group of people crowding around a phone, trying to catch the game, at a wedding. Millions congratulated the youngsters and the country on social media, while newspaper headlines on Monday morning screamed of the achievement - Bangladesh's first major global sporting trophy. One headline even made reference to "Akbar the Great".
Still, all this qualifies as muted celebrations by Bangladeshi standards. More fun had probably been had after Bangladesh won the 1997 ICC Trophy, and after some of their major ODI wins of the last 20 years. Massive celebrations of those victories at the Dhaka University campus and Old Dhaka had often included rong khela (playing with coloured powders, much like during the festival of Holi) and fireworks. But the reaction to Bangladesh's three-wicket win over India in Potchefstroom wasn't massive mainly because the cricket-watching public was cautious - they have experienced too many heartbreaks in finals to keep pots of water colours or fireworks handy.
It was also an Under-19 World Cup final, as opposed to a senior tournament, so for many casual fans, it must have become an occasion only after Bangladesh had bowled out India cheaply. As the evening went on, with many disillusioned by the senior men's performance in the Rawalpindi Test, switching TV channels was the way to go. Akbar Ali's men provided enough drama when they faltered in the chase, and needed their captain to bail them out. By the time Rakibul Hasan hit the winning runs, the wild celebrations had begun.
Winning major titles is rare thing in Bangladesh sports. There was however a connection between both cricketing achievements,1997 and 2020. Present on both occasions was Hasibul Hossain, the former fast bowler who is now an age-group selector travelling with the U-19 team. Hasibul had famously hit the winning runs in the 1997 final in Kuala Lumpur.
"These are different feelings, it is hard for me to describe," Hasibul told ESPNcricinfo from Potchefstroom, soon after the triumph. "We are overjoyed by winning this title. It had been a long time coming, and we have planned this for so long. It is really satisfying to see these boys reach such a height."
There were celebrations still going on behind Hasibul it seemed, and later the ICC published video of dressing-room scenes: players and team management dancing together. The celebrations will continue when the team arrives in Dhaka, with reports and rumors of cash rewards awaiting the players. It will be a heady time for these young cricketers, and how they cope with all the attention and fame is going to have a major influence on the rest of their lives.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84