U-19 World Cup winners slowly taking over the Tigers mantle

When BCB president Nazmul Hassan said that if only one player out of the U-19 World Cup winning team makes it to the Bangladesh senior squad for the World Cup in 2023 he will be satisfied, it seemed a bit strange

Five members of the U-19 World Cup winning Bangladesh team are part of the Tigers squad for the Asia CupAFP

Back in 2020, after Akbar Ali and his group of audacious teenagers returned to the country after ‘conquering the world’ in South Africa, the frenzy for the World Cup winning Under-19 team was at a fever pitch in Bangladesh.

The junior Tigers defeated India in a nail-biting final at Potchefstroom to lift the country’s first world title in any global sport.

After achieving what no other group of Bangladeshi cricketers had done before, there was curiosity all around about what this talented group of youngsters will do next.

Out of all Test playing countries, the rate of Under-19 cricketers graduating to the senior team is the highest in Bangladesh. In this country, doing well in age-level cricket significantly boosts a player’s chance of donning the Bangladesh cap.

BCB president Nazmul Hasan and ICC under-19 World Cup champion Bangladesh team’s captain Akbar Ali lift the trophy at a grand reception at Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Mirpur
Shamsul Hoque

National team selectors in Bangladesh have been prone to plucking talented cricketers from age-level cricket and handing them international cap without much experience of playing domestic first-class cricket.

So after the team returned, when Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president Nazmul Hassan said that if only one player out of the U-19 World Cup winning team makes it to the Bangladesh senior squad for the World Cup in 2023 he will be satisfied, it seemed a bit strange.

It seemed like Nazmul was undermining the magnitude of what the U-19 team had accomplished, doubting how far this group of cricketers can go.

But after further reflection, it was clear that the BCB president was neither undermining nor doubting them, he was just trying to save them from the same fate as most promising U-19 players from Bangladesh have suffered before.

BCB president Nazmul Hassan said Tamim Iqbal will lead Bangladesh in the World Cup
Prothom Alo

As said earlier, Bangladesh hands out more senior team caps to U-19 cricketers than any other ICC full member. But getting called up to the highest stage prematurely backfires on most cases as the weaknesses of the said young cricketers get exposed and exploited by top quality oppositions and very soon these once promising cricketers get labeled ‘not good enough’ for international cricket and get discarded indefinitely.

Nazmul was actually trying save Akbar and his team from the same fate. In the first press conference after the U-19 team’s return, the BCB president laid out plans of forming an U-23 team where these cricketers will be included. There, they would get a fixed salary and receive training from BCB coaches.

He also spoke about forming a new understudy team for the national team, the Bangla Tigers, who would play series against other understudy teams in home and abroad.

U-19 World Cup winner Towhid Hridoy is now a regular member of the Bangladesh ODI team

However, many of the plans he spoke about in that press conference didn’t come into fruition or took a long time to materialise due to the global calamity that was waiting right around the corner– Covid-19 pandemic.

Three years have passed since Nazmul made that comment. The World Cup is less than two months away and the team right now is gearing up for the Asia Cup.

A 17-man squad for the Asia Cup squad is already out, which in a way could be considered as the preliminary squad for the World Cup.

So, did Nazmul’s expectation of having one U-19 player in the squad come true?

Not exactly. Nazmul wanted just one player, but as of Tuesday, five out of the 17 players in the Asia Cup squad are from the U-19 World Cup winning Bangladesh squad.

Shoriful Islam has been a part of the ODI setup since 2021
Shamsul Hoque

Initially, four U-19 World Cup winners – Towhid Hridoy, Shoriful Islam, Shamim Hossain, Tanzid Hasan – had been named in the squad.

On Tuesday, pacer Tanzim Hasan Sakib also got drafted into the main squad from the reserves list to replace injured Ebadot Hossain.

Interestingly, three out of the five selected cricketers – Shamim, Tanzid and Tanzim – are yet to debut in One-Day Internationals (ODI). Out of them, Shamim has already represented Bangladesh in some Twenty20s while Tanzid and Tanzim have never played for the Tigers in any format.

However, if Bangladesh manage to qualify for the Super 4 phase of the Asia Cup, it’s more than likely that at least one of them will earn their maiden ODI cap.

The Tigers are hoping that Shamim Hossain can emerge as the No.7 batter in ODIs
Prothom Alo

Out of the five, Towhid has already become an indispensable member of the ODI side. Towhid made his debut in March earlier this year and in nine ODIs has made 338 runs at an average of 48.28. He has already scored three half-centuries and has a strike rate of 97.68.

So, if the right-hander stays fit, he is a sure-starter for Bangladesh in the Asia Cup and also the World Cup.

Pacer Shoriful is also an important member of the ODI squad. Shoriful has 26 wickets from 17 ODIs and in the absence of Ebadot, he is likely to join Taskin Ahmed and Mustafizur Rahman to form the core of the team’s pace attack in most matches.

Shamim is being considered for the still vacant No.7 position in the batting line-up. Although he is yet to make his debut in ODIs, his strike rate of close to 120 in T20s is giving the selectors hope that he can emerge as a lethal finisher in ODIs.

Tanzid, whose nickname is Tamim, is basically a placeholder in the side for Tamim Iqbal, who is currently working to regain his fitness after a lengthy battle with back injury.

Also Read

Tanzim is similarly a placeholder for Ebadot, who is trying to recover from an ACL injury on his left knee.

Also Read

For Tanzid and Tanzim, the Asia Cup will be a chance to show the selectors they are ready to step up to the plate if needed in the World Cup and accompany the team as one of the backup players.

Whatever happens next, the presence of five U-19 World Cup winners in the Asia Cup squad signals that the World Champion Bangladeshi teenagers are on their way to take over the national team.