We believe we can reach the final – Bangladesh U-19 captain Akbar Ali

Bangladesh go into the Under-19 World Cup as one of the most successful teams in the world. They have won 18 Youth ODIs since the last time the trophy was up for grabs – joint-highest alongside India – and their captain Akbar Ali is confident of several more standout performances. Bangladesh depart for Johannesburg on Friday evening. Their first match is on January 18.

“We have been playing good cricket recently, which is possibly why there’s raised expectation,” Akbar said. “We are not looking at results, and neither are we looking too far ahead. We are focused on making the knockout stage, and then taking it match by match. We trained in grass wickets in Bogra and we will have a camp in Potchefstroom just ahead of the World Cup campaign. We believe we can even reach the tournament final. We can do something good.”

Bangladesh are placed in Group C alongside Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Scotland, for which they will arrive in South Africa two weeks before their first World Cup game. They will hold a training camp at the North-West University cricket academy in Potchefstroom, where they have also arranged two practice matches in addition to the two official warm-up games.

Bangladesh have won 18 out of their last 30 games, including series wins against New Zealand and Sri Lanka, and three wins in England as well. Their batsmen and bowlers are also leading the runs and wickets charts. Over the last two years, Towhid Hridoy and Mahmudul Hasan Joy are the only players at the Under-19 level to top 1,000 runs in Youth ODIs while Shoriful Islam, Mrittunjoy Chowdhury and Tanzim Hasan Sakib are the top three wicket-takers.

Head coach Naveed Nawaz said that their batting will keep them ahead although he is also quite confident with their bowling attack. He is also taking confidence from their overseas wins in 2019.

“We have toured New Zealand and England, and as well as Sri Lanka for Asia cup,” Nawaz said. “I am happy with the way the boys have done on and off the field.

“I would say our batting is the main strength of our team. It doesn’t mean that our bowling department is weak. We have a decent bowling attack. But we will heavily rely on our batting department,” he said.

Nawaz said that Ali has done well as a captain, and is someone that everyone in the dressing room trusts and listens to. “First of all, he has to be a selfless person who can lead the team from the front,” Nawaz said. “This is the number one criteria [to select him as a captain].

“Not only this, he got to be a person who will be able to take the best from everyone here. Everyone has to trust him. I think he has done well in the past. And I hope he will be able to continue to do so.”