Not just a fluke
Even though Bangladesh's performance in the recently-concluded ICC Women's Under-19 T20 World Cup surprised many, it was, in fact, a reflection of the Bangladesh Cricket Board's (BCB) long-term planning and the hard work put in by the players.
Disha Biswas and her troops barely missed out on qualifying for the semifinals of the inaugural event as Bangladesh and three other teams -- Australia, India, and hosts South Africa -- from Group 1 of the Super Six stage ended with six points, with the former two sides eventually progressing courtesy of a superior net run rate.
The young Tigresses began their World Cup campaign with a thumping seven-wicket win over Australia and went on to beat Sri Lanka and the USA in the group stage to advance to the Super Six as unbeaten group champions.
But a defeat to South Africa in the first Super Six game changed the scenario as the young Tigresses' only slip-up in the tournament proved too costly. And had it not been for that five-wicket defeat against the hosts in Potchefstroom, the plan that had been set in motion more than two years ago could have culminated in an even better outcome.
According to Bangladesh women's team head coach Dipu Roy Chowdhury, the preparation for this Under-19 World Cup began in 2020 during the Women's T20 World Cup in Australia. Back then, the women's wing and the game development committee of the BCB collaborated to hunt cricketers through a divisional Under-18 tournament.
"It all started during the Women's World Cup [in 2020]. At that time, the women's wing and the game development committee of the BCB worked together to scout players from an Under-18 divisional tournament. We selected cricketers for the Under-19 side from that tournament. We also gave opportunities to first division players to play in the premier league. The selected players also played with the senior side and [BCB Women's Wing manager] Towhid Mahmud bhai arranged for a few players to be sent to New Zealand with the senior team to give them exposure," Dipu told The Daily Star.
Under the guidance of Dipu and in presence of a fast-bowling coach and a batting coach, the Bangladesh Under-19 team held a training camp in Khulna. The girls were made to play matches against boys in order to improve their skills and build their confidence to play fearless cricket.
"We tried to instil the attacking mindset in the girls right from the start which was reflected in their body language in the World Cup. We worked on their power-hitting ability and the camp was very fruitful. However, the BCB thought that we should travel to South Africa early to acclimatise and prepare for the World Cup. When we won the practice matches against South Africa and India, the girls knew that they could do something good," he said.
The authorities also ensured the girls got the proper nutrition and other facilities, including daily allowances, to help them focus only on their games.
"We knew that there are some barriers for girls, so we made sure they play freely and ensured them a daily allowance along with proper meals and other facilities. We wanted them to express themselves and only think about cricket. And they responded well," Dipu added.
According to Dipu, it was a tough challenge for the team management and young Tigresses, but it eventually paid off and could lead to a much larger impact in the future.
"We knew it was not going to be easy but we took the challenge, and prepared this team not just for this World Cup but also for the future. I don't want to mention any names but the majority of these girls went through a lot of struggle to make it this far. We just tried to give them a good environment and make them enjoy their game so that more girls become willing to play cricket in the future," he added.