2020 will forever be known as the year the novel coronavirus stopped all major sports and sporting events around the world.
But it will also be known as the year when Bangladesh achieved arguably their greatest feat in sports with the under-19 cricket team winning the World Cup.
And the hero of the final against India was the captain Akbar Ali, who guided his side home with the bat to ensure their first ICC silverware.
We caught up with the U-19 captain via a video call for an exclusive interview with The Business Standard (TBS).
TBS: Tell us how you started your career?
Akbar Ali: It began in 2012 when I joined the BKSP. I had a mindset that I wanted to become a professional cricketer and I've never looked back.
TBS: How supportive was your family?
Akbar Ali: I always got support from my family. They never were a barrier and their interest grew even further when I started to play age level cricket.
TBS: What made you fall in love with cricket?
Akbar Ali: It started from when I was a kid in school. I'd always play during the tiffin break and I loved it. And slowly but surely I started to fall in love with cricket and it's been that way ever since.
TBS: Who is your biggest inspiration in life?
Akbar Ali: I'd again have to say that it' would be my family as they have always supported me in my cricketing journey so far. If I can give something back to them it would be great. So that's where the inspiration comes from.
TBS: Do you follow other sports, and which teams/players do you support?
Akbar Ali: I try to follow European football and am a Manchester United fan. And other than that, I try to follow the tennis Grand Slams and Roger Federer is my favourite player there.
TBS: Early on what challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
Akbar Ali: Everyone goes through bad patches in life. It gives us time to reflect and see what we did wrong or how we could improve and it's been the same for me as well.
TBS: How do you remain calm under pressure?
Akbar Ali: See, I think it's a team game and everyone has to support each other. The idea is to have the players in the dugout supporting those in the field. If someone makes a mistake, then we have to give them the space to analyse that mistake and work on it to get better. That we, even if there is pressure, it won't get to you.
TBS: Tell us what was going through your mind in the World Cup final against India when you came on to bat?
Akbar Ali: The idea was to see off the Indian strike bowlers and to not be unsettled even if runs weren't coming easily. There were overs when we didn't get runs but we knew that if we got settled in and when the strike bowlers were done with their overs, we would have a chance. The planning there was good and the execution was also there so it worked in our favour there.
TBS: How much has life changed for you since you won the U-19 World Cup, especially since you went in with a target to win it?
Akbar Ali: Well we were very determined to play in the final and we really wanted to win. We had an idea that there would be celebrations back home, but the way we were greeted and how everyone treated us was truly overwhelming. I still feel like I'm the same person as I was before winning the World Cup but the perception of people has changed and they now have higher expectations from us.
TBS: What is going to be the next step?
Akbar Ali: It's been over a month that we haven't played cricket. So we'll definitely enjoy it when cricket is back because we don't know when that will be. But the next step would be to do well in the Dhaka Premier League when the games resume.
TBS: Tell us about who's the funniest in the U-19 team?
Akbar Ali: I'd have to say it's Shoriful (Islam).
TBS: Who's always late?
Akbar Ali: We have fines if a player is late to the training or team meetings so no one would be too late but still I'd have to say (Avishek Das) Aronno.
TBS: Who's spending the most time in front of the mirror?
Akbar Ali: That would be (Parvez Hossain) Emon.
TBS: Who's the best dancer/singer?
Akbar Ali: (Prantik Nawrose) Nabil and Shamim (Hossain) are both good at singing.
TBS: If not a cricket player what would you have chosen to be?
Akbar Ali: I've never really thought about being anything other than a cricketer so I really don't know. I've always wanted to be a cricketer.
TBS: What was the favourite country to visit so far?
Akbar Ali: I'd have to say it's England. I loved their grounds and their facilities. Although we didn't get to go to Lord's, my favourite place so far would be England.
TBS: What kind of food do you like to eat?
Akbar Ali: I love beef. Especially beef with ruti!
TBS: What's the best gesture or gift you got from a fan?
Akbar Ali: I have a sketch of me playing a cricket shot by a fan of mine. It's such a great sketch that I have it on my wall.
TBS: A message to your fans.
Akbar Ali: Whatever you do in life, enjoy it and give it your best. And since we are going through a difficult time at this moment, we must try to follow the orders of the government. It could be that this one month brings a bigger disaster in our country if we don't follow the rules properly. So I hope we will do as we have been advised and overcome this. Thank you!