"We believe that we can even reach the tournament final. We can do something good."
Bangladesh under-19 side skipper had said this just before the U-19 World Cup kicked off in South Africa. And as time has passed and only the final of the tournament is left to be played, Akbar's statement looks more than just a bold one.
It feels prescient.
Because the young Tigers are indeed in the final. Not just in the final, they are here unbeaten. They have beaten South Africa and New Zealand convincingly and now, they face the other unbeaten side of the tournament in India.
Bangladesh's sweet run of form
Bangladesh U-19 side are the side to have played the most matches after India in the last one and a half years. The young Tigers had beaten England and New Zealand in their backyard and continued on their hot run of form in the World Cup.
They have won four out of their five games while the other match against Pakistan was washed out. The young Tigers did not give their opponents a chance in the knockout stages as they beat hosts South Africa and New Zealand convincingly.
And if they want to lift their maiden trophy, they would need to continue in that vein.
Despite Bangladesh's hot run of form, their opponent is a headache for them. Bangladesh have won only one out of their last five youth ODIs against India and among them, two defeats have come in finals.
Bangladesh lost a tri-series final at England in 2019 before they agonisingly lost by five runs against India in the Asia Cup final. Bangladesh had bundled India out for only 107 but still fell short. The last five matches have another close game in that as Bangladesh lost an Asia Cup semi-final to India at Mirpur by only two runs.
This Bangladesh U-19 side consists of the players who have the scars of losing those matches. And to become the World Champions, they need to get rid of that hobgoblin.
Bangladesh unwilling to take extra pressure
Bangladesh U-19 skipper Akbar Ali is unwilling to take extra pressure ahead of the final and wants to play the final like a normal game of cricket.
"If we take this like a World Cup final, the pressure might be upon us. We will try to play this as a normal match like we have been playing throughout the tournament," Akbar said.
He further added that if they could execute their plans properly then they can win the game.
"India are a very good side. They are still unbeaten in this tournament like us. But if we can execute the plans we have prepared for them, then Almighty willing, the result will come in our favour," Akbar added.
Bangladesh middle-order batsman Shahadat Hossain was also reluctant to take extra pressure.
"By God's will, we are well prepared. We will play it like a normal match rather than with the pressure of a final," he said.
Players to watch
Mahmudul Hasan Joy struck a wonderful hundred in the semi-final against New Zealand to send Bangladesh through to their maiden final. He came in to bat in a tricky situation but ensured Bangladesh's win.
He is in quite a fine touch in this tournament so far. He has scored 176 runs in his five innings – the highest among Bangladesh players - averaging 58.67.
On the other hand, India's newest boy wonder Yashasvi Jaiswal has been flying in this tournament. He has scored three fifties and a hundred so far in the World Cup, scoring 312 runs at an astounding average of 156.
What the expert says
Former Bangladesh National team opener Hannan Sarker believes that both the sides have a fifty-fifty chance but he was hopeful about Bangladesh winning.
"I am very hopeful about winning. This side has been playing consistent cricket. We have also played good cricket against India in the past six months despite the results not being in our favour. Tomorrow's match is a fifty-fifty affair. If everything clicks for Bangladesh, then it is very much possible for them to lift the trophy," Mr Sarker said.
He further added that the pressure will be more on India than Bangladesh because they are always looking to be champions.
"As it is a final, everyone will be under pressure and I believe this Bangladesh side is capable of coping with that pressure. The team are looking forward to winning this match after losing some close affairs against India. And about pressure, India are under more pressure than us. They are the defending champions. Our target was to play in the final and we did. But I would definitely want us to have the taste of being champions," Mr Sarker added.
The Indian side might be considered favourites off the field because of their history. But this Bangladesh side is different. And if it is Bangladesh's day at Potchefstroom, then Bangladesh might lift the trophy and create history.