Dhaka, Bangladesh – Bangladesh has lifted its maiden Under-19 Cricket World Cup after beating India, sending the cricket-crazy South Asian nation into a frenzy of celebrations.

“I can’t express the joy in words. It’s our first world cup win,” said Nihad Ferdous, an ardent cricket fan, who followed the Bangladeshi team during the tournament played in South Africa.

“These kids have shown such maturity on their way of becoming the champion that you have to see it to believe it. We need to nourish this bunch so that they can turn into proper international cricket players,” Ferdous told Al Jazeera.

The whole nation on Sunday night watched with bated breathe in the low-scoring final in Potchefstroom, South Africa.

After Bangladeshi batsman Rakibul Hasan hit the winning run, wild celebration began on the streets in Dhaka with thousands of people pouring out and chanting “Bangladesh, Bangladesh”.

Nihad Ferdous, a cricket fan

The final against India added an extra zeal, as in recent years the cricket rivalry between the two nations has become intense, with the Indian senior team clinching nail-biting victories against the Bangladeshi cricket team, popularly dubbed as tigers.

“This is the stepping stone for our future cricket,” Bangladesh captain Akbar Ali was quoted as saying by the website cricinfo.com.

“And this is just the beginning. We need to keep the momentum and the hungriness when we go to the senior side,” Ali said, after guiding his team to victory in the International Cricket Council (ICC) flagship event.

Nazmus Salehin, a young cricketer of Kala Bagan Krira Chakra (sports club), said the under-19 World Cup win has inspired him to play good cricket.

Salehin, 16, said the captaincy and batting of Bangladesh team captain Ali was exemplary. Ali scored 43 runs and guided his team to victory. He was awarded the man of the match prize.

“He (Ali) had shown such character that he was able to make us believe that as long as he is out there, we would come out as victorious,” he said.

“This win shows that we have the talent and composure to clinch victory at the highest stage. We are no longer the underdogs, rather we are a force to be reckoned with,” said Salehin.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in a cabinet meeting on Monday that the Under-19 team will be nationally celebrated upon their return to Bangladesh.

Akram Khan, cricket administrator

She also said the World Cup victory was the best gift to the Mujib Year – Bangladesh is celebrating 2020 as the 100th birth anniversary of the founding father of the nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Hasina is Rahman’s daughter.

Senior sports journalist Debabrata Mukherjee, however, cautioned against “overjoy”, saying it is time to focus on the young team’s nurturing rather than showering them with gifts and congratulations.

“As a cricket-loving nation, there is a tendency among us to get overjoyed with some victories. Instead of that, we need to focus on the basics. The domestic cricket structure in Bangladesh needs to be improved to nurture these under-19 cricketers.

“World-class cricketers like (Virat) Kohli [India], (Joe) Root [Britain] and (Kane) Williamson [New Zealand] have come out of the Under-19 cricket tournament and have become some of the world’s best players,” he said.

Akram Khan, the chairman of the Cricket Operations Committee of the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), said that the cricket infrastructure has achieved maturity in the past one decade or so.

“Our domestic leagues have improved a lot with the increasing of salary and match fees received by the cricketers. Now a young cricketer can concentrate only on his game without thinking much about his breadwinning.”

Khan, a former captain of the Bangladesh cricket team, said tournaments like the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) also give young cricketers a chance to mix with international stars and learn from them.

“I believe we will be able to nurture this champion Under-19 team and turn them into excellent professional cricketers,” he said.

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