Akbar Ali battled loss of sister to lead Bangladesh to U-19 World Cup glory

Leading from the front
Wicketkeeper-batsman Akbar Ali guided Bangladesh to their maiden ICC U-19 World Cup triumph. Twitter

Rangpur: It was not only difficult on the pitch for Bangladesh's captain Akbar Ali when he came out to bat against India in the final of the ICC Under-19 World Cup in Potchefstroom on Sunday. Off the field too, the 18-year-old was battling mental trauma after losing his elder sister days back.

Akbar's elder sister Khadija Khatun passed away on January 22 while giving birth to twins, according to a report in leading Bangladesh daily 'Prothom Alo'.

A staunch supporter of Akbar, the youngest of four brothers and a sister, she had watched him lead Bangladesh to a nine-wicket victory against Zimbabwe on January 18 in a Group C game of the World Cup.

But when the wicketkeeper-batsman played the knock of his life -- an unbeaten 43 when his team was in a difficult situation chasing 177 in the final -- Khadija was not alive to see her beloved brother take the nation over the line and in the process, hand Bangladesh their first World Cup title across all age groups.

Akbar was not informed about his sister's death initially as his family did not want him to lose focus. But he got to know somehow and then questioned one his brothers why he was not informed after Bangladesh's match against Pakistan was abandoned due to rain on January 24.

He then shepherded Bangladesh to wins against hosts South Africa in the quarterfinal and then New Zealand in the semifinal to fix a date with India in the final. Bangladesh won by three wickets (via D/L method) in a tense finish on Sunday.

"Akbar was closest to his sister. She loved Akbar a lot," Akbar's father was quoted as saying by 'Prothom Alo'.

"We did not want to inform him at first. He then called after the Pakistan match and questioned his brother why he was not kept in the loop. I did not have the courage to talk to him. I don't know what to say."