About a fortnight ago, when the Asia Cup began in Dubai, it was considered that arch rivals India and Pakistan are likely to compete for the cup. However, Bangladesh trumped Pakistan by winning the virtual semi-final by 37 runs in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. Now, India and Bangladesh are palying at final, this evening.
While, India will be aiming to clinch their seventh Asia Cup title, Bangladesh will be hoping to be third-time lucky. India will look to continue their good show in the Asia Cup 2018 tournament so far and walk away with their trophy when they take on Bangladesh in the final. Bangladesh, who have a penchant for playing the party poopers, have already justified the tag when they wrecked the prospects of an India-Pakistan summit clash with a gutsy performance on Wednesday. An upset against India will complete their resurgence in the tournament.
The Indo-Bangla cricketing rivalry has grown in intensity in recent years. While India will remain overwhelming favourites on paper, Bangladesh are very capable of beating any team on their day. Final of any tournament is a one-off game in complete isolation from how a team has performed in the tournament. Even the most consistent teams have slipped on the proverbial banana peel when it has mattered the most.
What is definitely a dampener for Bangladesh heading into the final is the injury woes that the side is facing. Star batsman Tamim Iqbal is already out with a fractured hand and Bangladesh will also not have premier all-rounder Shakib-Al-Hasan in the line-up owing to a finger injury. In the absence of Shakib, players like Mushfiqur Rahim, Mustfizur and Mahmudullah need to rise up to the occasion
The opening pair of skipper Rohit Sharma and his deputy Shikhar Dhawan will be back at the top of the order for India after the rest against Afghanistan. The Indian openers have been in red-hot form in the Asia Cup. A lot will depend on the start provided by Rohit (269 runs) and Shikhar (327 runs) as the middle order has looked shaky at times.
Bangaldesh’s strategy of starting with a spinner could come in handy. Mehidy Hasan Miraz was impressive against Pakistan and got the important wicket of Fakhar Zaman. He could especially be effective against the left-handed Dhawan at the start. Also, Bangladeshi pacers have bowled really well and would love to take an early wicket and expose India’s middle order.
Bangladesh bowling attack is one of the most potent in 50 over cricket with Mustafizur Rahaman, Rubel Hossain, and Mashrafe Mortaza ready to test batting line-ups. Mustafizur has a lot of tricks up his sleeve while Mashrafe’s experience comes in handy. However, not having Shakib in the line-up could prove to be a major setback for the side.
Ambati Rayudu has looked set in all the games but has not finished off well while Kedar Jadhav and Mahendra Singh Dhoni have struggled in middle overs. Dhoni’s struggle is the biggest worry as a total of 240 plus could prove to be challenging on a slow track if the team bats second.The only match where the Indian middle order was tested was the Afghanistan game where they came a cropper despite a century opening stand by the makeshift pair of KL Rahul and Ambati Rayudu. A significant batting contribution from Dhoni is expected as he might again come in at No.4 in order to face more deliveries.