Preview: Unbeaten in the tournament with four consecutive wins, India will be wary of slipping up at the last hurdle when they meet hosts Bangladesh in the final of the Asia Cup Twenty20 cricket tournament at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium here on Sunday.
The Indians have seemed virtually unstoppable in this tournament. The batsmen have done well on the green wicket while the bowlers, especially the pacers, have exploited the favourable conditions well.
File picture of India cricketers. AP
With the youngsters proving their mettle and a few veterans making successful comebacks, Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men will take away several positives from this tournament ahead of the World Twenty20 at home.
Among the bowlers, veteran pacer Ashish Nehra has been in superb form. The 36-year-old has taken five wickets in three matches, but the statistics does not do full justice to his performance. Fellow opening pacer Jasprit Bumrah has also chipped in with effective performances.
Young all-rounder Hardik Pandya has been the most successful among the Indian bowlers with seven wickets in four matches.
The excellent performance by the bowlers has been backed up by the batsmen with Virat Kohli leading the pack. Opener Rohit Sharma has also been in good knick while Yuvraj Singh, 34, celebrated his comeback with a crucial knock against arch-rivals Pakistan and bettered it with a crucial inning against Sri Lanka. The only point of concern is continuing poor form of opener Shikhar Dhawan.
Harbhajan Singh, Pawan Negi, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were allowed to come off the bench in the last group match against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and performed admirably. But they are unlikely to retain their spots, with Nehra, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Ravindra Jadeja expected to return for the final.
Placed at the top of the International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings, India are overwhelming favourites on paper against the 10th ranked hosts. The group stage match between the two teams saw India complete 45-run victory. But the final will be a different matter.
Bangladesh have developed a habbit of punching above their weight and are expected to put up a spirited fight in front of a capacity home crowd. Apart from the sole loss against India, they have won all their group matches, defeating highly rated opponents Sri Lanka and Pakistan and minnows UAE.
Pacers Taskin Ahmed and Al-Amin Hossain have been excellent with the new ball while Sabbir Rahman and Mahmudullah have put in vital contributions with the bat. Soumya Sarkar, Mohammad Mithun, and Shakib Al Hasan have performed well on occasion, but have been somewhat inconsistent. The hosts will take inspiration from their 2-1 One-Day International (ODI) series victory over India last year.
With the World T20 starting next week, emerging as kings in their own continent will give the title winners a major boost before they set out to take on the world.