It has been an inspirational journey for the depleted Bangladesh team in this Asia Cup. Despite losing two key players — Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan — on their way, they haven't thrown in the towel. Instead, under the motivational leadership of Mashrafe Mortaza, the Tigers have battled all the odds to set up a date against defending champions India in the title clash. This will be Bangladesh's third attempt in four consecutive editions to win this Asian battle of supremacy for the first time but in order to achieve the glory, they have to go past Rohit Sharma's team, which has been clinical in their performances so far.
If Bangladesh want to run India close in this contest, they have to do particularly well in two aspects. First, their misfiring top three batsmen need to keep Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah at bay with the new balls. Secondly, their bowling has to get rid of India's in-form openers as early as possible in order to explore the vulnerable middle-order.
Without Shakib, the Bangladesh bowling lacks a fair bit of bite. In fact, against Pakistan, they were one bowler short as the think-tank decided to play an extra batsman. But part-timers like Mahmadullah and Soumya Sarkar did a commendable job to fill up the gap. However, against the Indian batting line-up, they will face a much stiffer challenge.
Nevertheless, Mortaza has led this bowling attack quite aptly, especially the way he has used his pacers like Mustafizur Rahman and Rubel Hossain, is absolutely praiseworthy. Mehidy Hasan, with his off-spin, has given them good starts and on Friday a lot will depend on how he bowls to the Indian openers, especially Shikhar Dhawan.
Their batting in this tournament has revolved around Mushfiqur Rahim, Mohammad Mithun, and Mahmadullah. Also, Imrul Kayes, who has been experimented to bat in the middle-order, played a crucial innings against Afghanistan in the Super Four fixture. Meanwhile, in the final, they need contribution from the top order, such as Liton Das, Soumya Sarkar, and Mominul Haque as well.
Having secured two hard-earned victories against Afghanistan and Pakistan back-to-back, Bangladesh have momentum with them. Now if they can lift their game a little and put up another spirited show, India won't have a cakewalk. Most importantly, Mortaza's boys should not get fazed by the occasion, as we had seen in the past.
In the last game, Rahim faced a few fitness concerns while keeping and Liton had to chip as a back-up keeper. But on Friday, the former skipper is expected to wear the keeping gloves as well.
India expect another all-round show
Following the tied match against Afghanistan, India are expected to get into their grooves quickly with their first-choice XI. The five players — Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal — who were rested in the last match, will come back for this final. The Afghanistan game has proved that any sort of complacency can be harmful. Hence, on Friday India are eyeing for yet another professional show.
Indian bowling has done an exceptional job in this Asia Cup. The bowlers have constantly kept chipping away with wickets to put pressure on opposition batting. And almost on every occasion, the opposition has crumbled under this pressure.
In the pace department, the Bhuveneshwar-Bumrah combination has always provided the early breakthroughs. In fact, the duo has provided a perfect foil to the spin department, which has been the backbone of this attack on these slow-low tracks in Dubai. Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Chahal, and the part-timer Kedar Jadhav have claimed 23 scalps at an average of 25.26 and an economy of 4.17 altogether in this competition. Hence, to put up any sort of resistance against them, Mushfiqur and Co will have to bat out of their skins.
Meanwhile, the Indian batting will once again depend heavily upon the opening pair, which has scored the bulk of the runs. Others, like Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik, too have made a few useful contributions. However, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav and Ravindra Jadeja must remain vigilant if they are required for a bigger role in the final. But without a doubt, there is a bit of rustiness in this middle-order.
It will be a full house at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium for this final. Both teams should ideally look to chase here as the recent trend shows that the wicket gets quicker under lights.
The fans, organisers, broadcasters and most of the other stakeholders of this Asia Cup expected this game to be an India-Pakistan face-off. However, in the end, we have to say that the two best teams in the competition are featuring in this final and at present, Bangladesh are far a more equipped team than Pakistan to provide this strong Indian team a stiffer challenge in the final.