When the Nidahas Trophy began on 6 March, nobody had an idea that the tri-series is going to be so closely fought. With India sending a second-string team to Sri Lanka for the tournament minus regular captain Virat Kohli and veteran MS Dhoni, the matches were expected to grab less eyeballs. The boredom that was served to fans in the India-Sri Lanka series last year did not help either.
However, Sri Lanka upsetting India in the first game itself opened up the series. The last league game, which also turned out to be a virtual semi-final between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh has just added more lustre to the tournament, and the final.
Leaving the on-field banter aside, it was a game to remember for cricketing reasons. Bangladesh pulling off the win from the jaws of defeat shows that they are eager to win this tournament and have not gone there to make up the numbers.
The final on Sunday is a golden opportunity for the Shakib Al Hasan-led side to avenge their defeat in the World T20 2016, when they lost to India in the last over thanks to their players' adrenaline rush inducing poor shot selection. It's been almost two years since that dark day for Bangladesh, but they have surely matured since then.
Of late, Bangladesh and India contests have gained an edge. Besides, in the shorter format, anything can happen. The rivalry has grown since the 2007 ODI World Cup when Bangladesh ousted India from the tournament.
Here are a few battles which will be exciting to see in the final.
Mustafizur Rahman vs Rohit Sharma:
Rohit Sharma has been struggling against left-arm fast bowlers in the last few years. Mohammad Amir got the better of him in the final of the Champions Trophy 2017 and in the league game where he struggled against the in-coming deliveries. He had his share of issues against New Zealand's Trent Boult as well when the Kiwis toured India in 2017. Out of the six matches on the tour, including ODIs and T20Is, Boult got Rohit thrice.
This makes Mustafizur Rahman against Rohit a battle to watch out for. Mustafizur got Rohit in the first league match of this season's Nidahas Trophy and it will be playing on his mind in the final as well considering the Indian batsman got out trying to hit him. It will be important to see how Rohit goes about playing The Fizz in the final.
Washington Sundar vs Bangladesh top order:
Washington Sundar came as a surprise for Bangladesh in the last league game of the tournament. He scalped the top three Bangladeshi batsmen with his guile and spin, leaving them struggling at 40 for 3. Sundar's unpredictability will come in handy for India in the final as well and after his brilliant spell in the last match, we might again see him being thrown in front of the Bangladesh openers early on. It will interesting to see what plan Bangladesh implement on Sunday. Will they choose to attack Sundar from the word go or play him out initially to make sure the innings is not derailed like on the previous occasion? There is some pondering left to do.
Mahmudullah vs Vijay Shankar:
In his very short international career, Vijay Shankar has proved his worth with the ball. Vijay had got Mahmudullah in the first encounter between India and Bangladesh. This is something which will give Vijay confidence bowling in the final considering that Mahmudullah, who is in great form at the moment, has become a decent finisher for Bangladesh. The most astonishing feature of his game is how he builds the innings in the mid-overs and then goes berserk in the end. Vijay, who generally bowls first or second change, will have the challenge to tempt Mahmudullah into hitting him like the Bangladeshi cricketer did in the league game. With his variation, he could be tricky for Mahmudullah.
Yuzvendra Chahal vs Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim:
Bangladeshi captain Shakib Al Hasan might have missed a major part of the tournament, but he remains their best batsman in the line-up. Also, Mushfiqur Rahim is in red-hot form currently. The one common factor between the two batsmen is that both of them are good players of spin bowling. This is why it will be important to see how the two play Yuzvendra Chahal in the middle overs of the innings. Shakib and Rahim are two street-smart batsmen but Chahal is no less clever with the ball in hand. His brilliance lies in his ability to mix it up to deny room for the batsmen. An interesting battle will be on the cards in the final it seems.
Rubel Hossain vs Suresh Raina:
Comeback man Suresh Raina has done well in the tournament, but his old habits still pretty much remain. He is still vulnerable to short-pitched stuff. Rubel Hossain tested him with one in the first encounter between India and Bangladesh and Raina succumbed to it, chipping the ball tamely to the square leg fielder. Hopefully, the left-handed batsman would have asked the likes of Shardul Thakur, Jaydev Undakat to bowl at his ribs in the nets to practice hooks and pulls to fine-tune his weakness against short-pitched bowling. How quickly he can sort the weakness out is the thing to be seen. Nevertheless, a fiery battle in our hands if India lose a wicket early and Rubel gets a go at Raina early on.