There has been a lot of debate on social media and elsewhere regarding Liton Das's stumping by Mahendra Singh Dhoni in Friday's Asia Cup final. The decision was very close, as multiple angles of the sequence showed, before the third umpire finally ruled in favour of India. Here is what Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza had to say about this: "It is hard to tell. At one point we felt it was not out. I think the third umpire can say it better. Maybe it will be discussed later."
When Bangladesh take on India in the Asia Cup final in Dubai today, it will be a battle between two sides who have come to the title clash through highly contrasting routes and with widely divergent levels of confidence.
The match will start at 5:30pm (Bangladesh time) at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
India had confirmed their place in the final by beating Pakistan by nine wickets on Sunday, the same day that Bangladesh had just managed to stay in contention with a three-run win over Afghanistan. India then rested their best players -- including captain Rohit Sharma and vice-captain Shikhar Dhawan -- for their last Super Four match against Afghanistan, who were inspired by leg-spinner Rashid Khan into forcing a thrilling tie against the world's top-ranked ODI team on Tuesday.
The following day, Bangladesh woke to the news that ace all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan would follow opener and highest run-scorer Tamim Iqbal out of the tournament, but still rallied to beat two-time champions Pakistan by 37 runs in Abu Dhabi.
While that meant that Bangladesh made the final for the third time in the last four editions, it also meant that they would have one less day than the more-fancied India to recuperate after toiling in heat that they had never played in as a team.
There is also a contrast between the respective strengths of the sides. Bangladesh have routinely lost two wickets inside the first 10 overs and have played out the 50 overs only once in five matches. Meanwhile India have only lost more than three wickets on the two occasions when they played at less than full strength -- against Hong Kong in their first match when they lost seven wickets for 285 and against Afghanistan, when they were bowled out for 252.
"It was difficult [winning against Pakistan] with performers like Shakib and Tamim not playing," said Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza at the pre-final press conference yesterday. "The good thing that the boys have done is that they did not given up, although we lost to Afghanistan in the group stage and again against India [exactly a week before the final], but still they fought back.
"There are some concerns with our batting, but Mushfiqur [Rahim, the second-highest scorer in the tournament with 297 runs] is in great form. [Mohammad] Mithun is playing well, [Mahmudullah] Riyad also batted well. If our top order can click it will be fine. But again I think that India are a far better team -- number one in the world. They came here as favourites, but you never know, anything can happen on a good day. We have to be mentally strong and fight till the end."
While India will have a settled team, Bangladesh have not played the same team for two matches in succession throughout the tournament. The injuries have forced them to get creative, such as batting left-handed opener Imrul Kayes at six to combat Rashid's leg-spin on Sunday. There may be a change today, with left-arm spinner Nazmul Islam coming into replace batsman Mominul Haque to try and contain India's vaunted batting order.
Imrul could also slot back into the opening position, pulling Soumya down to the lower middle order. With the way things have gone, it is a fool's errand to guess their plans. Mashrafe also has an injury to his right little from when he spectacularly caught Pakistan's Shoaib Malik on Wednesday. However, there is no danger of the captain not playing in the title clash.
The crux of the battle may be in the top order because the two teams match up pretty evenly with the ball. Bangladesh have not conceded more than the 255 for seven Afghanistan scored against them last Thursday. As Mashrafe said, if it goes according to form, the top-ranked India should come out on top against the seventh-ranked Bangladesh. But if the Tigers can find the solution to the top order woes at the most opportune time, they will have performed above themselves and could conjure an unlikely result.
Bangladesh also have the invisible hand of momentum going in their favour, having won their last two matches with spirited performances.
However, it should also be remembered that they have never won a final, including a loss to India in the last Asia Cup final at home and in the Nidahas Trophy in March.
Sarfraz Ahmed, the Pakistan captain, took the blame for his team's poor show at the Asia Cup, but said that there's time to rebuild the team for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
A convincing eight-wicket win over Hong Kong in the tournament opener suggested Pakistan were going to be a force. But it was followed by an eight-wicket defeat to India, and then, following a last-over win over Afghanistan in the Super Fours, losses to India and Bangladesh. As a result, Pakistan crashed out of the tournament they have won twice in the past.
"Yes, our performance was very poor. Our batting wasn't good, and we dropped a lot of catches. Our bowling was also patchy, and that's the reason we are out of the tournament," accepted Ahmed, who had a poor run with the bat himself, scoring 68 runs in four innings.
"I still believe we have a lot of talented players in the team. Look at Fakhar Zaman. Though he didn't have a good tournament, we have to back him. Babar Azam too. Imam has, thankfully, done well, but there's also Shadab and Hasan. We have to back them and take them along with us. We have to look at our bench too. We have a pool of players, and by the time the World Cup comes, we'll have a good team," said Ahmed.
"The World Cup is quite some time away, we have other engagements before that. Australia are coming, and then there's New Zealand. So we have to review our performance and see where we are falling short.
"We are losing too many wickets early, and the middle order has had to deal with the new ball, which isn't easy, and hitting quickly in the end isn't easy on these pitches. We'll have to get together and fix these issues."
While Ahmed called the performance 'alarming', he added, "There's no need to press the panic button. Yes, we have made mistakes as a team, and as a captain, I know that I didn't do well. But no need to panic, we need to back the players, look at the positions and see if there are people outside the team who can come in."
After an agonising defeat in the final of the Asia Cup against India in UAE on Friday night, the Bangladesh cricket team returned home last night with heads held high.
Mashrafe Bin Mortaza and his troops fought till the last ball of the match defending a small total of 222, but ended up as runners-up once again.
It was a mixed bag for the Tigers in terms of performance and there were a lot of incidents on and off the field, making the competition a memorable one.
It started with Tamim Iqbal's return to bat with a finger injury and defending a Suranga Lakmal delivery against Sri Lanka in the opening game where the left-hander left the field early after suffering a blow to his left hand knuckle against the same bowler. Tamim's bravery was praised worldwide.
Mushfiqur Rahim smashed a magnificent hundred with a fractured rib in the same game before scoring 99 against Pakistan while Shakib Al Hasan's departure from the tournament following a finger injury ahead of the Pakistan game made matters more desperate for the Tigers.
Tigers' next assignment will be the upcoming home series against Zimbabwe later this month featuring three ODIs and two Test matches.
The Zimbabwe series will be followed by another home series against West Indies in November where they will play two Tests, three ODIs and three T20Is.
"We have two home series and the New Zealand tour. We have a lot of work to do in the next two series, where we will have to play well," Mashrafe told reporters after the defeat in the final on Friday.
The team management will also have to deal with the injury concerns of the senior members of the side ahead of the home series.
Mashrafe Bin Mortaza had boldly stated prior the Asia Cup final against India that he was not so cheap that he would judge himself by a trophy.
That trophy has eluded the Tigers once again following India's thrilling last-ball win on Friday in the Asia Cup final at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
Even with all the limitations and one setback after another, Mashrafe was so close to achieving the much-desired glory for the country but ultimately, he could not put his hands on the trophy. However, we must echo sentiments of Bangladesh's ODI skipper that there is no way we can judge the brave-hearted cricketer or his brigade by their failure to break the trophy jinx.
Sporting achievements are often measured by numbers and that is precisely why it will be difficult to analyse Mashrafe's true contribution in the region's biggest cricket competition.
"The boys should feel proud," responded the Bangladesh skipper after his team's three-wicket defeat in the final. "I think they did a good job without two key members. Missing Shakib [Al Hasan] and Tamim [Iqbal] was a big blow but I think boys have done a really good job," he continued.
Mashrafe had every reason to praise his charges. But we must thank the brave-hearted Tigers leader for the way he inspired his boys to overcome all the chaos. And it looked like he put the 'fear limits you and your vision' mantra to the ears of his charges.
If it all started by encouraging Tamim Iqbal to return to the crease at the fall of Bangladesh's ninth wicket in the 47th over against Sri Lanka in the opening match to accompany centurion Mushfiqur Rahim -- who almost single-handedly guided the side to a fighting 261 with his highest ODI score of 144 -- then it ended with the startling motion that saw him inspire opener Liton Das from the dressing room by thumping his chest.
Mashrafe effortlessly carried the burden of expectations throughout the tournament.
The young cricketers' failure to meet expectations has become the centre of discussion in recent times but this Asia Cup at least provided some hope thanks to this charismatic leader who tried his best to bring the best out of Liton, Mustafizur Rahman, Mehedi Hasan Miraz, Mohammad Mithun and even a proven performer like Mushfiqur Rahim didn't hesitate to praise the Mash-impact in their performance.
It was actually a bowling effort that Bangladesh can be proud of as they seemed out of the game on numerous occasions. However, the bowlers brought them back into the contention thanks to their never-say-die attitude. And it was no exception in the final battle against India.
There were not many who believed that Bangladesh could take the game to the last ball after they managed only 222 runs despite Liton and Miraz's brilliant 120-run opening stand. Mashrafe however once again proved that he was not a man who would give up on the job before showing any fight and he rightly credited his bowlers for putting up that fight.
"I hope we won a lot of hearts," Mashrafe said.
But a true champion could not stop here and that was why he said: "The positives depend on the individuals. I think losing to India twice was something that I didn't desire. When Shakib and Tamim are back, the team will do well in the future if we can hold on to this spirit."
Yes, it was the spirit that Mashrafe injected most among his charges to win the hearts and in future that spirit will help fulfil their ambitions. Still, when Mashrafe said that "we have lot of work to do" it means a lot for future success.