Final hurdle, toughest too
The stat of not winning a single game against India in their seven T20I meetings so far, including the two defeats in the Nidahas Trophy, may not hang as heavy on the shoulders of Bangladesh players after their scintillating and morale-boosting two-wicket victory over Sri Lanka on Friday as the Tigers take on India in the final at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo today. It will be their fifth multi-nation final appearance across all formats.
Following a win like Friday's, it seems that all that transpired at the R Premadasa Stadium -- skipper Shakib Al Hasan's angry outburst against the umpires and him pleading with Mahmudullah Riyad to come off the field to Mahmudullah smashing a monster six of the penultimate delivery to snatch a win from jaws of defeat -- will work as confidence booster for the Tigers when they take on in-form favourites India.
And that was probably what the Bangladesh players have been labeling as the Bangladeshi brand of cricket -- playing in an exciting and fearless way.
The cornerstone of that brand have been the senior players -- the solidity of Tamim Iqbal at the top of the order, the guile and class of returning captain Shakib Al Hasan and the cool yet, when needed, explosive batting of Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad. With all these senior players playing some of their best cricket in the tournament, this could be the time the Tigers break their final jinx and take Bangladesh cricket a step further.
However, it will not be easy at all because their opponents have been playing clinical cricket throughout the series, losing only one of four games and beating Bangladesh twice.
Once again the start will be crucial for the Tigers both with bat and ball along with the death-overs bowling against a strong Indian batting line-up. After losing the first game against India by six wickets, Bangladesh managed to come up with a better approach in the reverse fixture, but still went on to lose that match by 17 runs.
The Bangladesh bowlers did manage to keep the Indian batters quiet during the Powerplay in both games, conceding 47 and 49 runs respectively.
But India skipper Rohit Sharma's return to form against Bangladesh in the last match, when he plundered 89 off 61 balls, along with Shikhar Dhawan who has struck two fifties in four games so far, makes it of paramount importance for Bangladesh to get rid of the openers early if they are to mount a challenge.
Bangladesh are not expected to break the winning combination going into the final, with pacer Rubel Hossain's fine rhythm along with Mustafizur Rahman's variations likely to be key for them.
Shakib will once again lead the spin bowling department but he needs to overcome the mental block of hiding left-arm spinners whenever there are two left-handers at the crease; a strategy which had almost cost him the game on Friday. Shakib, after having taken a wicket for nine runs in his two-over spell initially, did not come again to bowl while keeping another left-arm spinner, Nazmul Islam, completely out of action against the plethora of left-handed Sri Lankan batsmen.
With the bat, Bangladesh must chalk out some proper planning to face in-form off-spinner Washington Sundar, who has been terrific throughout the series both in the Powerplay and in death overs. The youngster scalped all three Bangladeshi top-order batsmen inside the Powerplay and ended up giving away just 22 runs from his four overs in the last match.
Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal has also remained effective throughout the series alongside pacer Shardul Thakur with his knuckle deliveries, which can prove venomous yet again for the Bangladesh batters.