Spirited Bangladesh up against in-form India in summit clash

The momentum is with MS Dhoni's side but the home support for Bangladesh can put India under pressure. Photo: AFP

The setting is perfect for an exciting Asia Cup T20, 2016 final today. It's fitting that two of the best teams have made it to the final but as Mashrafe Mortaza, the Bangladesh skipper, admitted, India will start the game as favourites thanks to their brilliant run in Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is) recently, reports cricbuzz.

But Bangladesh will bank on a lot of other factors to favour them. Home conditions for starters. The pitches at the Shere Bangla National stadium in Dhaka were clearly favouring the seamers a lot more when the tournament started. But gradually, that sheen is wearing off although the new-ball still keeps them in the game early on. Bangladesh will be without the services of their premier pacer Mustafizur Rahman (out due to a side strain) but also boast of three others who can make up for his absence on a given day. Taskin Ahmed has started the fill-in role well while Bangladesh also plumped for an extra spinner in the absence of Mustafizur. They are likely to persist with a similar combination for the final as well.

The hosts though will be sweating over the fitness of Shakib Al Hasan, who injured his hip-flex area during practice on Friday (March 4). There was nothing serious said the physio, but he also said that it would take 48 hours for him to recover. While he might still pull up fine in time for the final, it might be a risky proposition to push him to play so close to the World T20. Shakib is one of the bedrocks of both, batting and bowling, for Bangladesh and it could be a crucial blow if he does pull up unfit.

For India, there aren't any injury concerns at the moment. Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and MS Dhoni, all had niggles at various points during the tournament but have recovered well. Their team combination is public knowledge now with MS Dhoni making no bones about the names or number of pacers, spinners and all-rounders he prefers. The pace-department led by Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah has been one of their biggest strengths in T20Is recently. The duo has managed to strike in their opening spells in eight out of the last nine games. What it has ensured is that the spinners come in under lesser pressure whenever they have been called upon. Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin have made sure that they operate at the same level so that there is no let-up in pressure.

Likewise in the batting department, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have been instrumental in ensuring that the middle order enjoys some leeway in most games. One amongst the two have always set up the innings with the rest chipping in. Shikhar Dhawan is yet to make a meaningful contribution in the tournament but has the backing of the team-management to come good. With Yuvraj Singh finding form and Hardik Pandya showcasing his abilities as a power-hitter, the batting looks well-rounded with possible match-winners in every slot.

Bangladesh will be wary of the odds stacked against them but as has been repeatedly stressed by both teams, it requires one good spell or innings to win a match in the Twenty20 format. The hosts will be hoping that someone from their team finds that magic patch on Sunday.

Backed by what is expected to be a full house, it will reverse the pressure on the Indians. MS Dhoni's men have largely sailed on cruise-mode in this series and have not been put under real pressure often enough. When they have been under the pump, it was either Rohit or Kohli, who has rescued them. The bowling in particular is yet to face a crunch situation. Therein lies an opportunity for the likes of Tamim Iqbal and Sabbir Rahman to try and make a mark. If the new-ball is made to pay, it will put India's bowling in an unfamiliar position.

It is well-known that reversing the momentum is probably the most difficult task in T20Is. If Bangladesh's batting can come good early, the crowd-factor could also play up and put India in the unfamiliar territory that they have so far kept away from.

Dew is also expected to play a part in the second-half of the innings. Teams batting second will fancy their chances of a chase despite the pressure of a final. Given the proximity to the World T20, the significance of a victory in the final cannot be understated. It will set the ball rolling and in this format, any team could ask for nothing better.



Bangladesh (From): Imrul Kayes, Tamim Iqbal, Mashrafe Mortaza (C), Abu Hider, Arafat Sunny, Mohammad Mithun, Nurul Hasan, Soumya Sarkar, Taskin Ahmed, Sabbir Rahman, Nasir Hossain, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah, Shakib Al Hasan, Al-Amin Hossain

India (From): Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin, Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra, Pawan Negi, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Parthiv Patel


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