Dubai: India will be aiming to reassert their continental supremacy while an injury-hit Bangladesh will hope to shrug off stage fright when the two sides square off in the grand finale of the Asia Cup here Friday.
A passionate Bangladesh turned out to be the party-poopers on Wednesday as they wrecked the prospects of an India-Pakistan summit clash with a gutsy performance despite losing key players to injury.
On paper, India will remain overwhelming favourites to win the tournament for a record seventh time while Bangladesh will be hoping to be third-time lucky in a summit clash.
Final of any tournament is a one-off game in complete isolation from how a team has performed in the tournament. Even the most consistent teams have slipped on the proverbial banana peel when it has mattered the most.
Add to this the fact that the Indo-Bangla cricketing rivalry has grown in intensity.
But what is definitely a dampener for Bangladesh heading into the final is the injury woes that the side is facing.
Star batsman Tamim Iqbal is already out with a fractured hand and Bangladesh will also not have premier all-rounder Shakib-Al-Hasan in the line-up owing to a finger injury.
He is expected to undergo surgery which will also force him out of the home series against Zimbabwe starting September 30.
For India, it will be a different test though.
A victory in the Asia Cup without their skipper and best batsman Virat Kohli will be a big statement going into next year’s World Cup.
Not to forget, the Asia Cup trophy will be a healing touch after 1-4 Test series defeat in England.
The team’s exploits in shorter formats have always successfully papered over the deficiencies when it comes to playing quality five-day cricket in adverse conditions.
An Asia Cup triumph can partially divert attention from the England debacle.
After resting five regulars during a wake-up call from Afghanistan in their tied Super Four encounter, the order is expected to be restored in the summit clash.
The crack opening pair of skipper Rohit Sharma and his deputy Shikhar Dhawan will be back at the top of the order while Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Yuzvendra Chahal will bolster the bowling.
A lot will depend on the start provided by Rohit (269 runs) and Shikhar (327 runs) as the middle order has looked shaky at times.
Ambati Rayudu has looked set in all the games but has not finished off well while Kedar Jadhav and Mahendra Singh Dhoni have struggled in middle overs.
Dhoni’s struggle is the biggest worry as a total of 240 plus could prove to be challenging on a slow track if the team bats second.
The only match where the Indian middle order was tested was the Afghanistan game where they came a cropper despite a century opening stand by the makeshift pair of KL Rahul and Ambati Rayudu.
A significant batting contribution from Dhoni is expected as he might again come in at No.4 in order to face more deliveries.
The Bangladesh bowling attack is one of the most potent in 50 over cricket with Mustafizur Rahaman, Rubel Hossain, and Mashrafe Mortaza ready to test batting line-ups.
Mustafizur has a lot of tricks up his sleeve while Mashrafe’s experience comes in handy. However, not having Shakib in the line-up could prove to be a major setback for the side.
In batting, the team will bank heavily on the ever-dependable Mushfiqur Rahim, who has been the ‘crisis man’ along with the very stylish Mahmudullah Riyadh.
They will be challenged by an in-form Jasprit Bumrah. Tackling the guile of Kuldeep Yadav, deception of Yuzvendra Chahal and probing question.(PTI)