Bangladesh v Pakistan, Asia Cup final, Mirpur March 21, 2012

Making the final no upset - Mushfiqur

The morning after what Mushfiqur Rahim described as "the most incredible day in our cricketing history", Bangladesh were grappling with the prospect of an even more incredible day. Ahead of Thursday, there's only one topic of discussion in Dhaka: how to get tickets to the Asia Cup final. The Shere Bangla stadium seats about 25,000 but judging by the frenzy for tickets and passes, the stadium would have been full even if its capacity was increased multi-fold.

Instead of being weighed down by the pressure of playing the biggest game of their lives, Bangladesh were buoyant after a week of stirring performances. "The way we have played all through the tournament shows that as a team we have improved in the last three weeks," Mushfiqur said. "Not only in performance but we have also overcome mental barriers, like winning two close matches. If you win matches like that the confidence of the whole team lifts. Also, it helps self-belief when you perform well consistently against top teams. The most important challenge for us was to perform well in every match."

The other source of motivation for Bangladesh was their constant improvement in every game. "If you noticed, we lost a very close match to Pakistan, then the next match [against India] we played better and played even better in the last match [against Sri Lanka]," he said. "This was our aim because if you play consistently well against the big teams then you will be able to win matches regularly."

Mushfiqur tipped Pakistan as favourites and called for another collective effort from his team-mates to topple them. "The secret of the success in this tournament so far is simple - not just one or two [players] are performing, which used to happen in the past," he said. "In this tournament, Tamim [Iqbal], [Mahmudullah] Riyad, Shakib [Al Hasan], Nasir [Hossain] in the batting department have been playing well together. In the bowling department Raj bhai [Abdur Razzak], Mashrafe bhai [Mortaza], Nazmul bhai [Hossain] in the one match he played, Shakib, everyone is performing. So if we can keep that up tomorrow, we are hoping we will win."

Mushfiqur picked the Pakistan openers, who have put on two big stands already in the Asia Cup, and offspinner Saeed Ajmal as big threats to Bangladesh. "Pakistan's bowling attack is obviously very strong, and at the same time their top order is very strong with the likes of [Mohammad] Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed," he said. "So if we can take some early wickets we can put them under pressure. And against their bowling we have to handle Saeed Ajmal well - which we did in the first match although he took two wickets at the end - and hopefully Umar Gul, then we can do well."

Though this is only Bangladesh's second appearance in a tournament final, Mushfiqur said the team wouldn't be fazed by the occasion. "The pressure is always there," he said. "After winning the second match and before the match against Sri Lanka people were saying that 'You must win against Sri Lanka'. As if after beating India, Sri Lanka were a team like Kenya or Scotland, that we would win in a canter. But as I said the way we are playing, with five or six of us performing well together, even if one or two fail you have the confidence."

While the word 'upset' featured heavily in newspaper headlines over the past week, Mushfiqur was keen to point out that qualifying hadn't been a fluke. "When you reach the finals of a tournament with three top teams, and you win twice and play pretty consistently, I don't think it's an upset," he said. "It was a well-planned and well-executed progress." That progress has already given their supporters two reasons to celebrate; all they want is one more.

Edited by Abhishek Purohit

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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