Boisterous Bangladesh eye India heist
Sunday, March 6, 2016
Start time 1930 local (1330 GMT)
India have an opportunity to lift the Asia Cup and live up to the 'World T20 favourites' billing, but it won't be an easy ride against an improved Bangladesh who will have a boisterous Mirpur crowd behind them.
Neither side thinks this will be an uneven contest. Though India beat Bangladesh soundly in the tournament opener, they are aware of what their opponents are capable at home, especially after a series loss in June 2015. Bangladesh are aware of their own strength, and there is an unmistakable confidence in their approach in T20Is these days. A win in the final would therefore be a watershed moment in this format for them.
India have been flawless in the tournament so far. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have made the best of every opportunity in crunch moments, while Yuvraj Singh is slowly coming into his own.
Rohit steered India after a sluggish start against Bangladesh; Kohli weathered the Mohammad Amir storm against Pakistan, while Yuvraj was in his elements against Sri Lanka. All this has meant MS Dhoni has faced all of nine balls in the tournament, while Suresh Raina hasn't had a major impact with the bat.
The story with the ball isn't too different. Jasprit Bumrah and Ashish Nehra have done the damage at the top, while Hardik Pandya has played the role of a third seamer to his captain's liking. The spinners - R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja - have done what they usually do, even though some of the surfaces they have played on haven't aided turn.
That Bangladesh find themselves in this position has been largely due to the effect their bowlers have had. Taskin Ahmed and Al-Amin Hossain have stepped up, while Shakib Al Hasan and Mashrafe Mortaza have given fine supporting acts in their last three wins. The battle could get more interesting if the hosts decide to play Abu Hider, the BPL bowling hero, and off-spinning allrounder Nasir Hossain in place of Arafat Sunny and Mohammad Mithun.
Bangladesh's top three - Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar and Sabbir Rahman - have all shown good form in T20s this year, while Mahmudullah has been successful in his role as a finisher. There will be some worry over Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib's form, but they have been known to come good when pushed against the wall.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
Watch out for
Every move of Shakib Al Hasan is being followed with bated breath in Bangladesh since he walked off with a limp at training following a burise on his right hip on Friday. Concerns have been raised over his batting form, and he couldn't have had a better setting than in a grand finale to rediscover his touch that has made him an enigma at home.
Ashish Nehra has taken at least one wicket in the Powerplay in the last seven T20Is. His late swing and control with the new ball has given India's bowling a new dimension. He will once again be a vital cog in MS Dhoni's scheme of things.
Hider has been given a lot of attention at training over the last two days. All indications then that he could be the surprise element in the Bangladesh bowling attack. Nasir is also being discussed as a potential replacement for Mithun, who lost his place in the top-order to Tamim.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Soumya Sarkar, 3 Sabbir Rahman, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim, 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Mahmudullah, 7 Nasir Hossain/Mohammad Mithun, 8 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), 9 Al-Amin Hossain, 10 Arafat Sunny/Abu Hider, 11 Taskin Ahmed
Without any injury concerns, India are set to go back to their best XI after testing their bench against the UAE. So Ravindra Jadeja, Ashish Nehra and R Ashwin will slot back in for Pawan Negi, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Harbhajan Singh.
India (probable): 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Yuvraj Singh, 6 MS Dhoni, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Ashish Nehra, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Pitch and conditions
There was a smattering of cut grass covering the pitch on the eve of the final, though there is a good chance of it being shaved off. Weather is fine with no forecast of rain but the daytime heat means there could be heavy dew late in the evening.
Stats and trivia
- This is Bangladesh's first appearance in any T20I tournament that involves three or more teams. India meanwhile is playing their third final in such events.
- Sabbir Rahman and Rohit Sharma have made 144 and 137 runs respectively and have the chance to topple Babar Hayat who is the leading scorer in the Asia Cup with 194 runs.
"The flavor of this match is going to be different but if we play the way we have been playing in the last three matches, hope fully we will keep our momentum going and get something good in the end."
Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza on his side's chances of winning the Asia Cup final.
"Last year Sri Lanka were the world champions here [in the Asia Cup and World T20]. Bangladesh has played very good cricket too. Not long ago Pakistan was in the top two. Now it is India. You can never discount teams in the subcontinent."
India team director Ravi Shastri on the changing fortunes of sub-continent teams.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84