India will be looking to lift their sixth Asia Cup when they square off against Bangladesh in the final of the tournament in Abu Dhabi.
While India have won the title five times previously, Bangladesh are still searching for their maiden one, but this is their third final in the last four tournaments, an indicator of how much they have progressed in the last decade.
In the 2012 edition, Bangladesh lost a thrilling final to Pakistan by 2 runs. In the 2016 edition, the only one of the Asia Cup to have been played as a T20 tourney till date, the Tigers were comfortably beaten by 8 wickets by India.
Before the Asia Cup, the last time India and Bangladesh had locked horns in the ODI format was in the Champions Trophy, where India thrashed them by 9 wickets in a one sided semifinal.
Though India remain clear favourites, having won the last three meetings between the two sides, they have to guard against complacency.
Bangladesh have resembled Imran’s wounded Tigers from 1992 in this edition of the Cup. They suffered two heavy defeats against Afghanistan and India that threatened to derail their campaign, but have made it to the final against all odds, despite losing two key players in Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan to injury. Veteran Mashrafe Mortaza has lead from the front and has produced several moments of brilliance, none more so than the catch that dismissed the in form Shoaib Malik in Bangladesh’s previous game. That was effectively the “catch that won the match”, if one could say.
Both teams have met each other 34 times in ODI’s, with India winning 28 times, and the Tigers winning on 5 occasions, with one match producing no result. In the Asia Cup, the Men in Blue have won 12 of the 13 clashes between the two sides.
The 5 players who were given a break against Afghanistan in the dead rubber Super Four game, are expected to be back and fresh for the final.
Reserve batsman Lokesh Rahul, who made his first appearance of the tournament against Afghanistan, and who, was criticised for taking a review that cost India dearly later in the game, is likely to return to the bench.
Team India will again be relying on the reliable opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma to provide an explosive start at the top. The duo’s form has ensured that India haven’t really had to depend on their shaky middle order to win games.
Former Indian captain MS Dhoni has struggled to produce scores of note in this series. India would be hoping that he delivers with the bat in the final- his keeping and tactical nous has otherwise been unparalleled.
Kedar Jadhav has had a mixed tournament so far- though he has contributed with the ball, his batting has not been upto the mark.
Ace bowlers Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Yuzvendra Chahal will all return to bolster their bowling attack.
Unlike India, Bangladesh have struggled at the top of the order, with the likes of Liton, Soumya and Shanto not really able to give the Tigers the solid start they have so dearly craved.
Mushfiqur Rahim, along with Mahmudullah Riyad have been their best batsmen in the tournament. In fact, among major ODI nations this year, Bangladesh have the highest percentage of runs coming from their middle order.
The likes of Mustafizur Rahaman and young spinner Mehidy Hasan have been fantastic in this tournament, and in the absence of Shakib, these are the two Bangladesh will count on to stand up, just as they did against Pakistan two nights ago.