Bangladesh stands in India's way of record seventh title
Crowd watching the match between Indian and Pakistan in the Asia Cup at Dubai International Cricket Stadium
Dubai - The running rivalry between the two neighbours has been the centerpiece
By James Jose
Published: Thu 27 Sep 2018, 10:32 PM
Last updated: Sat 29 Sep 2018, 3:07 PM
With all due respect to the other teams and especially Bangladesh, the final of this edition of the Asia Cup in the UAE, was meant to be a 'dream final' between India and Pakistan.
The running rivalry between the two neighbours has been the centerpiece, the pièce de résistance, of the biggest cricket festival in Asia. And to add to the plot-line was the ICC Champions Trophy final last year and the prospect of two India-Pakistan fixtures.
But after India didn't allow those two matches to reach magnum opus propositions, Bangladesh have gate-crashed the party, so to speak.
It is Bangladesh and not Pakistan who have earned the right, and rightly so too, to face the defending champions in the 14th final at the 'Ring of Fire,' the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Friday.
The Bangla Tigers came through unscathed against Pakistan, in the Super Four contest, turned into a virtual 'semifinal,' at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi on Wednesday night.
The eyes and ears had all been on the Rohit Sharma-led India and Sarfraz Ahmed-led Pakistan and to some extent on what Afghanistan would bring to the table, right from when the tournament, hit the ignition button. Quite ironically, it was Bangladesh who got the tournament started when they faced Sri Lanka in Dubai, a little less than a fortnight ago, but they were given just a cursory glance.
Now, all eyes will be on them to see whether they can upset the applecart of India. The Bangla Tigers have overcome injuries to two of their main men and quite literally flown under the radar to make it back-to-back final appearances, and their third in four editions. That should perhaps speak for their consistency and the fact that they should be taken much more seriously than they have been until now.
Bangladesh lost their valuable opener Tamim Iqbal in the first game against Sri Lanka to a wrist fracture and were further hindered after all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan's fractured finger got worse prior to the game against Pakistan. They may have got through against Pakistan without these two but the experienced pair's absence could be telling against India.
Bangladesh have been the bridesmaid, never to have won the tournament, despite reaching the final in 2012 and 2016, both at home. They lost to Pakistan narrowly in 2012 and to India in 2016, with the latter being played in the T20 format.
This could be their defining moment.
Meanwhile, India look good to wrap a record seventh title after triumphs in 1984, 1988, 1990-91, 1995, 2010 and 2016.
To India's advantage, Dubai has been sort of home base right through the tournament, while Bangladesh have had to shuttle between the two venues of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
India's openers - stand-in captain Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have been in sparkling form and their new-found bowling attack has been spot on. If anything, it is the middle order which may be called into question.
The Asia Cup was set to be an exercise to solve their middle-order riddle but with Rohit and Dhawan running amok, they have hardly got chances, except against Hong Kong and Afghanistan.
If Bangladesh can get past India's openers, then it could be game on.