Why India Are Favourites to Win Asia Cup Final Against Bangladesh
India are favourites to win the finals and the conditions are aligned in their favour too. Here’s why.
With Bangladesh edging out Pakistan and reaching the finals of the Asia Cup, Friday, 28 September, is set to witness another final between India and Bangladesh. The last time these two teams met in the finals of a tournament – The Nidahas Trophy this year – India won off the last ball, courtesy a Dinesh Karthik maximum.
Bangladesh have had their ups and downs in the ongoing tournament but managed to stay alive and bring it down to a one-on-one clash against Pakistan. They were 12/3 in the knockout game but managed to rack up 239, which ultimately proved to be too many for a hapless Pakistan batting unit.
India, on the other hand, haven’t lost a single game this Asia Cup (including a tie with Afghanistan) and cruised to the final of the tournament. They are favourites to win the final and the conditions are aligned in their favour too. Here's why.
1. Absence of Tamim Iqbal and Shakib-al-Hasan
As Bangladesh gear up for the final against India on Friday, they are aware that they go in without two of their most prolific players – Tamim Iqbal and Shakib-al-Hasan. The duo missing out due to injury is a huge peg back for Bangladesh since the two are historically among their best performers against India.
Tamim is the second highest run-scorer in ODIs for Bangladesh against India with 574 runs at 33.76 while Shakib is the third highest with 525 at 35.00. Both of them have a combined 14 half-centuries between them against India and a wealth of experience that will sorely be missed in the final of a major tournament. On top of that, Shakib's all-round skills will also be something that will be missed on the slower tracks in Dubai.
2. ‘The Fizz’, No Longer a Threat for India
Mustafizur Rahman was a thorn in India's flesh not so long ago and a lot has been said and written about India’s fallacies against left-arm pace. In five ODIs against India, Mustafizur has 13 wickets at a mind-blowing average of 18.69 combined with a strike rate of 19.5. India, on the other hand, supposedly have a profound weakness against left-arm pace.
Things have turned around, though, and this Indian side have dealt with the left-arm threat adeptly in this Asia Cup. Aside from brushing aside Pakistan's left-arm heavy fast bowling unit twice in this tournament, they slammed Mustafizur for 40 in seven overs in the only match between the two sides in this tournament. While left-arm pace was certainly a tricky spot for India, they might well be over that phase as the returns in this tournament prove.
3. KulCha + Jaddu Threat for Bangladesh Middle-Order
Bangladesh has been over-reliant on their middle-order in this tournament with the top three coming a cropper. Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah and Mohammad Mithun are their top three run-getters in the Asia Cup this year, and all of them come in after no 3 in the batting line-up. The method has worked for them despite some heavy top-order collapses in the tournament.
Against Pakistan on Wednesday, 26 September, and Sri Lanka in the opening game, they found themselves in a tricky spot in the first few overs, losing too many wickets. But on both occasions, they were bailed out by Rahim and Mithun. Against India, though, they have a bigger worry. The KulCha threat posed by India’s spin twins, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. Add in the experience of Ravindra Jadeja and India have been masters at choking the run-flow in the middle overs which counteracts Bangladesh's modus operandi.
4. Record Against Bangladesh
India have a terrific overall record against Bangladesh in ODIs, winning 28 of the 34 matches and losing just five ODIs between the two sides starting 1988. A win/loss ratio of 5.6 points to one-sided domination although recent records have been a lot more close than before. Cut down to multi-nation tournaments, and India have once again rampaged over their hapless neighbours.
In 23 matches in multi-nation tournaments (which include tri-series' as well), India have won 21 matches against Bangladesh and lost just two. Most recently, in the finals of the Asia Cup in 2016, a T20 tournament, India stormed past Bangladesh's target of 121 with eight wickets to spare.
With history and conditions aligned in their favour, India are favourites to trump Bangladesh in the finals of 2018 Asia Cup on Friday. India will likely field a full strength squad against a depleted Bangladesh unit and also play at Dubai, where they have enjoyed quite a lot of success in the tournament. Can the Tigers spring a surprise? Unlikely, but never say never.
(Rohit Sankar is a freelance cricket writer. He can be reached at @imRohit_SN)
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