Such has been the dominance of India, as well as hosts Bangladesh, that their victories have rendered the final two matches of the Asia Cup group stages absolutely useless. While India got in some net practice by walloping minnows UAE, Bangladesh defeated Pakistan to ensure that the supposed “knockout” clash between Sri Lanka and Pakistan remains a knockout game – both will be knocked out, irrespective.
PATH TO THE FINAL
India began with a solid win over the hosts, who have proved difficult to beat in their own backyard for a year. Bangladesh’s quarterfinal run to the World Cup down under further reinforced the notion that perhaps Bangladesh are not minnows anymore. They’ve been in the game since 1999, and it’s about time too. They aren’t taken for granted, especially by Asian teams, after they defeated South Africa, Pakistan and India consecutively in ODI matches last year. India, meanwhile, have won nine out of their last 10 T20 games – and are ranked No. 1 for a reason. Once again, they’re getting their act together just in time for another ICC event – and boy, have they been in form. Starting with the 3-0 whitewash down under, they went on to win 2-1 against Sri Lanka, followed by their four-match unbeaten streak in this tournament. They had a tougher time against rivals Pakistan, but overcame them and Sri Lanka with some truly competitive bowling efforts. Their batsmen, as a result, have rarely needed to do much.
Played: 4, Won: 4
Captain MS Dhoni will be thrilled with his team’s balanced form in home conditions. They seem to have plugged all the gaps in their line-up, especially with Yuvraj Singh finally showing signs of confidence after two years of jabbing at balls. They are the team to beat, especially after their T20 bowling has looked sorted with the old presence of Ashish Nehra combining with young firecracker Jasprit Bumrah. Guys like Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Harbhajan Singh got a look-in during the UAE game, which kept Dhoni satisfied that his bench strength is quite solid. The last thing Dhoni wants is for his team to enter the final as overwhelming favorites and then lose on the big stage – like they did in the 2014 World T20. In four of their matches, Rohit Sharma has won two Man-of-the-Match awards (Bangladesh, UAE), while Virat Kohli has won the other two against rivals Pakistan and Sri Lanka. This pretty much seals the fact that these two have defined India’s recent limited over fortunes, and will continue to do so for the next few years.
Played: 4, Won: 3
After an opening day loss, the Tigers were determined to pull things back. They did, by defeating UAE and Sri Lanka on consecutive days, before putting one past Shahid Afridi’s inconsistent Pakistan team. They don’t have young gun Mustafizur Rahman for the final, but their top order – including Saumya Sarkar and Mahmudullah Riyad – has fired at the right time. They came close in the 2012 Asia Cup, losing to Pakistan by two runs in a heartbreaking final. This is their second chance – one they will not want to lose in front of their own supporters, especially considering the fact that India has not won any major ICC tournament since the 2013 Champions’ Trophy.
I don’t see India losing, unless their openers and Kohli come a cropper at once – a rare occurrence, given Kohli’s love for the big occasion. Expect someone like Shikhar Dhawan or Suresh Raina to fire – and give themselves a perfect platform ahead of the ICC World T20 2016, starting in five days.