With India and Bangladesh set to battle for continental supremacy in Sunday’s Asia Cup final, here are some things to watch for.
The wicket on offer
The main talking point throughout the Asia Cup has been the wickets. The greenish nature of the wickets has dominated team meetings on the field and press conferences off it. After the green strip for the first few games, the ground staff has tried to reduce the cover of grass on the wickets as the final nears. On Friday, as Pakistan took on Sri Lanka in the last league game of the competition, a predominantly dry track was prepared, in stark contrast to the green strip used for the game between India and Pakistan. In the high-profile final, all eyes will once again be on the wicket.
Dhoni and Mortaza’s captaincy duel
India skipper MS Dhoni has been earning plaudits for his captaincy for years now. The keeper-batsman, known for his calmness under pressure, has been known to pass on the trait onto his players in tough situations. In the past one year, Bangladeshi captain Mashrafe Mortaza has been earning similar praise. Under Mortaza, the team has been on a roll, having beaten some of the top teams including India in the past year. His tactical changes among the bowlers and on the field have also stood out in the recent past. As the two sides clash, it will be interesting to note who among the two leaders will come out on top.
Kohli magic expected
Virat Kohli has been India’s mainstay so far in the Asia Cup. His knocks of 49 and 56* against Pakistan and Sri Lanka played a crucial role in the eventual victories for Men in Blue. The former came at a time when the chips were down and India were staring at an embarrassing collapse, chasing a modest total of 82 set by Pakistan. His ability to graft out these knocks in the hour of need and conditions that favoured bowlers made them even more special. In the final, the pressure is expected to be at its peak. India will want Kohli to deliver once again as they look to finish on a high ahead of the World T20.
Eyes on Nehra & Co
India’s senior pacer Ashish Nehra has combined well with young bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya so far. The trio has utilised the seamer-friendly conditions and have given India sound support in the bowling department. It was their performance that helped the side bowl Pakistan out for a paltry 82 in the high-octane clash. Nehra’s swing bowling upfront, combined with Bumrah’s yorkers at the death and Pandya’s discipline in the middle overs have kept India in good stead. More of the same will be expected come Sunday.
Al-Amin, the surprise package
In the absence of Bangladesh’s bowling mainstay Mistafizur Rahman, the hosts have had to depend on their other pacers to extract all juice from the greenish wickets at the Shere Bangla stadium in the ongoing Asia Cup. To the bowling unit’s credit, all have stepped up.
The standout has been Al-Amin Hossain, Bangladesh’s opening bowler. The 26-year-old has picked up ten wickets in the four games so far to lead the wicket-taking charts in the main draw. If Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir stole the show in the series with his fiery spells, Al-Amin was in close pursuit in the second spot.