ROHIT SANKAR | 28 SEPTEMBER, 2018
Asia Cup Finals: 5 Players to Watch Out For
The Citizen’s Asia Cup finals coverage
Two years after an Asia Cup final at Dhaka, India and Bangladesh once again lock horns in the finals of another Asia Cup tournament. This time, though, the format has changed and so have the composition and strength of the teams. India have steamrolled through to the finals, with a minor hurdle being a tied game against Afghanistan in the final match of the Super Four. Bangladesh have fought their way to the finals courtesy a come-from-behind win against Pakistan in the virtual knockout game the other night.
That India are perhaps the favourite to win the finals goes without saying. Bangladesh, missing two of their stalwarts in Shakib-al-hasan and Tamim Iqbal, have however, been impressive with a sturdy middle-order consistently contributing for the mishaps of the top-order. With the build up to the finals heating up, here's a list of five players you ought to watch out for in the finals:
Dhawan and multi-nation tournaments is a love story like no other. The flamboyant opener, nicknamed the 'Gabbar’ has often been India’s lynchpin at the top of the order in tournaments like these. He has an uncanny way of going about his business in tournaments and so far, it has worked wonders for both him and the team.
His record in multi-nation tournaments makes for wonderful reading. A career average of 47.13 shoots up to 53.41 when playing in tournaments. 7 of his 15 hundreds have come in these tournaments, a clear indication of how he thrives under the added pressure. Dhawan had raced to a 47 ball 40 in the only match India played against Bangladesh in the ongoing Asia Cup.
With Rohit Sharma also hitting peak form, Dhawan, who is on the back of a hundred against arch-rivals, Pakistan, will be expected to launch into the hapless Tigers.
Replacing Sabbir Rahman in the lower middle-order, Mohammad Mithun, who had previously played as opener in the T20I sides, has been a crucial factor in Bangladesh's surge to the finals. He resuscitated the innings in the company of Mushfiqur Rahim in the opening game against Sri Lanka and did a replica of the same against Pakistan to take the Tigers to the finals of the tournament.
Mithun was recommended by Mashrafe bin Mortaza, the skipper, and Steve Rhodes, the head coach, to the national side for the Asia Cup. Coming off the back of two half-centuries against Ireland in the A tour, Mithun established a place for himself in this tournament with his positivity at the crease and ability to transfer the pressure back onto the opposition. Bangladesh will need a lot of that against India in the finals.
Bumrah has taken his skills to the next level by stepping up with the new ball in addition to restricting the scoring rate in the death overs. The Mumbai Indians seamer has often been the catalyst behind India’s success in limited-overs cricket in the recent past and is their strike bowler in this format of the game, atleast. In 3 matches in this Asia Cup, Bumrah has picked up 7 wickets at an average of 12.71 and has been a key component of India's bowling attack.
He was rested for the tied clash against Afghanistan and will come back into the side refreshed and ready to devour the Tigers. In the previous game against Bangladesh in the tournament, Bumrah had returned with eye-catching figures of 3/37, helping India bowl out their neighbours for 173. His searing yorkers, wide angle and movement off the seam will be critical factors for India in the finals on Friday.
The Bangladesh wicket-keeper batsman is the second highest run-scorer in this Asia Cup behind Shikhar Dhawan. In four matches, Rahim has notched up 297 runs at an average of 74.25. He was single-handedly responsible for two of Bangladesh's most vital wins in the tournament - in the opening game against Sri Lanka when he slammed 144 to take Bangladesh to a winning total and in the virtual semi-final against Pakistan when he scored 99 in a low-scoring thriller.
Rahim has made up for Bangladesh's lack of firepower at the top of the order. In the first game, he walked in with the side tottering at 1 for two and against Pakistan with the Tigers at 12/3. On both occasions, he had the calm Mohammad Mithun for company. But carrying on from his starts, Rahim ensured he had taken Bangladesh to safety every single time.
The wildcard for India in this tournament has been Ravindra Jadeja. Returning to the ODI fold, the left-arm spinner has made full use of his recall to push his case for a place in the World Cup squad. Jadeja began with a promising show against Bangladesh as soon as he landed in Dubai and sealed the game for India with a Man of the Match winning 4/29.
He proceeded to pickup three more in the game against Afghanistan, and played a crucial role with the bat to take India to the cusp of victory. Although an ill-advised slog with one needed to win put him in bad light, Jadeja will be keen to move forward and the finals will offer him a golden opportunity. He had success against Bangladesh's middle-order in the previous game and will be a key figure in India's attack on Friday.