To Win, Bangladesh Needs More than Individual Batting Heroics
The Citizen's Asia Cup coverage
Bangladesh's journey to the final of Asia Cup 2018 has been quite inconsistent. It started with a commanding victory against Sri Lanka in the tournament opener and then they suffered a heavy defeat against Afghanistan.
Although that didn't stop them from qualifying for the Super Fours, they were given a massive scare once again by the same team. The Tigers edged past them by a narrow margin in the first match of the Super Four stage. For the second consecutive time, a team sitting below them in the ODI rankings dominated for the major part of the game. That served as a massive wake up call for the Bangladesh team. And they responded to that by registering yet another thrilling victory over Pakistan in what was a virtual semi final.
The Tigers found themselves in dire straits in each of their matches. They were 2/2 (effectively 3 down as Tamim Iqbal had retired hurt) within the second over of the first match against Sri Lanka; 2/17 against Afghanistan in their first match of Super Four stage; and again 3/12 inside the 5th over against Pakistan in a do or die clash.
But it was one man, Mushfiqur Rahim, who lifted his team up from such precarious situations on all of those occasions.
We saw him compiling a magnificent knock of 144 runs in the tournament opener, a steady knock of 30 odd runs in their Super Four match against Afghanistan and again a gritty knock of 99 runs against Pakistan in a virtual knockout encounter. The only time Bangladesh didn't have him in the XI—in their group stage match against Afghanistan—they collapsed for a paltry 119 runs and thus ended up losing the match by a massive margin of 136 runs.
So, it appears that Bangladesh have depended on the individual batting heroics of Mushfiqur Rahim to lead their charge into the finals. Apart from occasional supporting acts like that of Mohammad Mithun against Sri Lanka and Pakistan and the collective efforts of Imrul Kayes and Mahmudullah against Afghanistan, there has hardly been any batsman in the Bangladeshi team who has been indispensable like Mushfiqur.
Losing your main players like Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan to injuries in such a massive tournament is quite a setback. But this is cricket played at the highest level and an international team like Bangladesh, which has been in this fold for over three decades now, certainly can't complain about that.
It's true that Bangladesh have made rapid strides in international cricket, at least as an ODI team, in the last six years. It all started with their first Asia Cup final appearance back in 2012, when they lost to Pakistan by a narrow margin of 3 runs.
Since then, they made it to the Super 8 stage of ICC World Cup 2015, beat teams like India and South Africa at home, were the Asia Cup runners up once again in 2016, made it to the semi-finals of Champions Trophy 2017 and again emerged as the runners up in the Nidahas Trophy this year which saw India and Sri Lanka competing as the other two teams.
However, none of that will count if they continue to stumble at the last hurdle. They have been in eight knock out encounters in multi-nation tournaments so far and they have won none of them. Their record against their Asia Cup 2018 final opponents India, in multi-nation tournaments, stands winless in four face-offs.
In fact, it was India to whom they lost the final of the 2016 edition of the Asia Cup and also the Nidahas Trophy this year. The other two occasions include Super eight encounter of World Cup 2015 and Champions Trophy 2017 semi-final.
To be honest, India are once again the firm favourites to lift the Asia Cup for the 7th time in the history of the tournament. They have been the team to beat this tournament and beating them in a final looks next to impossible. There are chinks to exploit in their armour though.
Hong Kong almost gave them a scare and Afghanistan tied the match with them. Their middle order hasn't been at its best and Bangladesh need to target that. But for that, they need responsible batting from their top order, runs on the board if they bat first and a steady start if they chase.
Bangladesh only stand a chance against such a mighty Indian outfit in the finals if they can produce more than one Mushfiqur like batting performances. Their top order in the absence of Tamim Iqbal has been shambolic this tournament and hence the likes of Liton Das, Soumya Sarkar and Mominul Haque need to step up big time. Their performances or their career graphs haven't been impressive at all and this is the time to make it or break it.
There has been quite some shuffling as far as their top order is concerned. Bangladesh have used 7 batsmen in this tournament for their top three positions due to increasing number of injuries to their players. That has resulted in a chaotic situation which is summed up by a miserly top order average of 9.78 this series. Moreover, their contribution accounts for only 14% of the team runs scored this series as compared to 44% scored by the top order during the last two years. Clearly, things haven't gone right for Bangladesh at the top in this Asia Cup.
The bowlers led by Mustafizur Rahman have given their best every time to mask the top order failures and back the heroics of Mushfiqur and the likes of Mithun, Kayes and Mahmudullah.
But it will be a totally different picture in the finale. All their batsmen need to put up a collective effort against a dangerous Indian bowling side if they want to do the unthinkable and beat their knockout blues.