Asia Cup: Can Bangladesh dethrone the ‘Big-Three’?
India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka- the three most debated sides when it’s about clashes in Asia Cup. Not something rocket science when the pages of Asia Cup are revisited. The reason raises from the data that the holders of the prestigious Asian tournament have three names over it with Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan grabbing it five, five and two times respectively.
It was as if the other teams like Bangladesh, Afghanistan were there just to make up the numbers. Something which is disgraceful and also in a way, kind of demeaning to the spunky talents. On the contrary, the rubbing of shoulders with Asian giants has done a World of good for the upcoming Asian powerhouses.
Asia Cup 2016 is just a mere few hours away and teams are glued into providing final touches to hard prepared strategies, to be implemented in the field of play. The fact that it’s the first ever T-20 Asia Cup adds to the effervescence and fizz of the tournament. It’s a healthy initiative prioritising the upcoming World T20 in March.
The qualifiers just came to an end with UAE securing a place into the main rounds: a proud moment indeed for the United Arab Emirates going into the main league stage of the tournament and also a chance to topple a higher ranked side as to what Afghanistan did to Bangladesh in 2014.
The qualifiers commenced with three out of the four qualifiers sitting with a handsome chance of making their debut in Asia Cup and there was no dull moment in the clash between the Asian Associates.
Bangladesh’s chances at the Asia Cup
Amid all the speculations surrounding the Asia Cup, erupts a question: who will come out trumps? India Pakistan and Sri Lanka are the sides that the mind recalls. But while there is a saying that ‘History repeats itself’, there is also a saying that ‘History is made to be broken’ and the possibility of the later aggravates on rewinding back the events from January 2015 till the end of the year.
Slowly out of everyone’s sight, but surely, one team has entered the list of favourites even though from the back door. No prizes for guessing who the team is; indeed it’s the ever so peppy and dynamic – Bangladesh. Parking the T20 rankings out of the psychological horizons, I dare say that Bangladesh, being the so-called underdogs, may hurt the potential favourites.
Even though T-20 is a completely divergent format altogether, one can’t help but agree on the fact that Bangladesh have been no less than outrageous and stupendous for the last one year and so, at least in the 50-over format. And more so at home, they are attaining the status of invincibility.
The period from June to December hammered the nails down on to the actualities that Bangladesh’s performance in the World Cup wasn’t a fluke. The exact thing which Bangladesh lacked big time. Consistency of superlative performances was missing which was frustrating for both the cricketing fraternity and the ever so supportive Bangladesh fans.
Their T-20 performances can’t elude the eyes either. Even though records are petite enough not to exhibit a clear picture, but the gains from the preceding years are treasurable for a lifetime. The solitary T-20 win vs Pakistan rocketed up their morale at the first go. South Africa took home the series no doubt, but again only the Proteas knew about how they were strangled by the Bangladesh spinners.
Keys for Bangladesh
Mustafizur Rahman and Soumya Sarkar have been a revelation over the past year or so. Although it’s just seven matches for Mustafizur but an economy of 5.45 in T20Is is promising enough to kick-start his international cricket and more so if the matches were against the like of Pakistan and South Africa. Indians got a taste of his slow canny bowling, which they were unable to tackle.
Soumya Sarkar’s average in T20Is is not an impressive one, but his strike rate of 138.29 in T20 Internationals attracts the thinking cap to be put on by oppositions. As per the APS (Average+Strike Rate) and going by the benchmark of 160 for being a good T20 batsman, Sarkar is not lagging far behind with an APS of 156.86.
Shakib-Al-Hasan needs no further introduction. The World’s top-ranked all-rounder will be a key force if Bangladesh makes it all the way. A short in height but tall in stature Mushfiqur Rahim needs to step up to the plate as he has done for so many times in his career.
The Bangladesh Premier league has infused a positive mindset among the players. Sharing dressing rooms with veterans can only add to a player’s experience. The hat trick by Al-Amin-Hossain vs Sylhet Superstars, defending 108 runs, in the death overs demonstrates the temperament of young Bangladeshi quickies to deliver in pressure-cooker situations. It’s for a reason why Bangladesh is starting to be seen as an invincible force at home.
When talking about invincibility, the mind automatically gets back to point where the topic began: The Asia Cup. The event consists of two teams which not only found it difficult, but were made to bow down ruthlessly attributed by some fiery cricketing display by Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
The two Asian powerhouses engulfed the bitter experience of losing a bilateral series against Bangladesh, the Pakistan series being a whitewash.
India will start as favourites
Bangladesh tracks promise to serve the visiting teams with low and slow tracks with spin forming the crux of their bowling armoury. Every home country rightfully deserves a comfort zone and Bangladesh will work well within their rights if they ask for pitches tailored to their strength.
This was just Bangladesh. More the number of favourites, more spice gets added to the event garnished with more unpredictability. Adding to it, nothing can be better if one of the associate members get the better of a top-ranked side. The qualifying round already saw less-fancied sides pinning down better-on-paper teams.
India, being the top ranked side in the T20 rankings start as favourites at least on paper. But it was noticed in the India vs Australia T20 clash that a mere series win or loss can push a team down from rank two to rank eight and vice versa; a brilliant example of the fluctuations of a T20 contest whether it’s on the field or on the rankings list.
The complexion of the current Asia Cup throws up tremendous potentiality of it being a blockbuster with new teams putting themselves forward for the grand show. How things pan out will actually be demonstrated when India and Bangladesh lock horns on the 24th.