History beckons TigersAzad Majumder
Bangladesh are one step away from writing a new chapter in their cricketing history when they face Pakistan in the Asia Cup final in Dhaka today.
The home side is already feeling a sense of victory when it made it to the final of the tournament for the first time in its history winning two consecutive matches against the reigning world champions India and the runners-up Sri Lanka.
It put them in an unfamiliar situation as they have been used to making up for the numbers in the Asia Cup only since they started participating in the competition in 1986.
It was even unthinkable a week ago when the tournament began with all the three sub-continental neighbours sending full-strength teams.
The tournament initially got little attention from outside Asia but the hundredth international century of Indian batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar changed the situation.
A Bangladesh win over India in the same match in which Tendulkar reached his milestone gave the tournament a greater significance and by making it to the final, Bangladesh only added an extra appeal to it.
If Bangladesh can beat Pakistan today it can very well change the perception of the cricketing world about the team that only a few years ago was known as the punching bag of international cricket.
Pakistan are the only side that the current generation of Bangladeshi cricketers could never defeat as the only victory against them came way back in 1999 during Bangladesh’s first World Cup campaign.
Skipper Mushfiqur Rahim admitted that there was a psychological barrier for them against Pakistan and they were determined to overcome it with the consistent performance that they have shown in this competition.
Younis Khan, the most experienced Pakistani cricketer in the current side, said that it would be a tough game for them as Bangladesh have nothing to lose but plenty to gain from this final.
Pakistan also have reasons to be quite serious about the final as despite being a regional powerhouse, they have won the tournament only once.
Their maiden success in Asia Cup came in 2000 on Bangladesh soil but unlike on the previous occasion when they defeated Sri Lanka in the final this time they are going to face a spirited home side who will be backed by thousands of fans from the stands.
Pakistan defeated Bangladesh 3–0 at home only in December but Younis is fully aware that this time they are going to face a completely new team that is beaming with confidence.
Another change Younis has noticed is that the nature of wicket which unlike the one in December is offering plenty of runs so much so that at times they were even unable to defend a total of 329.
Bangladesh have the most consistent batting side in the tournament which means that it will never be an easy walk in the park for their bowlers.
The only fear for the home side is the sudden illness of opener Tamim Iqbal who has been suffering from a fever since Tuesday.
Tamim struck half-centuries in three consecutive matches for Bangladesh and it will be a major blow for the hosts if he cannot play. The form of Tamim’s opening partner Nazimuddin is also a cause of concern.
Mushfiq at a pre-match press conference on Wednesday said that they were mulling over a few changes in the side although he did not give any clear indication.
Team sources, however, said that Imrul Kayes could replace Nazimuddin while left-arm spinner Elias Sunny and uncapped Abul Hasan are also an option to replace wayward Shahadat Hossain.
Nasir Hossain, the lower middle order batsman, who made a decent contribution to both the previous wins, sustained a shoulder injury but a BCB physician said that there was little to worry about him.
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