Asia Cup: India will watch the Bangladesh-Sri Lanka match with much interest

Lasith Malinga is the biggest threat to Bangladesh’s hopes of reaching the final of the Asia Cup © Getty Images

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

Yesterday was fantastic, but it means nothing; we’ve got to win the game against Sri Lanka and get to the final. After the Asia Cup, we can celebrate and look back at fond memories – Stuart Law, Bangladesh coach to his team.

 

 

While there is celebratory buzz around Bangladesh following the remarkable victory over India; it is imperative that the team doesn’t lose focus from the job at hand. For a side that seldom beats stronger cricketing nations, the euphoria of upsetting the World Champions can be quite a distraction. An encore of the previous game would do wonders and help them qualify for the final of the Asia Cup. It would be a new high in their cricketing history – a vision that should motivate them when they take on Sri Lanka.

 

Bangladesh not only have a chance of creating history, but also spoil India’s party. Virat Kohli’s breathtaking knock that drowned Pakistanmay count for nothing if the hosts’ beat Sri Lanka. Not long ago, a similar effort from Kohli had kept India alive in the Commonwealth Bank (CB) series Down Under and pushed the Lankans towards a must-win situation in their last league game. As it turned out, they scrapped through the Australian challenge to shatter Indian dreams. India finds themselves in a similar situation in the Asia Cup, but this time a Lankan win would be a favourable result for them. The question is: Would luck favour India on this occasion?

 

Although one can draw a few parallels from the near identical circumstances of the CB series, the odds of India qualifying are much stronger this time around. In Australia, Sri Lanka had to bear the brunt of Kohli’s spectacular belligerence, but had been the team to beat throughout the competition. Heading into that all-important clash, Sri Lanka had the upper hand over Australiaand had beaten them twice in the lead-up. In contrast, Bangladesh pulled a rabbit out of the hat the other day, but have a tall order before them.

 

Inconsistency is the biggest worry for Bangladesh and it may come to haunt them when they face Sri Lanka. Their 2011 World Cup campaign typified that phenomenon as it ranged from the embarrassment of being bowled out for 58 against West Indies to a mind-blowing win over England. To expect them to beat two superior teams in consecutive games is asking too much. Sri Lanka are undoubtedly the favourites and should in all probability regain some lost pride.

 

Prior to the clash against India, Mushfiqur Rahim, the Bangladesh captain, pin-pointed India’s weak bowling – a strategy his batsmen picked up decisively. Sri Lanka may be a little light on their bowling with Lasith Malinga being the only threat. On the other hand, the strong batting line-up that performed brilliantly in Australia has flattered to deceive in the Asia Cup. Thus,Bangladesh cannot zoom in on one specific area of weakness in the Lankan ranks. They would have to approach the game with an open mind and play it very sensibly.

 

Mahela Jayawardene would be a disappointed man considering his team’s poor show and would be determined to set things right. A win may be inconsequential, but would help them get a few ticks in the boxes. A few weeks ago, a billion people supported their competitors Australia. The same number would be rooting for them when they face Bangladesh.

 

However, unlike Melbourne – which resembled the Premadasa Stadium during the crunch game against Australia – Sri Lanka would play in front of a humongous Bangladeshi crowd. The scene of a packed house at the Shere Bangla National Stadium for the India-Pakistan encounter was a sight for the sore eyes. It reflected the hysteria the Bangladesh victory has generated. Despite Sunday being a working day in the country, the crowds turned out in numbers to witness the crucial game.

 

It is difficult to ascertain the level of jubilation if Bangladesh manages a victory. During the 2011 World Cup, wins over Englandand Ireland were celebrated with enthusiastic fervour on the streets of Dhaka and Chittagong. A passage through to the final would be a realisation of a long cherished dream for the passionate supporters i.e. competing with the big fishes on an equal footing.

 

In the past Bangladesh have upset a few teams to get through to the second round of a competition – notable examples beingIndia (2007 World Cup) and the West Indies (ICC World T20 2007). However, a passage through to the final would be a unique achievement and may herald a new era in Bangladesh cricket.

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)