Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza today conceded that India are the clear favourites to lift the Asia Cup T20 cricket trophy and only the familiarity with home conditions could tilt the balance in his side’s favour in the summit clash here tomorrow.
India have been in rampaging form with four convincing wins in the tournament, including the 45-run thumping of Bangladesh in their opening league match, and Mortaza made it clear that “there was no debate” on who are the favourites in tomorrow’s final at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium.
“We all know that Indians are clear favourites in the final. Let there be no debates or discussions on that,” Mashrafe said at a packed match-eve press conference..
“What we have got is a young team which has won matches playing as a unit. We still don’t have a T20 star, who can single-handedly win us a match. Crowd, pitch, conditions, everything will favour us tomorrow but that can never ensure that we will win the final,” Mashrafe said.
While India Team Director Ravi Shastri termed tomorrow’s final as “yet another match”, Mashrafe said that for his team which rarely make final appearances, it’s a “big occasion”.
“What Ravi Shastri has said is absolutely right. It is another match for them as they are used to hype and big matches. They can take it like 10 other matches. India has played big finals, won trophies. What is easy for them may not be that easy for us. But we are trying to focus on the game, shut ourselves from the hype and remain and play as normally as possible,” said Bangladesh’s ‘Captain Cool’.
Mashrafe said playing the final of Asia Cup T20 adds a “different flavour” but he personally rates playing the quarter-final of the 50-over World Cup against India in Melbourne last year as a “bigger achievement”.
“I believe as a captain, the biggest achievement was leading the team in the quarter-finals of the World Cup against India in MCG last year. This is certainly one of my bigger achievements but that quarterfinal stands out. That was a 50-over format and played in Australia,” the skipper said.
Mashrafe said Bangladesh have improved since they lost by 2 runs to Pakistan in the 50-over Asia Cup final in 2012.
Asked if he feels that this time there would be a turnaround unlike 2012, the skipper was cautious.
“I guess if we are in a situation like that (2012), we will be able to perform better. But I can never guarantee that since we lost the 2012 final from close situation, we will automatically win this time round. At the end, T20 is all about that particular day,” said Mashrafe.
He said that the league match which India won by 45 runs will have little bearing on tomorrow’s final. But paceman Mustafizur’s absence should be a challenge for others to stand up and be counted.
“Had we won that first match by 200 runs, it would have mattered little tomorrow. I don’t think that would have in anyway helped me as a captain. But yes when we are playing without Mustafiz, it means we are without our best bowler. But this means, as a team we have to take the challenge and other bowlers need to step up and show that we can be good enough without our best bowler,” he said.
For the Bangladesh skipper, a loss tomorrow may be disappointing but it would be a start of something special.
“If we don’t win tomorrow, nothing will be lost. I believe that Bangladesh’s cricketing future is really bright. This tournament is an indicator that we are moving in right direction as far as T20 cricket is concerned. I won’t say we have become a great team but our graph is ever improving,” said Mashrafe.