Still unbeaten in the tournament, India will be tempted to add an eighth Asia Cup title under its belt on Sunday. In their way stand an unrelenting Sri Lankan side, who are poised to bulldoze India’s spinners as they did on Tuesday.
Between the two, Pakistan undeniably was the biggest threat. The injury-ravaged Green Army – sometimes destructive, sometimes careless – was defeated by the high-spirited Lankans in their final Super 4 encounter.
Rohit Sharma’s Blue Army registered their second straight Super Four win in the ongoing 50-over tournament, a prelude to the upcoming World Cup, and finally drew an end to Lankans’ 13-match winning streak in the format.
India’s supreme record in the tournament means it is now almost impossible to imagine them as anything lesser than outright favourites. Boasting world class talent headlined by the likes of skipper Rohit himself, Virat Kohli and Kuldeep Yadav, their well-documented depth in the playing XI is expected to yield huge success on Sunday.
After mauling Pakistan by a record margin of 228 runs in a nail-biter and overcoming a brilliant all-round effort from youngster Dunith Wellalage to win a tense Super Four encounter, the Men in Blue are not only bristling with quality but possess an intensity of spirit that are likely to see them to glory.
The side have been looking in exceptional shape lately, with Rohit-Gill bludgeoning bowlers at the top of the order, and Kuldeep-Ravindra Jadeja shining with the ball and all personnel looking razor sharp in the field. And given the exploits of Kohli in recent times, they look even more formidable going into the final.
In case luck and rain favour Sri Lanka, expect heartbeats to escalate, palms to sweat before toss and mouths to turn dry on every falling wicket when they take the field on Sunday. They shall be going into the lion`s den for the Colombo final. This group seems to possess the mental strength required to flourish in such circumstances. They now look primed for a tilt at taking this title.
Sri Lanka, have gone past the tag ‘pushovers’ despite the absence of several first-choice players. Like Pakistan, the Lankans under Dasun Shanaka found themselves grappling with injury woes in the run-up to the tournament as key players like Wanindu Hasaranga, Dushmantha Chameera, and Lahiru Kumara were advised to rest. The side have the knack of stepping up during major tournaments, and if they can at least show remote glimpses of that on Sunday, the trophy would certainly not mind remaining in Colombo for another year.
Without a full-strength side at his disposal due to injuries, captain Shanaka has stuck manfully to his task. Perhaps more than anything else, he has the insipid effort of Wellalage to thank. Sri Lanka nearly executed their plans to perfection, and with a little more ruthlessness, they could have easily rallied to a comfortable victory.
The reigning champions have not looked in the best of shape in the build-up to this tournament but eventually clicked into gear superbly. Their spin department has been firing on all cylinders, as evidenced by the manner of damage they inflicted upon India on Tuesday.
If there’s one team in this competition capable of nullifying their big-hitting stars, it is India. But in the intimidating atmosphere of a packed Premadasa stadium, will the finalists be able to put in a performance to match the occasion? Only time will tell.