Both India and Bangladesh have reached the finals convincingly, without losing a match. In the group stage, India recorded big wins against New Zealand and Japan, bowling them out for 147 and 41 respectively. The game against Sri Lanka was the only one where our middle order got a chance to bat at the group stage, when India batted first and scored 297-4 in their allotted 50 overs.
The game against Australia in the quarter-finals was going to be tough, testing our batting strength. Yashasvi Jaiswal held it all together in the early stages, with a classy 62 and later, when India was in trouble, reeling at 144-6 in 38 overs, Atharva Ankolekar came to the rescue, with a quick-fire but responsible, unbeaten 55, as India managed 233-9 in 50 overs.
There was a lot of drama when Australia batted, as there was a runout on the very first ball of the innings and by the end of the first over, Australia was 4-3, although their captain, Mackenzie Harvey was a trifle unlucky to be adjudged leg before wicket. No DRS and no reviews in this tournament. Australia never really recovered from the bad start, as Kartik Tyagi, the chief wrecker, returned with figures of 8-0-24-4.
In the semifinals against Pakistan, India bowled the opponents out for 172 before our openers finished off things in style. The key moment of the match was the spectacular catch taken at deep square leg by Divyaansh Saxena to get rid of Mohammad Harris. Pakistan was 146-4 in 34.3 overs.
Bangladesh recorded easy wins against Zimbabwe and Scotland in its group matches. There was a no-result in their match against Pakistan due to rains. They had convincing wins over hosts South Africa and New Zealand in their quarter-finals and semifinals respectively.
Both India and Bangladesh are fielding strong teams and a bunch of talented individuals packed with potential and compelling stories. India has a good opening pair in Yashasvi Jaiswal and Divyaansh Saxena, a decent middle order with Captain Priyam Garg at No 4 and a formidable bowling attack of Kartik Tyagi, Sushant Mishra and Akash Singh as pacers and the spin duo of legspinner Ravi Bishnoi and Atharva Ankolekar. Kartik Tyagi can generate a lot of pace and bowl yorkers with pinpoint accuracy, although he needs to make the batsmen play a lot more balls.
Bishnoi bowls the wrong'un or the googly with a lot of guile. Jaiswal and Tyagi have already been picked up by the Rajasthan Royals for IPL 2020 and everyone knows how Jaiswal braved adversity to get thus far. Incidentally, he is also the youngest double centurion in the history of List A cricket, at 17 years and 292 days.
Towhid Hridoy and Mahmudul Hasan Joy form the mainstay of the Bangladesh middle order and are the batsmen to watch. Hridoy is the only player to have hit centuries in three consecutive innings and the third to hit four youth ODI centuries in a calendar year. In all, he has five ODI hundreds. Joy will be a lot more confident after having scored a century in the semifinal against New Zealand. Opener Tanzid Hasan and No. 5 Shahadat Hossain were amongst the runs in the quarterfinal against South Africa. The tall Shoriful Islam, in the mould of Mustafizur Rahman, can generate a lot of pace. He is ably supported by Tanzim Hasan Sakib and spinners Rakibul Hasan, Hasan Murad and Shamim Hossain.
India has won the World Cup four times and been a runner-up twice. It is the first final for Bangladesh and they will want to make it count. India has a 3-1 advantage over Bangladesh in this event. Their most recent encounter in the Asia Cup in September 2019 was a close affair, with India coming out tops by a slender margin of five runs. India holds the edge but the final promises to be a fascinating contest.
(The writer is a former R&D scientist and a sports enthusiast)