A glimpse into India’s trophy cabinet painfully highlights their inability to secure titles over the past half a decade. Sunday offers an excellent opportunity for them to end this frustrating streak.
A victory ahead of the upcoming World Cup would provide the perfect morale boost for a team that hasn’t yet checked all the boxes but has displayed considerably more stability than anticipated a few months ago.India last clinched a title in 2018 when Rohit’s side defeated Bangladesh in the Asia Cup final in Dubai, securing a three-wicket victory. Since then, India’s struggles in crucial matches and tournaments have been glaringly evident.
They reached the semifinals of the 50-over World Cup in 2019 and the T20 World Cup in 2022 but fell short, including losses in the World Test Championship finals against New Zealand in 2019 and Australia in 2023.
Furthermore, India failed to make a mark in the last year’s Asia Cup (T20 format), which Sri Lanka won. This underwhelming record is a stark contrast to India’s cricketing heritage and their ambitions under the leadership of head coach Rahul Dravid and skipper Rohit.
Nevertheless, India believe they have a fantastic opportunity to add another trophy to their illustrious collection come Sunday.
The return of Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya for the final will bolster their batting line-up, which struggled against Bangladesh’s spinners in the ‘Super 4’ match, despite opener Shubman Gill’s brilliant century.
The match against Bangladesh also highlighted India’s need to address their inconsistency in dismissing opponents after making early breakthroughs. Although they reduced Bangladesh to 59 for 4, they conceded too many runs in the later overs, allowing their neighbours to post a competitive total of 265.
India hope to rectify this issue with the return of pacers Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav for the upcoming game.
However, India remain cautious about Axar’s condition, as he sustained injuries during the match against Bangladesh. His right hand endured multiple blows, resulting in issues with his little finger, forearm and hamstring.
While the team management is closely monitoring his progress, they have enlisted off-spinner Washington Sundar as cover for the final.
Looking beyond the Asia Cup final, India must also consider the broader context. They have four more ODIs, including the Asia Cup final and three matches against Australia, before the World Cup. A victory in the Asia Cup would boost their confidence ahead of the quadrennial tournament, as they aim to end a 10-year ICC trophy drought.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka carry a quiet confidence into their showdown with India, riding a 15-match winning streak in ODIs as the home team.