Asia Cup final a chance for India to drop bad old habit

India’s Asia Cup 2018 campaign has been extraordinary so far, with the team being the first to reach the final.

India has to be on guard in the Asia Cup final against Bangladesh.   -  AP

In the last four-and-a-half years, India has lost two semifinals and finals of multi-team tournaments in which it was arguably the best team until the latter stages. Winning the 2016 Asia Cup offered a turnaround of sorts before defeat struck again, in June 2017, in the Champions Trophy final against Pakistan. This is an area India must address if it harbours ambitions of becoming the world champion for a third time.

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On two of those four occasions (in the 2016 World T20 semifinal against the West Indies and last year’s Champions Trophy final), it shot itself in the foot by bowling no-balls at crucial junctures.

Against the West Indies, R. Ashwin and Hardik Pandya were to blame for bowling no-balls, which denied them the wicket of Lendl Simmons when he was on 18 and 50, respectively. He went on to make 82 and take West Indies to the final at India’s expense. And last year, Jasprit Bumrah’s no-ball, off which he had Fakhar Zaman caught behind when he was on 3, virtually cost India the Champions Trophy. Zaman went on to make 114 and provide Pakistan the platform to post a 300-plus total which India couldn’t overhaul.

2014 World T20 final: Lost

2015 World Cup semifinal: Lost

2016 World T20 semifinal: Lost

2017 Champions Trophy final: Lost

On the previous two occasions, India’s batting line-up faltered big time. Once while batting first and the other when batting second. Having gotten itself close to winning a trophy, India returned home empty-handed because it had one bad day in the tournament.

India’s Asia Cup 2018 campaign has been extraordinary so far, with the team being the first to reach the final. But the team has to be on guard for Friday's final against Bangladesh.

The losses in the business end of tournaments are too frequent for comfort. What's more, it isn't a new habit. This, in a way, explains India’s comparatively smaller collection of trophies.

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Between October 2000 and August 2004, India was involved in 11 tournament finals. All it managed to win was only one, the famous 2002 NatWest Trophy, beating England in the Lord’s final. Two of other 10 finals were either abandoned or discontinued due to inclement weather.

The scenario now is not very dissimilar. The current crop of players is probably just as talented as those assembled by Sourav Ganguly in the early 2000s. And the sooner the current Indian team develops the nous to win tournament semifinals and finals the better.

Winning Friday’s Asia Cup final will potentially go a long way in helping India overcome the inability to cross the final hurdle. This is the last multi-team tournament that India plays before next year’s World Cup and going into the quadrennial tournament on the back of another defeat in the final cannot be good.

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