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Asia Cup final, India vs Bangladesh: Half-shaved to chopped heads, a rivalry like no other

India enter Asia Cup finals as the overwhelming favourites but Bangladesh's unpredictability is what fires the rivalry between the two teams.

Asia Cup final, India vs Bangladesh: Half-shaved to chopped heads, a rivalry like no other
Photo courtesy: Twitter/@BCCI

On paper, the two teams are oceans apart in terms of experience, skill, talent, records, laurels, triumphs and legacy. On the field, India's enormous star power is matched by Bangladesh by their passion for the sport and sheer will to win. Unpredictable as the game of cricket is, Friday's Asia Cup final may yet throw up a few surprises.

Traditionally, India and Bangladesh are not considered as arch-rivals. And yet, Bangla fans - die-hard supporters of their cricket team - have often pushed the boundary of what is considered acceptable in sports parley. This was made amply evident when photos of Bangla pacer Taskin Ahmed holding the severed head of MS Dhoni in a photoshopped image began doing the rounds on social media in 2016. Indian fans were left fuming, some even commenting on the audacity of a largely minnow cricketing nation to insult a cricketing great.

Then there was a Bangla newspaper which showed a number of Indian cricketers with half-shaved heads and Mustafizur Rahman standing behind them - brandishing a blade cutter. Rahman had undoubtedly troubled Indian batsmen in the three-match ODI series but to have such a photoshopped image left Indian supporters absolutely fuming.

A year earlier, Bangla fans felt they had been cheated in the 2015 ODI World Cup when a well-set Rohit Sharma was caught on 90, only for the waist-high delivery to be deemed no-ball. India eventually won the crunch tie which later resulted in fans taking out protest marches in Dhaka and other parts of Bangladesh.

Incidents like these have added fuel to the simmering rivalry between the two neighbours. And while India have already faced Bangladesh in the ongoing tournament - and decimated them, Friday's final may not be as one-sided as stats might indicate. India have been unbeaten in the tournament so far but were tested to the limits in a match vs Afghanistan which ended in a tie. True, several seniors like skipper Rohit, Shikhar Dhawan and Jaspreet Bumrah were rested for the match and would be back for the title clash. But the title clash itself is against a side that is high on confidence after having outclassed a sorry Pakistani unit in a do-or-die Super Fours clash.

The betting odds may be overwhelmingly in favour of India. And Bangladesh will surely have to fight tooth and nail to even challenge the Men in Blue. The rivalry itself though could well hot up in Dubai this Friday.