DUBAI: Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza called on his players to ignore the absence of veteran stars Tamim Iqbal and Shakib al Hasan when they face defending champions India in Friday's Asia Cup final.
Bangladesh upset Pakistan by 37 runs in the last Super Four match in Abu Dhabi to book a place in the final for just the second time.
Without their established opener Tamim (fractured wrist) — injured after the first game — and world class all-rounder Shakib (fractured finger), the Tigers will pin their hopes on younger players to shock the six-time champions.
“It will be tough without Tamim and Shakib," admitted Mortaza on Thursday.
“The good thing is that the boys have fought very hard so I hope they fight till the last ball and give us a win which will inspire the whole nation."
With their powerful batting line up, led by skipper Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, India start as favourites. They thrashed arch-rivals Pakistan in two matches to get closer to another title.
Sharma has notched a hundred and two half centuries while Dhawan has two hundreds in the tournament, a factor Mashrafe feels makes them favourites.
“India are far better team (than us)," said Mashrafe. “They are coming here as the favourites so we have to be mentally strong and fight till the last ball."
Bangladesh have beaten India in only five of 34 one-day internationals but one of them came in the 2012 Asia Cup on their way to the final when they lost to Pakistan by two runs.
India beat Bangladesh in the first Super Four game by seven wickets in Dubai in the current edition.
Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja grabbed four wickets while pacemen Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshawar Kumar took three wickets apiece to bundle Bangladesh out for a paltry 173.
Sharma, with 83 not out, anchored India's easy win, but Mashrafe hoped Friday will see a different outcome.
“It's just a match, if you have a great day anything can happen. The boys are in good shape so it could be our day," said Mashrafe.
Bangladesh will look to their former captain Mushfiqur Rahim to lift their batting, like he did in the win against Sri Lanka with a battling 144 and against Pakistan when he hit 99.
Left-arm paceman Mustafizur Rahman is in good wicket-taking form, claiming 4-43 against Pakistan.
“We know they're a competitive side," said Dhawan of Bangladesh. “Hats off to them, the way they played and won against Pakistan. When you play all-round cricket, the results will follow."
Dhawan admitted, however, that many fans had been expecting an India-Pakistan final.
“Everyone thought it will be an India-Pakistan final, but Bangladesh won a great match, we can't take them lightly just because Pakistan is a bigger team.
“Bangladesh are playing better cricket, there's a difference between team on paper and on the field, that's how I see it."