The 14th edition of the Asia Cup ended with many lessons and messages. There were lessons from teams like Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Hong Kong to the cricketing world that teams playing with the willpower to conquer the mighty can do it. The event also gave a message to teams like Pakistan and Sri Lanka that past reputation has little value if they don’t show the tenacity to lift their game.
Afghanistan did not reach the final but for genuine cricket fans they are the winners of this tournament. Giving India and Pakistan a scare and stunning Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, they have announced that they deserve to be bracketed among Asia’s powerful cricket teams.
Bangladesh have staked their claim to be considered an Asian cricket giant, on par with India, by forcing the defending champions to fight tooth and nail until the last ball to win the final. They have risen to this height mainly due to the enthusiasm of their fans, who outnumbered their established opponents in the Asia Cup.
For those who thought Hong Kong, as a qualifier, would be boring to watch, played exciting cricket and gave a lesson on why reputed teams should not take them lightly. Although they lost the match against India by 26 runs, they won the hearts of everyone.
Asia Cup’s message to teams like Pakistan and Sri Lanka is indeed harsh. Pakistan realised that being the champions of the Champions Trophy gave them no benefit unless their players play like champions. It was disturbing to watch Pakistan players, who are known for their ability to play daring cricket, bow down to the pressures of the contest. The wounds inflicted on them by India through two emphatic victories could also take a long time to heal.
Sri Lanka’s performance too was pathetic and made many wonder as to whether this was the nation that has lifted the Asia Cup five times. The fact that only the ageing Lasith Malinga created fear among opponents reveals the mediocre state of the team. Ardent Sri Lankan fans are still waiting for someone from Sri Lanka to step into the legendary shoes of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. Will they be left with no bowlers like Malinga, Muttiah Muralitharan or Chaminda Vaas, who in the past scared almost every batsman in the world?
The UAE, by hosting the Asia Cup, has also sent out a strong message that it deserves many more high-profile tournaments as fans have always filled the stadium for every match. Indian coach Ravi Shastri believes it is an ideal venue for a cricket World Cup. Nowhere else can equal number of fans turn up to cheer their respective teams.