A brief history March 10, 2012

The Asia Cup

Pakistan had to wait 16 years for their first title, in 2000 © AFP

The first edition of the Asia Cup, called the Rothmans Asia Cup and conceived in 1983 with the creation of the Asian Cricket Council, was held in Sharjah, then home to the council. The tournament was a round-robin tournament; India won the title on the back of a ten-wicket win over minnows Sri Lanka and a 54-run win over archrivals Pakistan. Wicketkeeper-batsman Surinder Khanna scored fifties in both low-scoring games and emerged as the unexpected star by taking the Man-of-the-Series award. Sri Lanka came in second while Pakistan lost both their matches.

Now termed the John Player Gold Leaf Trophy, the second edition was held in Sri Lanka, the first such multi-nation tournament to be held there. The defending champions were not present, however, owing to a controversial series against the hosts the year before - one during which the umpires allegedly made incorrect decisions in favour off Sri Lanka - and so Bangladesh entered as the third team. Sri Lanka proceeded to lift the trophy with a five-wicket win over Pakistan after losing their first match to the same opponents. Arjuna Ranatunga was named Man of the Series.

Bangladesh hosted the Wills Asia Cup but failed to win any of its three games. Sri Lanka cruised into the final with three wins in a row but were brushed aside by India, thanks to Man-of-the-Series Navjot Sidhu's rapid 76. Sidhu's six-hitting exploits - he scored 50* and 50 going into the final - were a continuation from his form in the World Cup the previous year.

India hosted the fourth edition and won it for the third time, defeating Sri Lanka in the final in Calcutta. Pakistan had pulled out of the tournament, which helped India's cause. Bangladesh again failed to click and were downed by another Sidhu hundred and a clinical Sri Lankan outfit. Four wickets from Kapil Dev restricted Sri Lanka to 204 in the final, and a powerful middle order knocked off the runs in 42.1 overs.

With the 1993 tournament cancelled due to political tensions, the official fifth edition returned to Sharjah after 11 years. India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan were tied on points after the preliminary round but the former two teams went in by virtue of a better run rate. For the third successive time India defeated Sri Lanka in the final. Led by a magnificent third-wicket stand of 175 off 184 balls by Sidhu and Mohammad Azharuddin, India cruised to an eight -wicket victory. This win took India's overall win tally to four, the most for the Asia Cup.

Marvan Attapattu poses with the trophy after beating India in the 2004 final in Colombo © AFP

Sri Lanka lifted the 1997 Pepsi Asia Cup by defeating India by eight wickets at home. Sri Lanka, having lifted the World Cup the year before, were a force to be reckoned with. The world champions made use of a slow surface to defeat Pakistan by 15 runs in the tournament opener, brushed aside India thanks to a brilliant Ranatunga century, and demolished Bangladesh courtesy Sanath Jayasuriya's 83-ball 108. Ranatunga and Jayasuriya starred in the final in Colombo as well, a triumph that followed their success in the Singer Akai Cup and Independence Cup in India earlier in the year.

Pakistan remained unbeaten all tournament and rightfully lifted the title for the first time. Bangladesh lost all their matches and India only beat the hosts. Pakistan were well-rounded; Bangladesh were thumped by 223 runs, Yousuf Youhana and Abdul Razzaq combined to down India by 44 runs, and Sri Lanka were beaten by seven wickets, with Youhana again the star. Come the final, at Dhaka's Bangabandhu National Stadium, and another all-round effort under lights earned Pakistan a 39-run win.

Sri Lanka shrugged off an indifferent season with a 25-run win over India in Colombo in the finals, after losing just one match all tournament. Hong Kong and the UAE also participated but did little of note; Bangladesh beat Hong Kong by 116 runs to open up their account in the tournament history. Pakistan began well only to crash out due to an error in net run rate calculation and India came through despite a couple sluggish displays. But Sri Lanka once again proved dominant at home, defending a total of 228 with some tigerish fielding and top-class spin bowling from Jayasuriya and Upul Chandana.

The tournament where Ajantha Mendis and his befuddling brand of spin announced itself. His 6 for 13 bamboozled India in the final after Virender Sehwag had jump-started the chase with a boundary-filled blast. Mendis was named Man of the Match, though there had been another equally remarkable performance in the final - a 39-year-old Sanath Jayasuriya bludgeoning 125 off 114 after the rest of the top order folded. Most matches of the tournament featured dead pitches in Karachi, where the summer heat and a series of mismatches kept the crowds away.

A series where the conditions hugely favoured the team batting first. India pulled off a nail-biter against Pakistan, and Shahid Afridi nearly orchestrated a heist against Sri Lanka, but in general, once the floodlights came on in Dambulla, the ball jagged around copiously making it a win-toss-and-bat tournament. India's quicks benefitted from having to bowl second in the final, and led by Ashish Nehra, they dismantled Sri Lanka to lift the trophy for the fifth time, and the first time since 1994-95. While the previous two editions had included smaller teams like Hong Kong and the UAE, this year only the four Test-playing Asian nations were involved.