Asia Cup 2012 March 10, 2012

Cricket-mad Bangladesh key to Asia Cup following

In a cramped calendar, the Asia Cup has little context. However, the unbridled enthusiasm of Dhaka's fans and marketers could give the tournament the publicity it desperately needs
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The Asia Cup has rarely been a high-profile event. Soon after leading India to the inaugural Asia Cup title in 1984, Sunil Gavaskar wrote precisely two sentences about the tournament in his book Runs N Ruins, an account of the 1983-84 season.

Nine editions and 28 years later, the competition remains the passing afterthought it was for Gavaskar. Most casual fans will be hard-pressed to remember who the current Asian champions are. Three days before the start of this year's contests, another legendary former opening batsman, Geoffrey Boycott, has questioned whether anybody cares about the Asia Cup.

As tournaments seep into each other - Sri Lanka played four ODIs over the past week in Australia, get four days to zip to Dhaka in time for this event, three days after which their home series against England gets underway - context and interest get quickly drained. So much so that after India crashed out early of the CB Series, some commentators raised the week's extra rest for the team as an upside.

In this time of excess, no stadium has overdosed on ODIs like the Shere Bangla National Stadium, hosting 50 one-dayers in four years, more than twice any other venue. Judging from the voluminous crowds that have turned up for most of those matches, Dhaka may well be the city with the world's biggest appetite for cricket.

The Asia Cup is looking to cash in on that. Even as you head towards the arrival lounge in the city's airport a large hoarding informs you of details about the tournament. Drive around the city and you spot numerous billboards urging you to enter a contest to get free tickets to watch "four nations fighting for glory."

The unbridled enthusiasm of the city's fans and marketers is even more astonishing given the state of the national team. Their captain recently launched a stinging attack on the BCB's pet new project - the Bangladesh Premier League - their best batsman was controversially left out of the squad and only returned after the national selector stepped down, their most experienced player remains on the fringes after a decade of infuriating inconsistency, and their best fast bowler is among the most injury-prone in international cricket and is now returning to the team after nearly a year. And after the hopes raised by some of their performances in 2010, the past year has been a huge letdown.

India, on the other hand, conquered the world title in 2011 before swiftly sliding to mediocrity. As one of their legends announced his retirement, the future of another, at least in the limited-overs game, remains a source of heated debate. The search for possibly the most written-about milestone in cricket history continues next week in Mirpur, though the wait has extended for so long that even the customary "Tendulkar misses 100th hundred" headlines have now disappeared.

With Virender Sehwag rested, the batting rotation policy - a source of much heartburn over the past month - won't be the center of attention, though the identity of their best bowling line-up will. Less than a year after being crowned world champions, only two peripheral bowlers of the World Cup-winning side are in the current squad.

The other World Cup finalists, Sri Lanka, are showing signs of a revival after a horrendous run in the second half of 2011. Tillakaratne Dilshan has revived his scoring touch after stepping down as leader, Mahela Jayawardene's enterprising leadership has won him plenty of accolades over the past month, and their next generation of batsmen is starting to flourish, complementing the heavyweights at the top of the order. Their off-field troubles remain and their spirited show in the CB Series was in conditions completely different to what they will face in Bangladesh, but they will come into the tournament as the most confident side.

The subcontinental team which has had the most successful time in the past 10 months is Pakistan. A year in which the limited-overs captain has a falling out with the head coach is not every team's idea of a stable year, but 2011 will count as a steady and fruitful year for Pakistan, given the many dramas their cricket have been involved in the years before.

The Pakistan head coach job is one of the most challenging and complicated ones in cricket, particularly for a foreigner, and Dav Whatmore will get his first hands-on experience of the difficulty involved during the Asia Cup. The many years of experience in the subcontinent will hold Whatmore in good stead, but the pressure to deliver results will be even greater than usual as he is stepping in after Mohsin Khan's short and productive spell as interim coach.

His biggest test in the league phase will be the match against India. India and Pakistan rarely compete against each other these days, making next Sunday's encounter a rarity in the overloaded calendar - an eagerly anticipated ODI.

Edited by Kanishkaa Balachandran

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • CrazyforCricket_India on March 13, 2012, 5:53 GMT

    India vs Pak for finals will be a hell of a final to watch , even though we have had our differences its just a sport but its also not in the spirit to estinuish that flame as it brings out the best in both countries

  • Indu.sllover on March 12, 2012, 19:16 GMT

    Win Or Lose Doesn't matter... We Love our sri lankan Cricketers. They really deserve to have some break.. They tired after playing several tournament back to back..

  • spinkingKK on March 11, 2012, 9:10 GMT

    They should make this Austral-asia cup instead and include Australia and NewZealand into it. That way, it will be a big tournament worth playing for. Having said that, this edition of the Asia cup will be the most competitive to date. At the moment, SriLankans are playing great cricket and Pakisthan also looks very very strong. India had some horrid time lately, but they may have turned a corner with their last win over SriLanka in the CB series. Bangladeshis are looking more and more confident these days and they could inflict some serious upsets as well. Judging by the recent form, one has to say it will be SriLanka v/s Pakisthan in the final. India will play well, but may have to miss out. I hope they prove me wrong.

  • Happy_AusBang on March 11, 2012, 8:59 GMT

    I predict a Sri Lanka - Pakistan final although I am hoping one or two upsets will happen along the way.

  • Cric-heart on March 11, 2012, 5:51 GMT

    Believe me ! Bangladesh won't win the tournament , but they will at least make a single upset ! Srilanka or Pakistan will win the cup !

  • siabbasi on March 10, 2012, 21:58 GMT

    Hosts can make it more exciting.

  • muatasim_bd on March 10, 2012, 19:11 GMT

    Though I am from Bangladesh, I predict that final will be between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

  • z-ahmed on March 10, 2012, 16:08 GMT

    It surely will be one of the most exciting tournaments you would ever see and no other place better than Bangladesh where fans are crazy for cricket.

  • Ahmed00 on March 10, 2012, 15:17 GMT

    This tournament can become Hi Fi; if it is played with T20 format. In fact ODIs are just waste of time. ICC should stop ODIs with immediate effect and should keep T20 in shorter version along with Test Matches which are real cricket.

  • T.R.GHANCHI on March 10, 2012, 15:09 GMT

    I am a Pakistani and i cant wait for Pak-India game. It should be a good game. Its a request to all the fans of PAK and IND, not to take this match as a war because this is exactly what the interest groups and media wants us to take this match as.

  • CrazyforCricket_India on March 13, 2012, 5:53 GMT

    India vs Pak for finals will be a hell of a final to watch , even though we have had our differences its just a sport but its also not in the spirit to estinuish that flame as it brings out the best in both countries

  • Indu.sllover on March 12, 2012, 19:16 GMT

    Win Or Lose Doesn't matter... We Love our sri lankan Cricketers. They really deserve to have some break.. They tired after playing several tournament back to back..

  • spinkingKK on March 11, 2012, 9:10 GMT

    They should make this Austral-asia cup instead and include Australia and NewZealand into it. That way, it will be a big tournament worth playing for. Having said that, this edition of the Asia cup will be the most competitive to date. At the moment, SriLankans are playing great cricket and Pakisthan also looks very very strong. India had some horrid time lately, but they may have turned a corner with their last win over SriLanka in the CB series. Bangladeshis are looking more and more confident these days and they could inflict some serious upsets as well. Judging by the recent form, one has to say it will be SriLanka v/s Pakisthan in the final. India will play well, but may have to miss out. I hope they prove me wrong.

  • Happy_AusBang on March 11, 2012, 8:59 GMT

    I predict a Sri Lanka - Pakistan final although I am hoping one or two upsets will happen along the way.

  • Cric-heart on March 11, 2012, 5:51 GMT

    Believe me ! Bangladesh won't win the tournament , but they will at least make a single upset ! Srilanka or Pakistan will win the cup !

  • siabbasi on March 10, 2012, 21:58 GMT

    Hosts can make it more exciting.

  • muatasim_bd on March 10, 2012, 19:11 GMT

    Though I am from Bangladesh, I predict that final will be between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

  • z-ahmed on March 10, 2012, 16:08 GMT

    It surely will be one of the most exciting tournaments you would ever see and no other place better than Bangladesh where fans are crazy for cricket.

  • Ahmed00 on March 10, 2012, 15:17 GMT

    This tournament can become Hi Fi; if it is played with T20 format. In fact ODIs are just waste of time. ICC should stop ODIs with immediate effect and should keep T20 in shorter version along with Test Matches which are real cricket.

  • T.R.GHANCHI on March 10, 2012, 15:09 GMT

    I am a Pakistani and i cant wait for Pak-India game. It should be a good game. Its a request to all the fans of PAK and IND, not to take this match as a war because this is exactly what the interest groups and media wants us to take this match as.

  • Charindra on March 10, 2012, 13:33 GMT

    The author is correct on all counts, but I have a feeling this Asia Cup will be more keenly followed and closely fought than the previous editions, for 3 reasons. 1. India v Pakistan. 'Nuff said. 2. Some people might call it overkill, but India v Sri Lanka somehow manages to produce some sort of drama most of the time, and as an SL fan, I can guarantee that we WILL be watching that match, if not the other matches. 3. Bangla playing at home, and therefore have a slight advantage and it may not be the 3 horse race we're used to. But I still don't see them making the finals, but it'll keep the fans interested.

  • KP_84 on March 10, 2012, 13:33 GMT

    The answer to Boycott's question is in the last paragraph of this article. Yes, people do care about the Asia Cup - or at least one particular match in the Asia Cup.

    Personally, I think Pakistan are favourites. Both India and Sri Lanka are tired after long overseas tours. Key players for Sri Lanka may be unavailable due to injury. India's players are desperate for a break from the game, and showed during the CB Series that they have lost the desire to compete. That being said, day-night games in Bangladesh are heavily influenced by the coin toss. The one thing we know for sure is that the team that wins the toss will bowl first.

  • Paras.Rishi on March 10, 2012, 13:26 GMT

    I am not sure if India will win the Asia Cup or not, but I am sure Lankans will reach the finals and will get thrashed in the final match! Cricket is so predictable at times.

  • Srini_Indian on March 10, 2012, 12:59 GMT

    Are you joking? Do Asia cup needs publicity? More people care for Asia cup than always boring, one-sided, over-hyped Ashes.

  • sweetspot on March 10, 2012, 12:40 GMT

    Very funny of that crusty man Geoffrey Boycott, to ask if anyone cares about the Asia Cup! After so many years he must have forgotten that cricket is followed with a lot more passion and interest in Asia, after all the major Asian teams have won the World Cup, while the inventor of the game has not won even one! It is Test cricket that we don't care about anymore. And if you want to define who we're talking about here, compare the population of the Asian cricket playing nations to that of the European one(s)! Bring on the Asia Cup! We can't wait. Geoffrey, get ready for your team to be smacked soundly in SL. Oh, only since you're not so interested in the Asia Cup.

  • Shakirceragem on March 10, 2012, 12:07 GMT

    We love cricket and really waiting for the madness for Indo-Pak match..

  • CricketFan365 on March 10, 2012, 11:43 GMT

    We are mad... we are really mad :D can't wait for the tournament to begin.. All the teams are in fairly good form. Bangladesh could surprise as well.. it will be a cracker of a tournament.

  • yusuf97 on March 10, 2012, 10:41 GMT

    we indian fans wait for days months or years to see india - pak match

  • priceless1 on March 10, 2012, 9:57 GMT

    @bharath194 They also had so many Amazing Defeats in that series too specially against the Australians ..lol

  • Lakpj on March 10, 2012, 9:15 GMT

    Can't see the point in having Mathews and Thisara is the squad if they aren't fit enough to play. They should have named an additional Batsman and a bowler to replace them. Bhanuka and Eranga would have been the ideal options. Mathews is essential to the test series against Eng. Even though Bangladeshis are exited about this Asia cup, I don't think fans of the other nations are too exited about this at all.

  • Bruisers on March 10, 2012, 9:10 GMT

    "No one cares about Asia Cup" LOL. Most fans in India and Pakistan can't wait for the Indo-Pak clash.. How often do you get to see these two cricketing rivals meet each other..?

  • bharath194 on March 10, 2012, 8:36 GMT

    India made an amazing victory against Srilanka in tri series. It preludes the indians capability of making miracles in Asia cup.In the realm of cricket indians are the lords.

  • sneeky55 on March 10, 2012, 7:53 GMT

    It is good that India/Pakistan games do not happen often. That way, when they do happen, they're always headline matches that attract people.

  • cricbangla on March 10, 2012, 7:42 GMT

    ASIA CUP needs publicity??? Huge lines and so much crowd in every ticket booth. So much spectators craving for their tickets but most of the booths hanging sold out notices already. Dear sir come to Dhaka. ASIA cup will be houseful blockbuster. Alas! Only 25000 seats in the SBNCS.

  • DaniMajo on March 10, 2012, 7:23 GMT

    Pakistan will win Asia Cup.

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  • DaniMajo on March 10, 2012, 7:23 GMT

    Pakistan will win Asia Cup.

  • cricbangla on March 10, 2012, 7:42 GMT

    ASIA CUP needs publicity??? Huge lines and so much crowd in every ticket booth. So much spectators craving for their tickets but most of the booths hanging sold out notices already. Dear sir come to Dhaka. ASIA cup will be houseful blockbuster. Alas! Only 25000 seats in the SBNCS.

  • sneeky55 on March 10, 2012, 7:53 GMT

    It is good that India/Pakistan games do not happen often. That way, when they do happen, they're always headline matches that attract people.

  • bharath194 on March 10, 2012, 8:36 GMT

    India made an amazing victory against Srilanka in tri series. It preludes the indians capability of making miracles in Asia cup.In the realm of cricket indians are the lords.

  • Bruisers on March 10, 2012, 9:10 GMT

    "No one cares about Asia Cup" LOL. Most fans in India and Pakistan can't wait for the Indo-Pak clash.. How often do you get to see these two cricketing rivals meet each other..?

  • Lakpj on March 10, 2012, 9:15 GMT

    Can't see the point in having Mathews and Thisara is the squad if they aren't fit enough to play. They should have named an additional Batsman and a bowler to replace them. Bhanuka and Eranga would have been the ideal options. Mathews is essential to the test series against Eng. Even though Bangladeshis are exited about this Asia cup, I don't think fans of the other nations are too exited about this at all.

  • priceless1 on March 10, 2012, 9:57 GMT

    @bharath194 They also had so many Amazing Defeats in that series too specially against the Australians ..lol

  • yusuf97 on March 10, 2012, 10:41 GMT

    we indian fans wait for days months or years to see india - pak match

  • CricketFan365 on March 10, 2012, 11:43 GMT

    We are mad... we are really mad :D can't wait for the tournament to begin.. All the teams are in fairly good form. Bangladesh could surprise as well.. it will be a cracker of a tournament.

  • Shakirceragem on March 10, 2012, 12:07 GMT

    We love cricket and really waiting for the madness for Indo-Pak match..