Asia Cup 2010 June 14, 2010

A tournament that can give context to ODIs


Thanks to the unsettlingly quick rise of Twenty20s, the one-day format has increasingly looked like the ugly sister of the cricket family, seemingly possessing neither the glamour and fast-paced action provided by the shortest form, nor the traditional appeal and scope-for-narrative that underpins Test cricket.

Critics also point to the amount of fluff associated with one-day cricket: the game itself has the monotonous middle overs (which Cricket Australia is trying to get rid of with a 40-over two-innings concept at domestic level), while its calendar is packed with soon-forgotten bilateral series and barely-followed triangulars.

The ICC's buzzword for the keeping the five-day game relevant has been 'context', but the one-day format is arguably in more urgent need of a booster shot of context. The Asia Cup, with four Test nations participating, could provide just that if it is nurtured into a credible continental championship.

That isn't going to happen without proper scheduling. The crowds cold-shouldered the previous edition in Pakistan since it was staged in the sapping heat of June and July, not traditional cricket months in the country. This time, the 10th edition, all matches are in the small central Sri Lankan town of Dambulla, and not in the bigger centres like Colombo, at least in part because Dambulla is spared the brunt of the monsoon in June, a month in which Sri Lanka has hosted only one one-day tournament before - the rain-ravaged Singer Akai Nidahas Trophy in 1998.

Also, unlike the quadrennial World Cup, the Asia Cup is an ad-hoc event, sometimes put to bed for four years, and sometimes revived after a two-year gap. The recent five-year television deal with Nimbus should at least ensure a biennial event till 2014.

This year's competition, though, could clearly do with a spot of marketing. The sports fan's gaze and the newspaper columns are already concentrated on the football World Cup in South Africa, and the lack of buzz in the build-up to the Asia Cup is not helping turn their focus to Dambulla. A case in point: No international cricket match spells box-office jackpot as much as an India-Pakistan encounter, especially since the two sides have faced off only once in nearly two years, but hardly anyone seems excited about Saturday's marquee clash.

On the plus side, the tournament has been streamlined and the absence of lightweights like Hong Kong and UAE will reduce the number of mismatches which marred the previous edition. And the organisers will be happy to have got all four major Asian cricketing countries to play, something which has not always happened in the past to a tournament that has long been hostage to the fractious political relations in the region - India refused to play in Sri Lanka in 1985-86 and Pakistan cited safety concerns for withdrawing in 1990-91 in India.

The previous two editions were won by Sri Lanka, who are slight favourites this time as well. They have proven performers at the top of the order, and the likes of Thilina Kandamby and Thilan Samaraweera who aren't big hitters will be under less pressure to manufacture strokes in bowler-friendly Dambulla, where the highest total posted so far is only 289. Add to that their varied spin threats - Muttiah Muralitharan, Suraj Randiv and Rangana Herath - and they should prove difficult to beat.

Their most familiar opponents over the past two years are India, who were champions the first four times they played the tournament but have now gone 15 years without winning it. They have been patchy in one-dayers this year, but have a superb recent record in ODIs in Sri Lanka - winning their previous two bilateral series and a tri-series as well. With the World cup eight months away, India are using the tournament to experiment on their combination, particularly after their bench strength was shown up in the recent series in Zimbabwe.

Pakistan have had their regular cocktail of suspensions and fines, climbdowns and U-turns to turn up with something resembling their full strength team. How Shahid Afridi and coach Waqar Younis will unite a team riven by serious dressing-room trouble remains to be seen. So too the form of fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar, whose career has a zombie-like ability to repeatedly return from the dead.

Rounding out the competition is Bangladesh, who remains the kid brother among the big boys of Asian cricket. They have a couple of world-class players in Tamim Iqbal and captain Shakib Al Hasan, and their phalanx of spinners will prove a handful on the slow Dambulla surface.

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Tharindu on June 16, 2010, 0:21 GMT

    I have a feeling that investing on Kapugedera is going to be a total waste, considering the statistics of his performance. He has given so many chances, but in 90% of them, he has let down the spectators. No doubt, he is extremely talented, having pure hitting skills, but problem is in his mental fitness. He has played 74 ODIs with an batting avg of 21.66 scoring just 6 half centuries. Mathews has played just 21 ODIs with an batting avg of 33.66 scoring 5 half centuries already. Compare between these 2 performances....Even Kandambi has already scored 5 half centuries from just 31 ODIs with an avg of 32.33. Stats suggest that investing on him would be better for Sri Lanka cricket...Something about Maharoof...He once again proved what he is capable of & his pathetic performance y'day ultimately lead us to believe that Thissara is a far better allrounder, who is a decent bowler as well as a hard hitting batsmen.

  • Randika on June 15, 2010, 17:43 GMT

    For all those who were wondering what 'context' the tournament and the game of ODI has you got the perfect answer in its very first game. Two fiercely competitive teams, a packed house on a weekday who made merry, some great cricket being dished out were just the highlights. There were so many positives about this start, starting from the resurgence of Pakistan back into big league as a full unit! Bravo Mali, bravo SL, bravo Pakistan..!

  • Gopalakrishna on June 15, 2010, 8:26 GMT

    A Good preview which brings out the true credentials of Asia Cup, which is not happening at regular periodic intervals. Siddarth Ravindran hopes that it would happen with Nimbus at the helm of affiars for telecast till 2014. Let us hope for the best. Thanks Siddarth and Cricinfo - Gopal, Bangalore

  • Dummy4 on June 15, 2010, 5:07 GMT


  • Monty on June 15, 2010, 4:38 GMT

    This "context" thing is utter rubbish. ODIs have their own context already. T20 is the form of the game that needs this "context". T20 is not really authentic cricket. It is like a carnival of the bat hitting the ball. There is hardly any real clash between both. Leave ODIs alone!

  • lucky on June 15, 2010, 4:11 GMT

    hi.....its not surprising....with team India on all time low...even die hard fans have been put off....& the Fifa World Cup does not help either....hope that Dhoni & Boys would do something more welcome the monsson & escape the sapping heat....well all the best to the men...ooops...sorry...boys in Blue.....

  • Raver on June 15, 2010, 3:59 GMT

    Plying just 4 country no qualify match nor including other nation name asia cup. Please name it 4nation cup not asia cup we cricket fan don't like this name, don't insult asia naming.

  • Ramkumar on June 15, 2010, 3:58 GMT

    Pakistan will be tested with their unity and character throught out this tournament and this team, though looks strong in paper, does not have the batting depth that requires for a 50 over side. Pakistans batting will be revolved only with their main stay of Umar Akmal and Salman Bhat. They need to act as a senior pro and guide this young batting unit through this 50 overs, otherwise this team does not look like batting the full quota of 50 overs. Also, the presence of Shoaib Malik back in the team, might not be taken positively by the team, as Shoaib has been pulled earlier haviing creating ruffles within the team. There will be a lot to prove for Akhtar too, as at the age of 35, he needs to prove his calibre once again. How well Afridi be able to prove his mettle in the 50over format, needs to be seen. He is generally a restless cricketer and it all depends on how well can he mould himself and his team.

  • Dummy4 on June 15, 2010, 3:26 GMT

    What happened to Umar Gul? Bring him back man! And Sohail Tanvir?

  • Dummy4 on June 15, 2010, 2:32 GMT

    I must say I am impressed with Arvinda desilva, I feel it is a great move out to play mendis, and use it as a surprise weapon for world cup, especially for teams like NZ, Eng, Aus, SA. Pakistan should also look for a surprize spinner like usman qadir. I dont care if Pakistan looses as long as they play as a unit...It is just a game after all and let the best team win.

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