Asia Cup 2010 June 25, 2010

An absorbing tournament with few watchers

The 2010 edition of the Asia Cup remained unexceptional due to haphazard organising and, despite some striking on-field battles, did not provide too many pointers to the World Cup preparations of the top teams

When a major tournament involving the continent's four Test playing nations is held entirely in a small town, you'd expect the place to be buzzing with excitement. During the league phase of the Asia Cup, though, barring the jacked-up security presence and hotel rates, Dambulla barely acknowledged its existence. There was no sense of anticipation regarding the matches, no billboards or posters advertising that the tournament was on, and until you got within sight of the stadium, you didn't even see any flags or face-painted fans.

The buzz was palpable only on the day of the finals, when fans poured in to cheer the favourites, only to be disappointed by an Indian side that capitalised on the ample assistance the pitch provided under lights to topple Sri Lanka.

Though the fans might not have been whipped into a frenzy, the Asia Cup had some high-quality contests except for the matches involving Bangladesh, who were handed ritual thrashings by the rest. While many worry about the future of the ODI, a couple of riveting games involving Pakistan - the tournament opener against Sri Lanka and the clash against India - showcased the strengths of the 50-over game over the Twenty20 format: the many chances to get back in a game, and extended hostile spells of bowling (Mohammad Aamer and Shoaib Akhtar at the start of the Indian innings.)

In the end, the title triumph added to MS Dhoni's already impressive list of captaincy achievements in all formats: the World Twenty20 in 2007, the CB series in 2008, and overseeing the final phase in the rise to the No. 1 ranking in Tests.

However, in a tournament portrayed as the start of the build-up to the World Cup, not many questions over India's team composition were answered over the past two weeks in Dambulla. While five senior batsmen are likely starters in the one-day side, none of the youngsters performed well enough to firm up their places, and none of them were poor enough over this tournament and the Zimbabwe series to be dismissed from the race for a middle-order berth. The bowling line-up more or less picks itself and there was no change in that status quo over the Asia Cup.

Sri Lanka, too, hardly gleaned any pointers towards their 2011 preparations. The lower-middle order is a problem area for them and none of Thilina Kandamby, Thilan Samaraweera and Chamara Kapugedera did enough to settle the tussle for the No. 6 and 7 spots. Also, Farveez Maharoof was recalled as a bowling allrounder, but it remains to be seen whether his blow-hot-blow-cold efforts merit a long run at No. 8.

Pakistan may not have made the finals, but the tournament wasn't a write-off for them. Given the shenanigans over the past year, any competition that goes off without murmurs of infighting and on-field controversy should be deemed a success. Then there was Shoaib Akhtar, yet to reach fitness levels necessary for punishing spells of international cricket, showing he can still crank up the pace and rub opponents the wrong way. The biggest bonus was the batting of their captain Shahid Afridi, who combined judicious stroke-selection while retaining the panache of old.

The most disappointing of the lot was Bangladesh, who repeated the old 'we're improving' mantra before sinking without resistance in all their matches. They at least had Alok Kapali's blistering 115 against India to console themselves two years ago, but this time there weren't even any standout individual performances - with bat or ball - to cling on to.

Another letdown was the low-intensity of the floodlights at the stadium. There were plenty of complaints from batsmen and fielders about sighting the ball under lights and that, allied to the increased help for bowlers in the evening, made it an almost entirely a win-toss-and-bat tournament. The helter-skelter scheduling also raised questions, with no match on Sunday and the final being held on a Thursday, though the day after was a holiday.

This was the 10th edition of the Asia Cup, but the organisers showed little interest in building a sense of history around the tournament. Unless they manage to evoke that in both fans and players, the Asia Cup will remain an unexceptional one-day tournament, failing to excite people even in the small town, where it was supposed to be the sporting highlight of the year.

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Yohan on June 29, 2010, 17:56 GMT

    @ Vipin Kumar - Sorry for u man . Come up . You asked "why SL is not match fixing?" I d like to ask hv u got any evidence to prove?. Has anybody in history involved ?If u did its hard to escape as cricketers are under the scanner of ICC. A series defeat doesnt mean that they hv fixed them ..Somebody has to lose in a game . its the reality . Dont judge Sri lankans in Indian scales.

  • kumar on June 29, 2010, 14:41 GMT

    I think one of the major reasons for few watchers is too many matches between India and Srilanka . Too many India - Srilanka encouters actually killed interest of the tournment.But the worst thing is these two are gonna play another series right after the test series. I am goona pray for heavy rain for next odi tournament which involve both India-Srilanka.

  • Sampath on June 28, 2010, 11:06 GMT

    All in SL Cricket at the moment are just earning there bread & butter & have no interest in developing the game. All of them are political appointees & you cannot expect nothing more than that from them. Only Aravinda De Silva is there with clean hands & I'm sure that he will resign before the World Cup. If we are to develop Cricket we need to have a Controlling Body organized & chasing out those political henchmen. Bring back a person like Thilanga Sumathipala or Ana Punchihewa. They'll do the job.

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2010, 7:14 GMT

    bu why not Sri Lanka involved to match fixing? because the reason you have gave that are reason also gave when South Africa came in India, if you go in history. Thty gave very good reason at starting and every one believing that they are right but EOD world know what happed.

  • Yohan on June 27, 2010, 19:49 GMT

    @ V.Gomez - Dont try to get Sri Lanka involved to match fixing stories . Its true that we lost the final due to batting mistakes . But we know they are serving the best to our country . Well BCCI financially helped SLC .Yet Sri lanka won last two tounaments which India involved b4 Asia Cup . T20 match also can be added. So actully india dropped from No 2 to 3 bcoz of Sri lanka s victories . Same might happen in Tests in upcoming test series vs Sri Lanka. Dont masure Sri Lankan cricketers in your scales .

  • Dummy4 on June 27, 2010, 15:37 GMT

    The Asia cup this year was the worst organised of its kind.After all ,if you want people to watch you should make it people -friendly .Wrong timing and the fact that all mathes were at Dambulla spoiled the show.If matches are predictable they become boring. Plus,I don't think anyone is interested in yet another 4-nation series.

  • Dummy4 on June 27, 2010, 6:53 GMT

    don't place these kind of historic tournaments without a plan or publicity. its not an english county match that has only the security as the cheerleaders.just make it big. it involves big people so just make it big. WC and other are silly reasons a 90 min game does'nt stop a one-day game unwatched

  • Dummy4 on June 27, 2010, 3:40 GMT

    In India this tournament was barely noticed. Even the rare India-Pak encounter was missed by most. 1. Don't schedule a major tournament with FIFA WC and Wimbledon going around. Indian upper middle class give more importance to WC than this tame cup. 2. Indian fans are justifiably disillusioned with our national team after their recent outings. Even though Yuvi's absence help improve the strength, we are still in boycott mood. 3. There are far too many ODIs. 4. Last but not the least, we dont want to see any more India-SL matches for the next few years.

  • V on June 27, 2010, 3:35 GMT

    How come Sri Lanka never ever complains of being approached by Indian bookies. Everyone has,.. even Pakistan complained of being approached by Indian bookies "In Sri Lanka"'. Same with South Africa,.. even Bangladesh. But never Sri Lanka. The fact of the matter is that India bailed out Sri Lanka Cricket from going bankrupt last year (USD 60 Million). Since then the two teams have played every other month due to which India moved to #1 position on both test and ODI. But the games played in Sri Lanka and India have been very suspect. (a) Sri Lanka keeps beating India when playing outside of India or Sri Lanka (b) India have won 90% of the coin tosses vs Sri Lanka (c) Always wins the toss in the finals AGAINST Sri Lanka. Things that make you go Hmmmmmmmmmmm?

  • Dummy4 on June 27, 2010, 1:14 GMT

    I think they need to fix some of the slots.

    Sri Lanka: 1. Tharanga, 2. Dilshan, 3. Jayawardene, 4. Sangakkara, 5. Kandamby, 6. Mathews, 7. J Mendis, 8. A Mendis, 9. Kulasekara, 10. Malinga, 11. Randiv/Welegedera

    Most slots are settled, pick between Welegedera and Randiv depending on the pitch offered, and have guys like Fernando, Maharoof, Perera and Kapugedera on the fringes.

    Pakistan: 1. Butt, 2. Hasan/Farhat/Amin, 3. U Akmal, 4. Malik, 5. K Akmal, 6. Afridi, 7. Razzaq, 8. Ajmal/Alam, 9. Aamer, 10. Asif, 11. Ahktar

    Opening slot is in contention, the rest of the team is pretty strong. On pitches that aren't turning, play Alam as the extra batsman and have Afridi, Malik and Alam getting through the spin overs.

    India has lots of talent but their team balance is questionable. They are in definite need of a pace-bowling allrounder, especially at limited overs level. I really don't see why they can't pick Irfan Pathan at 7, considering Dhoni bats up the order.

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