Tournament review

The Afro-Asia Cup 2007

One-day internationals (3): Asia 3, Africa 0
Twenty20 international (1): Asia 1, Africa 0
Women's Twenty20 international (1): Asia 1, Africa 0

It would be easy to dismiss the Afro-Asia Cup as the most pointless tournament of the year, given that it was held at the hottest time of the Indian calendar, was hit by pull-outs and injuries to top players, and that there was scant public or commercial interest.

This tournament has never been popular. Despite what the organisers say, the sides are not a true representation of the best players from both continents. Games played by composite teams have never provoked much interest, and have generally flopped - ICC Super Series, anyone? - and for the nay-sayers to be proved wrong this time the competition needed to be pulled off in a creditable manner.

That didn't happen. The timing was the worst. Chennai, which hosted two of the matches, is terrible in June, much too hot for cricket. You can't really fault the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Sangakkara and Chaminda Vaas for opting out.

The inaugural Afro-Asia Cup, in South Africa in August 2005, was a flop, as many top players were missing then too. This one - which came immediately after India's tour of Bangladesh - was in danger of being scrapped after Nimbus Sports, the original TV rights-holders, pulled out citing lack of public interest. However, the series had already been granted official one-day status, and the ESPN-Star network agreed to televise it. The Asian Cricket Council expressed satisfaction at the way the Cup turned out, but there was no denying that the packed international calendar made it difficult to ensure that the top players turned up in what was the off-season for many teams.

The administrators did not help, with shoddy planning and a poor marketing campaign. The objective of the series was to generate funds for the development of cricket in the two continents, but as there was no commercial interest in the matches it is hard to imagine that there was any significant profit. The Asian team had no sponsor, a clear indication that the organisers' arguments about the value of the competition were far from convincing.

The matches themselves were not too bad. There was a great atmosphere, generated by sizeable attendances, although there were rumours that many free passes were handed out in shopping malls and at the gates. The Twenty20 pipe-opener in Bangalore - which featured almost entirely different sides from the 50-over games - was one-sided, but the three main matches were exciting, and Asia were flattered by winning them 3-0. All three were awash with runs, the batting - especially from Shaun Pollock, who did not bowl, but batted like a million dollars - was entertaining, fielders threw themselves around, and even Africa's limited pace-bowling resources tried hard in severe conditions.

On paper, the Asian team outweighed a side missing top South Africans such as Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis, Makhaya Ntini and Graeme Smith, but the tourists tried hard, and the results were closer than expected. For youngsters such as the pace-bowling Morkel brothers, Morne and Albie, and the Kenyans and Zimbabweans whose international opportunities are few, this was a platform on which to shine and gain exposure, and by and large they succeeded.

It is to be hoped that the tournament - which also included a women's Twenty20 match - will be remembered more for the level of cricket than its irrelevance.

Match reports for

1st Match: Africa XI v Asia XI at Bengaluru, Jun 6, 2007
Report | Scorecard

2nd Match: Africa XI v Asia XI at Chennai, Jun 9, 2007
Report | Scorecard

3rd Match: Africa XI v Asia XI at Chennai, Jun 10, 2007
Report | Scorecard

© John Wisden and Co.