x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Asia Cup 2014 gave the long rope to tournament’s sagging image

The team did not match the fans’ fervour, but Osman Samiuddin says there were a few highlights in Bangladesh worth taking note of.

A close encounter between arch-rivals India and Pakistan, and the non-traditional use of camera angles added to the experience of cricket-lovers. Munir uz Zaman / AFP
A close encounter between arch-rivals India and Pakistan, and the non-traditional use of camera angles added to the experience of cricket-lovers. Munir uz Zaman / AFP

The 12th Asia Cup is at an end and it is difficult to say whether we will see another. If it could always be held in Bangladesh, as the last two have been, where the crowds have been one of the highlights, then maybe we could do with a few more.

It would also help if it remained as competitive: Sri Lanka were deserving winners, but at other moments, on other days, it is easy to imagine any of three sides winning it. Here are five things we learnt from the Asia Cup.

The ODI, and Asia Cup, refuses to die

A generation of cricket fans has grown up over the past decade thinking the 50-over game will die any moment now. It still has not, and ahead of the World Twenty20, the Asia Cup provided timely evidence of why it should not die.

Only two, arguably three, of the 11 matches were not tight. Some, like the India-Pakistan game, were electric. There was a basic equality between bat and ball, so that only one game featured 300-plus totals. As a bonus, that was a close one, too.

Broadly speaking, as in 2012, the tournament also proved that a well-organised, multi-nation event remains a good idea and a better one than a context-less bilateral ODI series.

India and Pakistan need another dance

It has been more than six years since the two sides last played a full bilateral series. In that time, whenever they have faced off, the atmosphere has been electric.

Their game in this tournament, though, went beyond any recent contest, and easily ranked as one of their best in many years. It galvanised all of cricket, too, and served as a sharp reminder why cricket needs them to be playing one another.

Quite simply, there is no rivalry like it. Not the Ashes, which does not have the kind of unpredictable and slightly dangerous edge, or any of the newer ones, which do not have the history.

More Afghanistan

The inclusion of Afghanistan was not quite the gesture for global development that it might appear. Pakistan’s initial concerns over playing in Bangladesh necessitated the addition of another side to keep the tournament’s broadcast guarantees in terms of duration and matches.

But, once in, Afghanistan proved they belong on this stage. Their victory over hosts Bangladesh was not as much a shock to them as it was to the world. But it was an electrifying moment and potentially yet another seminal one in their rise.

But, arguably, in pushing Pakistan and Sri Lanka at various points, Afghanistan showcased their strengths. They are rough around the edges, as the many dropped catches show. But their confidence with bat and ball in hand makes up for anything they may lack. Cricket needs to see more of them.

Television friendly

For years now, subcontinent-based broadcasters have been the least-interesting and most-formulaic to watch.

While those in Australia and England have tried to find new ways and technologies to keep cricket broadcasting relevant and fresh, those in the subcontinent have been happy to coast along on much-tread patterns.

This tournament, though, was refreshing to watch. Often, the broadcaster went overboard with their statistics attack, in particular when predicting a side’s chances of winning a game.

But much of the analysis, of a player’s strengths and weaknesses, for example, added to the viewing experience. Even the non-traditional use of camera angles, if a bit unsettling at first, had become intriguing and revealing by the end.

Whither Bangladesh?

Two years ago, at the last Asia Cup, Bangladesh came within two runs of winning what would have been their first title of any sort as a full member.

They beat India at that event, as well as Sri Lanka, and it seemed as if their time had come.

For a while, it had.

They beat the West Indies in a bilateral ODI series and drew one in Sri Lanka. They whitewashed New Zealand at home late last year.

But in between, they also managed to lose a series to Zimbabwe and their failure to win a single game at this tournament means they have lost their last seven ODIs.

The loss to Afghanistan hit them hard. For a side whose full-member status is constantly, if unfairly, questioned, losing to a top associate is disastrous. If Bangladesh’s team were as good as their crowds, they would be the best side in the world.

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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