x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Tournament full of empty promises

The National's Paul Radley suggests that this year's Asia Cup did not live up to the pre-tournament billing.

The UAE coach Vasbert Drakes feels that his side "didn't embarass themselves" at the Asia Cup.
The UAE coach Vasbert Drakes feels that his side "didn't embarass themselves" at the Asia Cup.

KARACHI // The India captain Mahendra Dhoni is always quick to see the funny side in most situations. "This is the first time all the policemen are sitting comfortably and watching the match," he joked after one Super Four game at the Asia Cup. "You can say we are playing for them, and it is good for them."

It is unclear whether Dhoni's quip was more of a comment on the poor turn-out of paying spectators, or the massive security presence at the grounds at the Asia Cup. This tournament was in part a rehearsal for the Champions Trophy, which is scheduled to be played in Lahore, Karachi and Rawalpindi in September, and, happily, it passed without incident. The security advisors employed by the ICC, as well as the coalition of cricket boards from New Zealand, Australia and England, will have found no just cause to stay away from the Champions Trophy.

However, for that to be enough to deem the Asia Cup a success misses the point. It is no surprise the crowds stayed away. This tournament was the best advert for Twenty20 cricket since the advent of the short-form of the game, as the matches were generally poor and heavily one-sided. The only match to provide a fair duel between bat and ball - other than the dead tie between the host side and hapless Bangladesh - was the final.

The next edition of the Asia Cup could, and should, be played in the Twenty20 format. Yet, while the 50-over game still turns such a handsome profit, it is unlikely that will happen. In terms of the UAE's contribution to the tournament, the coach Vasbert Drakes was just about spot on when he said that "they didn't embarrass themselves". It was no better or worse than that. Saqib Ali's side have an important time ahead of them, as they prepare for March's World Cup qualifier.

How much they gained from two hefty losses at the Asia Cup, against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, is open to question, but they should certainly not feel downhearted. Khurram Khan proved that, at 37-years-old, he is still a class act, while the wicketkeeper Amjad Ali announced himself to wider audience on his former stomping ground. His blitz against Sri Lanka had some commentators comparing him to Brian Lara (due to the elaborate back-lift he shares with his fellow left-hander).

It also prompted much intrigue in Pakistan. With their own side in dire straits at the time, many Pakistanis were wondering why they had let the talented Lahori slip through the net and switch allegiance to the UAE. Neither would Zahid Shah have looked out of place in the Pakistan line-up. The UAE's pace spearhead is just as quick as Abdur Rauf and Rao Iftikhar, and was the first player in the tournament to dismiss Kumar Sangakkara for less than 100.