Even without Virat Kohli, India won the Asia Cup without any hue or cry. Except the final where they were given a scare against Bangladesh, India strolled through the tournament without even breaking a sweat.
Let’s look at the performances of all the 6 participating nations:
Hong Kong entered the tournament as the lowest ranked team and unsurprisingly, they bowed out at the very first stage. While they couldn’t do much against Pakistan, they gave India a good run for their money with Anshuman Rath and Nizakat Khan sharing a 174 run partnership. That wasn’t enough to beat India but Hong Kong showed the world that they belong with cricket’s big boys.
Sri Lanka crashing out in the group stages was the biggest upset of this year’s Asia Cup. While Sri Lankan cricket has been on the decline ever since Jayawardene and Sangakkara’s retirement but nobody saw this coming. Sri Lanka lost not only to Bangladesh but Afghanistan too as they were humbled at the very first hurdle.
Afghanistan stunned one and all with their performances in the Asia Cup. As if topping their group by beating Bangladesh and Sri Lanka wasn’t enough, they tied their match against India in the Super 4’s and narrowly lost to Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The Afghan spin trio of Rashid, Mujeeb and Nabi is as good as any other spin combination in the world and in a few years time, Afghanistan will surely be a force to be reckoned with.
Bangladesh began their journey in contrasting fashion. They beat Sri Lanka but lost against Afghanistan in the group stages. But they upped their ante when it mattered the most. They narrowly beat Afghanistan in the Super 4’s and hammered Pakistan in their virtual semi-final. Although they could post only 223 against India in the final but their bowlers gave it their all and the match went down till the last ball.
To reach the final and almost win the tournament without their senior players Shakib and Tamim Iqbal was no less than a miracle and Bangladesh deserve credit for their heroics at this year’s Asia Cup.
India rested Virat Kohli, their star batsman for this tournament and Rohit Sharma took over the captaincy duties. India were given a scare by Hong Kong in their opening match but the team responded to that challenge in resounding fashion, beating Pakistan twice to book their place in the final.
India were again struggling against Bangladesh in the final but sensible batting got them home as India won their 7th Asia Cup.
While there was nothing much to discuss about India but Rohit Sharma’s captaincy skills have given the Indian selectors some food for thought. While there is no denying that Kohli is easily the best batsman of this era but Rohit Sharma showed in the tournament that he’s the better captain. And considering his success, the prospect of seeing Rohit Sharma becoming Indian captain permanently can’t be ruled out.
Pakistan entered the tournament as the pre-tournament favorites and maybe carrying that extra burden became too heavy for them. While the match against Hong Kong was a walk in the park, Pakistan were in for a rude surprise as India beat them by 8 wickets in the group stages.
Pakistan met Afghanistan in their first match in the Super 4’s and had it not been for Shoaib Malik’s exploits, they would’ve probably lost that match too.
Next up was India again and the result this time was no different, a defeat by 8 wickets.
Pakistan played their last Super 4 match against Bangladesh and a victory would’ve taken them in the final but their batting let them down once again and Pakistan were left to rue their wounds.
Many people have called for heads to roll after the Asia Cup debacle but people forget what this team has achieved over the past 2 years or so. Selectors made a mistake by not going for the horses for courses option by picking an extra spinner in the squad but if the selectors have their 15 in mind for the World Cup and want to give them a longer run, then we should all support them.
It is high time that we stop being judgmental and give the boys some breathing space. Winning and losing is part of the game, let’s just hope this was a small obstacle and our boys go on to win the World Cup next year in England!