A different Asia Cup.
In what was to be the 13th edition of Asia Cup, changes were implemented since it's inception. The first and the biggest of them all was the change in the format. The Asia Cup was meant to be played in the shortest format of the game, i.e., the T20 format especially in this T20 season which will be followed by the ICC T20I World Cup and then the Indian Premier League. After the ACC (Asian Cricket Council) was downsized by the ICC, it was declared that this edition of Asia Cup would be a T20 competition also acting as a curtain raiser for the T20 World Cup.This was the 5th time that the tournament was being hosted by Bangladesh and apparently the host team was in the final. They had definitely thrived on the home advantage with people coming in large numbers to support them. The young team under the leadership of an experienced campaigner, Mashrafe Mortaza, had surprised many around the globe after their triumph over Pakistan & Sri Lanka. Perhaps, another change. The ploy to prepare green wickets was very well comprehended by their strategy of playing an all-pace bowling attack. These words might be hard to digest when it comes to playing in the sub-continent but this is what can be considered as another welcome change. Being a T20 tourney, many had expected the long handles to come into play. But the seaming and swinging white kookaburra is what the people saw.There were many guys without whose efforts Bangladesh wouldn't have reached the final but Al-Amin Hossain & Sabbir Rahman played the role in lead. Hossain, 26-year old fast bowler was also the tournament's highest wicket-taker with 11 wickets in 5 matches. Whereas, Rahman, aged 24 scored most runs in the tournament, 176 runs in 5 matches.They got beaten by Bangladesh around 9-months ago in a bilateral series. Yes, India is the team I'm talking about. India was the first team to qualify for the final remaining unbeaten throughout the league phase. They continued their winning streak going into the T20 World Cup. A win in the final not only gave them back the Asia Cup after 6 years but also served as a revenge of their 2-1 defeat last year. They have been strengthened by their latest prodigy in Jasprit Bumrah, who can bowl yorkers at will. A weapon which the Indian fast bowling armory always lacked. The ever-reliable spin duo of R Ashwin & Ravindra Jadeja add more value to this armory. The emergence of Hardik Pandya as a third seamer and the return of Yuvraj Singh's splendor in his batting further improve their case. With Shikhar Dhawan also returning among the runs in the final, they again have a steady top order. All these aspects take them into World T20 as favourites.Both Pakistan & Sri Lanka missed out on the final. But both these teams have no one but themselves to be blamed. Both have problems of their own which need to be solved before the World Cup, else an early World Cup exit won't be much of a surprise. Pakistan, recently coming from the first season of Pakistan Super League were expected to do better. But batsmen who scored heavily during the PSL couldn't adjust to the harsh realities of the international level. Their surrender against India on a combined total of 83 suggests everything. They must be satisfied with the re-emergence of Mohammad Amir as the leader of their bowling attack but the batting still remains a worry for Shahid Afridi & Waqar Younis. They have roped in the experienced Ahmed Shehzad for the world event in place of Khurram Manzoor, the latter being dropped after his poor run.For Sri Lanka, the international exit of their two best batsmen, Kumar Sangakkara & Mahela Jayawardene have left a huge void in the middle order which the younger lot isn't finding easy to fill. The injury to their T20 skipper Lasith Malinga & then to the stand-in captain Angelo Mathews had added to their woes. The promotion of Dinesh Chandimal as an opener was the only positive they could have gained from the Asia Cup as he ended up being the highest run-scorer for the island nation. But their middle order is what let them down. For someone of the potential of Thisara Perera needs to prove his talent is genuine and not overrated. Tried and tested players like Tillakaratne Dilshan & Nuwan Kulasekara will have to step up their game and let the younsters follow them.The 5th team which came into the tournament after winning the qualifying stage was UAE. They also were found wanted in the batting department on green wickets. But their bowling efforts won many hearts worldwide. Their 35-year old captain, Amjad Javed led the way with 8 wickets in 4 matches.
A lot of questions were being raised before the big final. Not just questions, more of expected changes. Will there be another green wicket waiting for the final? Will Bangladesh win it's maiden Asia Cup and make another difference to this already very-different Asia Cup? Well, the Bangla tigers will have to wait for the last change to happen after they lost to India by 8 wickets in the final but reaching there should be a great boost for them ahead of the World cup. Ironically, they will have to play the Qualifiers of the World Cup in order to claim a spot in the main event, which by watching their recent recent form they easily should.