The Asia Cup is nothing more than another meaningless ODI tournament in the international calendar.
"Since about, I think 1985, people have been saying that there is
too much meaningless one-day cricket. Maybe it's finally time to do
something about it" - Rahul Dravid at the 2011 Bradman Oration.
International Cricket Council as well as its member boards and
associations need to pay heed to the recently-retired Dravid's statement
before it's too late for the 50-over format. But, going by tournaments
like the ongoing Asia Cup in Bangladesh, it appears that limiting the
numbers of ODIs and meaningless tournaments in the format, is the last
thing on the administrators' minds.
Come to think of it, the name
'Asia Cup' is misleading and the tournament should instead have been
called South Asia Cup because that's the four participating countries -
India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - are geographically located.
The rest of the continent is not represented, so why give the tournament
such a grand name?
India and Sri Lanka, who are in the midst of
transition with their national teams, also seem to have missed a trick
by not naming an experimental squad with a mix of experienced and
inexperienced players for the Asia Cup, as part of planning for the next
phase of cricket in their respective countries. Administrators also
seem to think that cricketers are machines, who can go on and on despite
the hectic schedule they are subjected to; and as a result meaningless
tournaments like the Asia Cup are thrown into the mix. Why don't they
realise there is something called 'cricket overkill' that does more harm
than good to the game?
This leads me to question the purpose
of the Asia Cup itself because apart from it being a filler tournament,
which appears to have been scheduled because of the 12-day window in the
FTP calendar, it isn't doing anything for the development of cricket in
In an ideal world, there would have been a
qualifying competition between Afghanistan, Hong Kong, UAE, Nepal and
Malaysia; to join the four full ICC members in the Asia Cup as it would
give these countries much-needed international exposure as well as the
confidence to hold their own against the 'big guns'. This would also
have encouraged the development of cricket in these countries as people
would have seen their teams in action.
As things stand now, the
Associate and Affiliate members of the ICC face the full members only in
the 50-over World Cup and the Twenty20 World Cup. While countries like
Ireland, Netherlands and Afghanistan can still give a decent account of
themselves despite limited exposure against the top teams, most of these
teams come up short and are involved in lop-sided matches against the
full members, which doesn't do anything for the development and
popularisation of the game.
Afghanistan has made remarkable
progress in international cricket and were rewarded for their
performances when they gained ODI status in 2009, but since then have
played only one match against a Test playing nation when they faced
Pakistan at Sharjah last month. The Afghan players were not awed by the
situation and gave an impressive account of themselves even though they lost the match
by seven wickets. The performance justified their rapid rise through
the lower divisions, but the inexperience of playing against top teams
did cost them in the end.
After that match, Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq said he was impressed by Afghanistan's fighting spirit
and added they could give other teams a tough time. "I think
Afghanistan can give tough time to Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and even to
better teams. It is all about experience and if they play more cricket
against good teams in the world, they are going to improve," he said.
Asia Cup would have been the ideal starting point to give Afghanistan
that experience, but instead they were snubbed as this tournament
apparently is meant only for four elite teams of the continent. Afghan
players are understandably angry and upset about the situation and feel
they are not being taken seriously enough. Afghanistan's hard-hitting
batsman Mohammad Nabi told PakPassion.net, "We are not featuring in the
Asia Cup, that is really disappointing. How are we going to improve if
we do not play against these teams?"
A fair question indeed, but
it is highly unlikely that Nabi is going to get an answer to this
important and pertinent question, as the administrators only seem to be
interested in adding to their respective cricket boards' treasure chest.
And, until the administrators of the game understand and get their
priorities right by putting cricket above everything else, it is highly
likely that unnecessary tournaments like the Asia Cup will continue to
be included in the international calendar as will the 'shameless profiteering' matches like the one-off Twenty20 tie between South Africa and India.