The Asia Cup 2018 came to an end with India's victory over Bangladesh in the final. Here are our five takeaways from that tournament:
1- Reigning champions retained title deservedly
The Asia Cup 2018 taught us that Hong Kong can bat a little, Afghanistan are a proper side, Bangladesh are an even better side, Sri Lanka are in crisis mode while Pakistan are nowhere near the world-beaters their year's worth of success against weak opposition had led us into believing. We learned something new about all five.
But we didn't learn anything new about India. The Men in Blue have been the most powerful cricketing unit in Asia for at least a few years, and it remained that way this year as well. Kohli no Kohli, fresh legs or not, it didn't matter in the end. The final was indeed close and could have gone the other way as well, but then it didn't. India were the only side that went unbeaten the entire tournament, and for that, they truly deserved to be the champions again.
2- Insipid start, inspired finish
While the champions deserve acclaim, the tournament itself does too, for it overcame a lacklustre first half but got interesting in the Super Four stages before finishing with the most thrilling of finals in recent memory.
The last-ball decider was a far cry to the insipid first seven matches, of which six were lop-sided and barely drew any crowds. The tournament then rebounded strongly, with five of its last six games contested fiercely. And for that, the event deserves kudos.
3- Empty stands were an eyesore
Like the competitiveness of the matches, the overall crowd attendance picked up too during the Super Four stages but before that, the stands made for a horrible viewing.
It's a pity that this tournament cannot be hosted by one of India or Pakistan, but then the next best option should be one of the other full ICC members, and not Associates that don't even have a horse in the race. We're looking at you, UAE.
In modern sports, filling up stadiums and missing out on gate receipts is no more a big deal, thanks to the TV viewership and the mega bucks advertising monies bring. However, empty stadiums do not look good from an optical standpoint, and it's something that needs addressing.
4- Sri Lanka's regression
Much was made about Pakistan's poor form in the tournament but what about Sri Lanka? The Islanders lost both their matches in a group that wasn't even the toughest one. Since the last of Sri Lanka's golden generation retired circa 2016, the team has gone haywire.
Their talent pool has almost completely dried up, which is alarming for a nation that used to routinely churn out some of the most unconventionally effective players in the world.
It's normal for even a big team to go through a lull during transitional phases but this does not look a simple transition for the darkest of the Asian blues. This is plain and simple regression, and it's unfortunate.
5-The rise of the minnows
But Sri Lanka's slide down the ranks has been countered by the swift ascension of Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Both sides impressed in the tournament, with the plucky Afghans being the only side to play India and not lose, while the Tigers almost made India loose, and that too in the final.
Such results demonstrated that while India may be the best team of the lot right now, their supremacy on the block will be challenged sooner rather than later, and by conventional minnows if not traditional powerhouses.
The writer is a cricket enthusiast from Karachi.