Tri-series no more

Mar 26 2012

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While Pakistan fashioned out a nail-biting win to annex the title for only the second time in its history, the defeat against India despite posting a mammoth total has been a real eye opener for Misbah-ul-Haq and his men. – AFP Photo
While Pakistan fashioned out a nail-biting win to annex the title for only the second time in its history, the defeat against India despite posting a mammoth total has been a real eye opener for Misbah-ul-Haq and his men. – AFP Photo

There were many who were questioning the significance of the Asia Cup in a crowded international calendar. However, a stunning performance by the hosts Bangladesh made the eleventh edition the most competitive ever.

The three Asian powers Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka were expected to fight for the final slot with the hosts rank outsiders.

Mahela Jayawardene’s Sri Lankans were clearly unlucky to miss out on silverware in the tri-series down under where they stretched the Aussies to the fullest. But the draining itinerary especially the final series took its toll on the former world champions.

In the absence of pace spearhead Lasith Malinga they allowed India to post a massive total in their opening game. The batsmen then made little use of a solid foundation laid by the classy Jayawardene.

Inept batting cost them the tie against Pakistan, while it seemed that their minds were already focused on the flight home as another listless performance with the bat derailed them against the hosts.

In Australia, Jayawardene and the coaching staff decided to make the batting ‘top heavy’ with the captain, his predecessor Tilikaratne Dilshan and the former captain Kumar Sangakkara occupying the top three spots in the batting order.

The strategy was deployed in Asia Cup too, and while it seemed a positive move, the moment the trio were dismissed the batting looked wafer thin.

Perhaps the Lankans need to re-think this one and have Upul Tharanga return to the top with Dilshan. Jayawardene can return to his customary number four spot, where he has amassed a staggering amount of runs.

The Indian team failed to make it to the finals despite beating both Sri Lankan and Pakistan. The victories were resounding yet the shocking reversal against Bangladesh sent MS Dhoni’s men packing.

In all three games the Indian batting displayed their prowess, however, the bowling resources were extremely inadequate.

In the biggest game of the tournament, the battle against arch-rivals Pakistan, Dhoni and his men registered the greatest chase by India in an ODI as they overhauled the target of 330 with consummate ease. The star of the show was Virat Kohli who hammered an unforgettable 183 to steer his team.

Dhoni, was often criticised for his captaincy in the test series against Australia, however, in limited overs cricket he continues to be a shrewd operator who marshals his meagre bowling resources well.

Against Pakistan he controlled the run assault in the death overs ensuring that the eventual champions failed to reach the 350 mark despite a 224 run opening stand.

The experienced duo of Praveen Kumar and Irfan Pathan improved on their horror show against the hosts and restricted the men in green.

The Bangladeshi tigers led by their captain Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib-Ul-Hasan smashed Irfan Pathan and Kumar to fashion out a historic win chasing 290.

The closing overs of the chase cost India a place in the final, and while there remains a question mark on bowling there remains no doubt that on flat pitches the men in blue are equipped to post as well as chase absolutely any score.

While Pakistan were crowned the champions the Bangladeshis led by the diminutive Mushfiqur Rahim were the real winners as they warmed the hearts of cricket fans around the world with their never-say-die attitude. In Asian conditions they are a real force with a batting line-up boasting of warriors like Tamim Iqbal and Shakib-ul-Hasan.

Mushfiq proved that he too can pack a punch when needed, while all-rounder Mahmudullah and former captain Mashraffe Mortaza are also worthy limited overs finishers.  Mushfiq handled the bowlers brilliantly in all four games on Mirpur’s batting paradise. The hosts were the only team that did not concede a total of 300 even once!

The opening bowlers were well disciplined while the left arm duo of Shakib and Abdur Razzak choked their opponents in the middle and power-play overs.

The real test for Mushfiq and his men starts now as the tag of minnows is taken off them. There is no doubt that the Tigers would be tested to the fullest in alien conditions and how they fare there would give a true indication of their progress. However, there sure is talent and ability in the current team, and in Mushfiq they have a smart leader.

While Pakistan fashioned out a nail-biting win to annex the title for only the second time in its history, the defeat against India despite posting a mammoth total has been a real eye opener for Misbah-ul-Haq and his men.

The bowling attack was taken to the cleaners by Kohli and co last Sunday and one was left perplexed with the often listless captaincy by Misbah.

He failed to contain the batsmen for a long stretch at any stage of the innings, and it appeared that the bowlers came under immense pressure as soon as the onslaught by Sachin Tendulkar and Kohli started. The bruised and battered attack did make a comeback of sorts against the Tigers and Misbah lifted the trophy amid tremendous pressure.

His batting is often questioned, yet he played a pivotal role in the win against Sri Lanka with his unbeaten 70 odd in a tough situation.

It remains to be seen if he is persisted as captain in limited over formats. His critics are calling for his head mostly due to his lack of aggression in his bowling and fielding placements.

Perhaps a middle ground for the time being is the best option, Misbah should continue to lead in tests and ODIs with the highly impressive Mohammad Hafeez handed over the reins in T20.