Asia Cup: winners, but barely so

The Asia Cup triumph last week in Dubai served as a sort of soothing balm to the Indian cricket team after their egos were left bruised following a 4-1 drubbing by England in the five-match Test series in the Old Blighty. They desperately needed a diversion to gloss over their shoddy performance in England, and the six-nation continental tournament was timely from that point of view. Come to think of it, whenever India have come back after debacles in difficult conditions in the recent past, contests in the subcontinent have always helped them regain their bluster. And the Asia Cup victory was no different in that context. The failures in England have been forgotten and an unconvincing campaign in the Gulf nation, where some of the minnows made them sweat, is being hailed. Truth is, as the No 1 ODI team in the world, India were expected to win, and they did. So, well done to that! But can they be happy with the manner in which they achieved the success? From their first game against Hong Kong, who don’t even have an ODI status, to the final against Bangladesh, they looked vulnerable all along. When Hong Kong put on a record stand for the opening wicket during their chase, a dreadful thought of defeat may have crossed stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma, who has been praised for the way he led the team to the title.

Agreed that their best batsman Virat Kohli was rested for the event, but given India’s depth in talent, they ought to have been more clinical. They were, in their two wins over Pakistan and in the Super Four stage against Bangladesh, but there were as many instances when they appeared to have lost the plot. India did rest five of their first-choice players against Afghanistan, but even so a tie against them wasn’t bargained for. The result wasn’t any less than a defeat for the Men in Blue. The expressions of Indian players said as much. Of course, Afghanistan have made massive progress as a limited-overs side and they showed that in their wins against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the Group stage. Still, India had no business settling for a tie against them. It was no different in the final when many heartbeats skipped before India scampered to the last-ball win.

In a game of fluctuating fortunes, Rohit’s men eventually crossed the line only because they had more experience of big games and managed to hold their nerve during crunch situations. Bangladesh, who often flirted with a win, once again paid the price for letting the occasion get the better of them.

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Asia Cup: winners, but barely so

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