DUBAI: Every time the fixtures for the Asia Cup are drawn, it all about making up for the lack of India-Pakistan bilateral cricket. The scheduling, no doubt, gives precedence to India’s convenience. The other teams hustle between Dubai and Sharjah. They get less breathing space going into a final. India are the marquee team, always. The market forces, broadcasters and caretakers of the game bank on India’s presence right through the tournament.
This time, though, there is no Indian team for the last four days of the tournament. The buzz has fizzled out real fast. It’s sort of an anti-climax for the stakeholders.
Yet, there is a final to be played on Sunday night. Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the two finalists, were made to play a meaningless game on Friday night. Both teams called off their training sessions and media interactions on the eve of the final. The final could signal the re-emergence of two teams which had fallen behind in cricket’s power circuit over the last decade. On cricketing grounds, these two teams, along with spirited Afghanistan, have lit up the tournament.
Four years ago, the organisers were in a similar space when Pakistan crashed out two nights before the final. India’s presence was a respite. But this tournament has challenged t heir marketing strategies. The buzz here was always in anticipation of an India-Pakistan final, rounding off a possible three-match contest between the two teams. On pre-tournament form and environment, few would have fancied Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to make the final. India’s collapse in the tournament has created an awkward situation with tickets now.
Roaming around the Dubai Sports City, which houses the Dubai International Cricket stadium, you could find Pakistan and Sri Lankan fans stressed about getting tickets for Sunday’s game. The reason? The majority of tickets were already booked by Indian fans. A lot of the Indian fans are now trying to sell off their tickets on social media.
India’s early exit may have been a financial disruption. But that can’t take away from the fact the two teams taking the field on Sunday are the teams that have played with immaculate planning and overwhelming passion.
“When it comes to Asian cricket it’s India-Pakistan everyone talks about, but we’ve got a very good team, which can win. We would rather concentrate on the way we are playing,” Lanka’s captain Dasun Shanaka said.
Pakistan captain Babar Azam, meanwhile, said, “We have seen some great performances and different players have impressed. When building a team, it is great for us that different players have stood up. As a captain this is important for me, and it helps pave the path to future success for the team as well.”