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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont
The Asia Cup just concluded, and it has been a great cricketing experience. Nearly every single game of this tournament has gone down to the wire, with many last over finishes. Some teams have surprised us, while others have severely underperformed. After two weeks of fantastic cricket, we have our tournament winner, Sri Lanka. But how did the finalists achieve their feat and who were the key players in this tournament?
Sri Lanka have been the most surprising team in the Asia Cup. They were a massive underdog coming into the series, and have overperformed all expectations set for them. Their team does not have big-name players, but they have a group of young, determined and resilient players. Their heart, attitude, and supreme effort is what brought them into the finals in this series.
Sri Lanka were anointed the ‘chasing wizards’ because of their wizardry in batting in the second innings. After they lost their 1st game while batting first, they pulled off 3 miraculous wins, against Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and India. Each of these matches had Sri Lanka chasing successfully.
In the past, the question about their batters was if they could bat quickly and show aggression. In Sri Lanka’s first game, those questions were justified, as they could only score 105 runs total. However, there was a group effort in the next few games to increase the strike rate,and we saw players play more cameos, scoring 30 runs in 20 balls etc. Also, it has to be noted, that this scoring improvement is in large part due to the brilliance of Bhanuka Rajapaksa, and Dasun Shanaka, who have controlled the middle overs and have shown consistent intent against the spinners. Let’s look at a few key contributors on their team.
Coming into the Asia Cup, Mendis was an afterthought, and was not considered to be an important part of their team. He had gone through a poor run of form with many low scores of late. However, he had played well in Sri Lanka’s domestic tournament.In the series, he proved to be a matchwinner, playing key knocks in the games that they won. He has been Sri Lanka’s best performer at the top order, and some could consider him their best batsman.
Rajapaksa is Sri Lanka’s best known player, and plays in the IPL with the Punjab Kings. He is talented, and plays a specific role for their team. He takes down the spinners in the middle over with ease, and has done so throughout the entire tournament. He has been brilliant with the bat in this series. He also played a very crucial knock in the finals, winning player of the match.
Pakistan was dealt a big blow when their star pace bowler, Shaheen Shah Afridi was ruled out of the tournament. However, they were able to bounce back with stellar bowling performances by Naseem Shah and Mohammad Nawaz, both of which stepped up in a major way to compensate for the loss of Shah Afridi. . With the bat, their captain Babar Azam has had a series to forget, averaging a measly 11.33. Mohammad Rizwan however has played brilliantly throughout the tournament and is averaging over 60 runs per match. Here are some great players for their team.
Who can forget Naseem’s final over heroics against Afghanistan, that sealed Pakistan’s spot in the finals. As one of the last batters in Pakistan’s lineup, he hit 2 sixes in a row to win the game against Afghanistan’s best pace bowler. He also was superb with the ball, and was the spearhead of their bowling attack. Pakistanis will be thrilled thinking of their future bowling attack, with Shaheen and Naseem together.
He single handedly brought Pakistan close in many games. When nobody else performed, Rizwan was always there. He is at the top of most runs in the Asia Cup, with Virat Kohli. He has shown that he can be the player that everybody else bats around, giving Pakistan huge flexibility with the bat.
Other notable players
Virat finally achieved the long awaited 71st century in style, showing the vintage Kohli that we all know and love. He is one of the top run scorers in the tournament, and is finally back in form. Indians all over will be hoping that this form continues into the T20 World Cup.
The wicketkeeper batter had a good tournament. Afghanistan has never had a stable option as wicket keeper, and in this series he has shown that he can fill that role. He was great with the gloves, and had good moments with the bat as well.
Sri Lanka won the tournament because they have a very balanced squad. All of their players played key roles throughout the tournament, unlike Pakistan who didn’t get a group performance. Also, their fielding was brilliant, and they always gave their 100% all the time. Particularly given the struggles that the country of Sri Lanka is going through right now, it is wonderful that their cricket team has won this tournament and given them something to cheer about.