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Why the Asia Cup is better than the World Cup


Nov 1, 2010
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Why the Asia Cup is better than the World Cup​

Heated rivalries, a brazenly contrived format, and an often topless cricketing rockstar are among the ingredients that make the Asia Cup so compelling

Sidharth Monga | 28-Aug-2023

We never appreciate something until it is gone. With Asia Cup, it is the opposite. We appreciate it only while it's there. Not before. Not after.

The trophy doesn't go on a tour, ESPNcricinfo runs no 50-day countdown for it, and hell, there isn't even a comment piece criticising scheduling delays and the unavailability of online tickets. And then we act surprised every time the Asia Cup actually starts. At times it seems an even better tournament than the World Cup. Here's why.

The greatest rivalry

Shared border, arbitrarily drawn in the middle of a state. Shared culture. Shared bloodied history. Complicated geopolitics. Resentment for each other among common people, fuelled by opportunistic politicians, the media and the arms industry.

The cricket on the field is also messy: mostly friendly, sometimes nasty, always competitive. We could get to watch Pakistan vs Afghanistan possibly two times in the space of a fortnight.

The second-greatest rivalry x 3 (possibly)

Proper nastiness among the players. Pettiness. Bitterness. In each other's face all the time. Also each other's friends in happier times.

The rivalry is so imprinted on the psyche of the fans of both the teams that they will always cheer on the other team's opposition. In the absence of a Pakistan-Afghanistan final, it won't be an insignificant consolation if we can get Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka three times.

India-Pakistan? Pah! Afghanistan-Pakistan is where it's at•AFP/Getty Images

The format

Contrived to make sure the other rivalry in Asia gets some representation and have the two teams play each other three times so that the ACC can earn enough money to hold actual meetings instead of Zoom calls. And yet, such is the beauty of the competition that in the history of Asia Cup, there has never been an India-Pakistan final. Can there be a bigger snub to capitalism?

The spirit of cricket

Or the absence thereof. As was clear from the dismissal of Shadab Khan in the final over of Pakistan's thrilling second ODI against Afghanistan, there won't be any reservations about running out the backing-up non-striker. It didn't trigger a diplomatic crisis or generate reams of print full of condescending mental gymnastics on the spirit of cricket. The most significant thing about the run-out was how Shadab just walked off without remonstrating. This reaction from the batter - an appreciation of the risk involved in jumping the gun - will go a long way in normalising this dismissal.

Just for this, R Ashwin should have been selected even if India don't intend to play him in the World Cup.

Shakib Al Hasan

With focus on things more important than the spirit of cricket, the match referees tend to look away when tempers flare. Which of course unleashes the rebel inside Shakib Al Hasan. In 2014, just before the Asia Cup, he rebelled against the invasive TV cameras when he, topless but for a towel wrapped around his shoulders, pointed to his crotch. He ended up being suspended for two matches in the main event, but the cameras knew better than to peek into the dressing room.

The Asia Cup tends to bring out the rebel inside Shakib Al Hasan•Associated Press

In 2018, he made his way to the field topless, this time to raise awareness against unethically sourced fabric, repeatedly pointing towards the Sri Lankan fielders, saying their kits recycled from ocean waste was the way to go.

Before you fact-check me and say it was the Nidahas Trophy and not the Asia Cup, that tournament was played exclusively by Asian teams in the usual spirit of Asian bonhomie. Nerd.

What act of rebellion might the Asian rockstar have lined up for us this time?

A reminder that the BCCI has a president

The PCB probably organised a commemorative dinner as a reminder that despite having been bullied out of staging a major portion of the tournament, Pakistan is still the official host of the tournament. However, one of the invites they sent served as a reminder to people in India that the BCCI in fact has a president, the genial former India allrounder Roger Binny, who has graciously accepted the invitation.

The two that got away

No tournament can be perfect. The organisers missed a trick by not roping in a pair of commentators who were recently BCCI president and PCB chairman. We need to be reminded how liberating it can be to pronounce names as you fancy. We also need to reclaim the hashtag #ramizporn from the evil bots that peddle actual ****. Guess Team World Cup will steal one there.

No, it is not. Only Bangladeshis are allowed think that way, as they cannot do jackshyte in any multi-national cricketing format.
Today's match between Afghanistan and Srilanka in Lahore, Gadaffi Stadium was the best match of Asia Cup 2023

No, it is not. Only Bangladeshis are allowed think that way, as they cannot do jackshyte in any multi-national cricketing format.
Today's match between Afghanistan and Srilanka in Lahore, Gadaffi Stadium was the best match of Asia Cup 2023

Yes, perhaps one of the best match I've seen in a long time. I so wanted Afghans to win, what a team.

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