India v Pakistan can't paper over organisational mess of Asia Cup

Rule changes and scheduling woes have made it a chaotic tournament like no other

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India’s Asia Cup Super Four win over Pakistan was seismic. Played over two days in a rain-ravaged Colombo, the match between the fierce rivals was less of a clash and more of a punishment handed out by India to their shell-shocked neighbours.

Recent ODIs between the sides have been one-sided affairs, but this was something else. From a superb stand between openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill to a record-breaking double-century partnership between the returning KL Rahul and Virat Kohli; from Jasprit Bumrah’s unplayable opening spell to Kuldeep Yadav’s five wickets, every single shot from India hit the target.

Pakistan were left battered and bruised, literally and metaphorically. Fast bowlers Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah picked up injuries while bowling and did not bat, while batsman Agha Salman swept one straight to his face and suffered a cut below the eye.

The margin of win for India was 228 runs – a jolt to the system less than one month before the World Cup. While India have seen all their pieces fall right into place, Pakistan’s jigsaw lays scattered on the ground just when it seemed the top-ranked team was about to complete the picture.

The magnitude of the result also papered over the mess that was created leading up to the showdown at the R Premadasa Stadium.

Let’s not forget that the match would never have happened if the original schedule had been followed – Sunday was a washout.

A reserve day was added just for this India v Pakistan match after their group game was also rained off and there was pressure from stakeholders to ensure a completed match. Just think about that: a change of rules just for one match after the tournament is past the halfway mark.

Don’t let the gloss of a completed India-Pakistan match overshadow this mockery of rules. The remaining matches could still be washed out because rain has been forecast throughout the week in Colombo.

The Asian Cricket Council, with India in its driver’s seat, could have taken the advice of locals and held the tournament in drier parts of Sri Lanka, but their advice was disregarded.

The descent into chaos had started earlier in the year, though. India refused to travel to Pakistan for the Asia Cup, which resulted in a standoff that only ended when Pakistan and Sri Lanka were announced as co-hosts of the Asia Cup.

That resulted in a new problem as it meant Pakistan first played at home on August 30, travelled to Sri Lanka for the washed-out India match, travelled back to Pakistan for a Super 4 match against Bangladesh, and then returned to the island for the second match against India – all in a little over 10 days.

How much did this travel affect the players ahead of the Sunday-Monday ODI?

All rules were bent before and during the tournament, making fans wonder why teams that are not India or Pakistan were even asked to bother in the first place.

All of this could have easily been avoided if the arch-rivals had simply played a bilateral series, or a tri-series to avoid political backlash in India, and let the other Asian teams prepare for the World Cup in peace. That is what the broadcasters want, right? So why put other teams through the wringer?

High ticket prices were another sticking point. Exorbitant ticket rates meant even Sri Lanka did not play in front of full stands at home.

When the dust settles, or the water drains out in this case, on the Asia Cup, we may or may not have an outright winner due to the weather. But we will have a clear loser – the fans who were taken for a ride.

It might still be a magical show, but remember the price that was paid.

Updated: September 12, 2023, 9:56 AM