Asia Cup progress report: Top marks for India but Pakistan must do better

Rohit Sharma's side eased to the trophy on Sunday as part of preparations for the World Cup

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After India claimed an eighth title, we assess how the continent’s top sides are tracking ahead of the World Cup and T20 World Cup Qualifier

India bulldozed their continental rivals as they raised the Asia Cup in double quick time at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Sunday.

Of the six sides in the competition, they are clearly the ones performing closest to optimum level ahead of the World Cup next month.

So what did each of them take from the Asia Cup? Here are the progress reports.

India captain Rohit Sharma receives the Asia Cup trophy from Jay Shah, the chief of the BCCI and president of the Asian Cricket Council. AFP

India, A

It could scarcely have gone any better.

A record-extending eighth title. Miles into the legs of fit-again Jasprit Bumrah. Rohit Sharma proving he can, in fact, read Shaheen Afridi after all. Kuldeep Yadav emerging to be named player of the tournament. Shubman Gill purring.

The only drawback was the optics. Jay Shah, the secretary of the Indian board and president of the Asian Cricket Council, handing the trophy over to Rohit at the end was telling. It was not obvious which of them had the bigger impact on the tournament.

India would not have made the final if there had been no reserve day for their Super Four game against Pakistan and the other results played out as they did.

Clearly, they were the best team in it by a distance, and it is better to play matches to a conclusion if there is any way possible.

But is that setting a precedent for the World Cup? Or will they at least try to pretend everyone is playing by the same rules?

Sri Lanka may have been blown away in the Asia Cup final but there are plenty of positives to take from the tournament. AFP

Sri Lanka, B-

Surrendered their title in the meekest fashion possible as they were blown away by Mohammed Siraj in the final.

From the look of his flash interview, coach Chris Silverwood was livid about their supine display at the end. But they had shown some pluck to make it that far without their biggest star, Wanindu Hasaranga.

If they can somehow banish the memories of the final they should realise they gained more than they lost at the Asia Cup.

Maheesh Theekshana’s injury is said to be not so serious that it will preclude him from the World Cup.

And the way he battled through the pain in the game against Pakistan, putting his place in the final and the World Cup at risk, shows a strong spirit.

The biggest plus was the emergence of left-arm spinner Dunith Wellalage, whose every move was met with cheers after his five-for against India in the Super Four game.

Pakistan's thrashing by India at the Asia Cup could do more harm than good. Getty

Pakistan, C-

Their world No 1 ranking was not a mirage. It was hard-earned and they were good value for it. But there is no doubt this tournament dented pride and damaged resources.

A defeat can keep a team grounded, as coach Grant Bradburn did his best to intimate, but the nature of the thrashing by India did far more harm than good.

Shaheen was proven to be vincible. Haris Rauf suffered a worrying side injury, although they are optimistic he will be back for the World Cup.

Then there was the news Naseem Shah could be ruled out of that entirely.

And to think, it all started so well with the demolition of Nepal in Multan and the fast start against India in the pool match. They need to regroup fast.

Shakib Al Hasan, left, impressed for Bangladesh in the win over India. AP

Bangladesh, C+

Bookended the tournament with a couple of fine results, opening with a comprehensive win over Afghanistan then ending it with a morale-boosting one against a much-changed India.

In between they lost their way in two close games against Sri Lanka and a blowout against Pakistan.

On balance, there was no reason to worry unduly ahead of the World Cup, but they do need some players to step up and become matchwinners more often.

Shakib Al Hasan carried the batting in the win over India, while Taskin Ahmed was the leading performer with the ball. They will need some support in India.

Afghanistan's star bowler Rashid Khan struggled at the Asia Cup. AP

Afghanistan, C-

Not all doom and gloom, despite their group stage exit, although their campaign did produce some nagging worries.

Has Rashid Khan finally been found out? Just two wickets in the tournament and going at more than a run a ball was not his finest body of work. But even someone of his greatness is permitted a couple of off games.

They were outplayed by Bangladesh, but the way they fought to the point they were one ball away from an improbable win against Sri Lanka should provide reasons for cheer.

Most memorably from that rearguard in Lahore, Mohammed Nabi’s brutal counterattack provided reason to believe he might yet cling on long enough to play international cricket in the same side as his son.

Nepal lost both games but impressed with the bat against India. AFP

Nepal, B-

Nepal won’t be going to the World Cup like the rest of their counterparts at the Asia Cup, but they do have important business on the horizon.

They have another chance to make it to a major competition when they host the Asia qualifier for next year’s T20 World Cup, with a tournament in Kathmandu in November.

Their decades-long wait to play at an Asia Cup finished with two hefty losses – first by 238 runs against Pakistan, then 10 wickets against India.

But they gained plenty from the experience. They froze on debut in Multan, chiefly explained by an uncharacteristically poor fielding display.

The fact they righted that and showed fight with the bat the second time around against India showed they were learning quickly on the big stage.

Only Bangladesh made a higher score against the irresistible Indians than Nepal’s 230 in the pool game in Pallekele.

They should approach that T20 Qualifier in November with confidence, so the likes of UAE and Oman need to beware.

Updated: September 18, 2023, 6:36 AM