Asia Cup-2022: Teams Playing for National Pride, India Played for IPL Pride!

That India had been kicked out of the Asia Cup-2022 should hardly come as a surprise or some kind of a setback for the Indian cricket board, the Selectors, the India captain and the India coach, because this tournament too has been another clog in the machinery of experimentation for determining a ‘national’ squad for the ICC T20 World Cup-2022 that starts in October in Australia this year. While the ICC had been trying laudably hard to provide valuable practice in the shortest format for all the contesting national sides Team India or the franchises thereof or the team management had been basically trying to justify the IPL and to vindicate the selections therefrom. During this time most of the cricketing superstars of India had been rested or allowed to recuperate from supposed injuries, and as a crucial part of the experiments the superstars, all IPL-captain stuff, were brought in for this international tournament which totally neutralizes the earlier experiments with the IPL stars and rookies. No doubt, as we indicated in an earlier post, after the epochal revenue deal struck for the IPL, cricket in India has virtually become IPL-oriented, and so the endless experiments that are set to continue even during the upcoming big international event. Since the IPL is the future of Indian cricket there’d hardly be any national side for any international event in the coming years, and therefore, in this particular tournament Team India has right royally played for IPL pride, thus disappointing and frustrating the genuine cricket lovers and fans of the country.


We see no other alternative but to stick to this opinion after considering the ‘decisions’ regarding the playing eleven in Asia Cup-2022. First of all, knowing fully well that most of the crucial Super-4 matches are to be played in the pacer-friendly Dubai pitches the selectors included only three pacers in the squad, that too consisting of two IPL rookies, and fielded four spinners. Apart of course, from the ‘definitive’ all-rounders like Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja and it has not been clear at all if they were bowling or batting all-rounders. Perhaps, the absolute drive to make Jadeja a superstar batsman, also an IPL-must, contributed toward his becoming unfit in quick time and repeatedly over the last two years, and he being ruled out of the tournament seemed to have made the entire team utterly useless, even making Pandya so frustrated that he could not bat nor bowl effectively. And all the while the team management talked of a cohesive and fighting playing eleven.


Dinesh Karthik, the experienced keeper-batsman, was included in the squad and was allowed to face just one ball in the group matches, and was dropped inexplicably from the Super-4 matches. As the India batting saga in the Pakistan and Sri Lanka matches unfolded it was Karthik who was missed sorely and almost fatally; in both matches India fell short by 15-20 runs and lost both. A genuinely promising batting all-rounder Deepak Hooda was included in those crunch matches; but Pandya superseded him in the batting order every time, and in the bowling department despite Pandya being hit mercilessly and ceaselessly Hooda was not at all tried by the ‘experienced’ India captain as the sixth bowling option. Why? Because the promising IPL-captain stuff had to be promoted at all costs.


Of the pacers, the rookie called Avesh Khan got injured and was ruled out of the tournament; therefore, the other rookie Arshdeep Singh had to be included along with the experienced Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Now who is Arshdeep Singh? That he was trolled for the simple catch he dropped in the penultimate over against a struggling Pakistan just could not be a national news with all the masala ingredients. It was simply a reaction of the hapless fans, caught in the continuously frustrating chain unleashed by the selectors or the captain or the coach or the Board or the IPL mandarins or whoever concerned. There are other more pertinent questions that are integral to the experiments: where is Deepak Chahar? Where is Mohammad Shami? Where is Mohammad Siraj? Where is the fiery Umran Malik? Of course, the superstar captain-stuff Jasprit Bumrah is too delicate to be wasted in the mundane international matches or minor tournaments. Of the spinners if the experienced Ashwin was to be considered he should’ve been considered from the beginning of the Super-4 stage. However, when he was finally considered he replaced Bishnoi who, though another IPL rookie, fought spiritedly in the Pakistan game instead of replacing the listless Yuzvendra Chahal. Well, contradictions are bound to happen in a mindless quest!


After the Asia Cup hosts Sri Lanka came roaring back into form eliminating an equally determined Bangladesh at the last group match the Super-4 stage was bound to be tough and fiercely competitive. Pakistan too asserted their determination after routing Hong Kong, and Afghanistan was waiting eagerly for their encounters, being the group topper along with India. With the exception of India all the three teams have fighting-fit national sides not beleaguered by the senseless changes, and are fighting for sheer national pride, determined to enter the World Cup as serious contenders. In cricketing terms the basic differences between India and the three teams are the former’s batting inconsistency cum a haphazard batting order and their bowlers, particularly the spinners, lacking the intensity required in such competitive tournaments.


Afghanistan was extremely unlucky to falter in the last over against Pakistan, losing a low-scoring match while Pakistan’s fighting spirit till the last man outstanding must be appreciated. With that win by one wicket Pakistan entered the Final to meet Sri Lanka on 11th September, making their Super-4 encounter on September 9 inconsequential, but of great value for both in gaining confidence for the Final. Meanwhile as expected, Team India experimented in an exemplary manner in the match against Afghanistan with the captain dropping himself (read resting himself) and giving another go to the franchisee captain KL Rahul. In some kind of a sadistic joke the selectors included Dinesh Karthik again and also decided to try Deepak Chahar. My God! What apathy and total disregard for the national spirit of the country!


With the ICC still providing more T20 practice by facilitating two three-match T20 series of India Vs South Africa and India Vs Australia India later this month in India the India experiment-juggernaut can still go on testing their IPL rookies priding itself of having the strongest bench-strength in the world with limitless choices of players and give a much-deserved rest to their superstar cricketers, again. But unfortunately, at almost the same time the glorious Selectors will have to finally announce their ‘dream’ squad for the World Cup even as the dream of an India-Pakistan Asia Cup final, the third much-awaited encounter of a rare variety of cricket, got cruelly dashed by that same bunch of businessmen of cricket.  Amen!


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