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A faltering Asia Cup searches for purpose

Asia Cup, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh
The captains pose with the trophy ahead of Asia Cup 2016

Did you know that the team that will represent India at the upcoming World T20 left the country over the weekend despite being hosts of the marque tournament? They’ve hopped across the border to Bangladesh to play the Asia Cup (now in a Twenty20 format) which begins on February 24 with the hosts taking on India in the first match.

If you weren’t aware of this tournament, fear not, its prelude has been rather underwhelming just as the actual tournament threatens to be. The Asia Cup is a mere warm-up tournament leading up to the World T20 and five teams are likely to treat it as such.

India would have clearly preferred practising in home conditions. At a press conference just before departing to Bangladesh, a reporter asked MS Dhoni for his thoughts on retirement. “Just because someone has the platform to ask questions, it doesn’t mean you keep asking the same questions,” came a tetchy reply from the Indian skipper. Pakistan players seem to have bigger priorities with the on-going Super League. After their pathetic showing in their last two T20s against India, defending champions Sri Lanka are no better than a club side, way out of their element. These four teams will be joined by one of Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Oman and United Arab Emirates – the qualifying group seems the most competitive part of the Asia Cup.

With crowds dwindling year on year, the organisers of the Asia Cup changed the format to Twenty20 cricket. While this seemed a good move, there is a massive risk that player and viewer fatigue will set in before the World T20 itself. Some of the actual warm ups, with larger squads and the option to chop and change during a match, seem more exciting that the Asia Cup itself.

In hindsight, things could have been done a lot differently. Why couldn’t we have a bilateral India vs Pakistan T20 series instead?

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