While it's unfair to compare chalk with cheese, one may still want to notice that a cricket tournament featuring teams with the largest following is taking place in the same year as Euro 2012, a similar scenario for football. But unlike its European counterpart, the cricketing version features just four teams, one of which - the host, is not expected to win the title anyway. Does this mean the cricket fans here will not consider it worth their time? It'll be a folly to even think of betting on that one.
Ironically, a competition incepted to promote goodwill between Asian countries (since 1984, FYI) the Asia Cup has seen some fierce rivalries in intense games. This because the venues of the tournament notwithstanding, players feel at home amidst flat wickets, soaring temperatures and noisy crowds and all teams nearly have a level-playing field. (At least in this tournament we won't be reading about excuses on 'getting used to conditions'.)
The other Asia Cup factor is, there are always scores to settle and retaliations to plot. While India-Pakistan face-offs need no excuse for redemption, Pakistan will have the Mohali 2011 semi-final music playing in the background when they play their neighbours on March 18. India have a more recent wound afflicted by Sri Lanka to avenge thanks to their ouster in the CB series. They might have an upper hand to start with, as their last match culminated in an emphatic drubbing of Malinga & Co at the hands of Virat Kohli.
Bangladesh, meanwhile, always rev up while playing their brothers from another mother Pakistan, (as was proved in the opening match on Sunday) though they'd always back themselves to beat every opposition they play against. Unfortunately, despite being around the ODI scene from the past two decades, their wins are still dubbed as 'upsets'. High time they shed the 'minnow' tag for good, especially now after having their own Premier League!
As for players' stakes, much is on the board for young guns such as Ashok Dinda, Rahul Sharma and Vinay Kumar as they'll pick significant lessons among the sweat and grime of things in Mirpur. KKR and Bengal sensation Manoj Tiwari, meanwhile, will be itching to get off the bench after spending the past weeks in Australia, a move ridiculed by many. Only some extraordinary batting and leg-break magic would make him stand out among India's overcrowded middle order prospects - Jadeja, Yusuf, Rohit - all of whom are bright talents but inconsistent performers. See what happens when the star of the middle order, Yuvraj Singh is not available! How sorely are we going to miss his fluent cover drives against the Umar Guls and the Maharoofs!
Among the opponents, Umar Akmal and Wahab Riaz of Pakistan will command respect for their abilities with bat and ball; Lanka’s incumbent stalwarts are already happy their next gen – Chandimal and Thirimanne – is raring to go and Bangladesh will bank on Shakib and Tamim to execute plans.
For the record, Sri Lanka have appeared in every Asia Cup final till date and it won't be a surprise if they make it this time too. (Talking of records, we all know whose century has been more-than-overdue.) So even if cynics call this the tournament of flat track bullies, it still brings along a follower buzz mammoth enough to compete with that of European quests for football supremacy.
(Image Courtesy: bettor.com)