The next day, I was asked to pick my favourites for the tournament — the teams likely to be in the final and the players to watch out for.<br> <br>The Asia Cup has always been a keenly-contested tournament. Irrespective of the format (T20 or 50 over), no nation has shown breakaway domination since the tournament’s inception. It is like a prelude to the biggest event — the World Cup.
This edition of the Asia Cup too saw players come in with a reputation of being hopefuls or the ones to look out for in the future.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz, the Afghanistan wicket-keeper and opening batter, has impressed with every outing in international cricket. Coming from the system of domestic cricket and being a member of the 2018 Afghanistan Under-19 World Cup team, he was drafted into the squad by Gujarat Titians for IPL 2022.
His stroke-play provided that explosive start against Sri Lanka even when they were chasing a low total. With a strike rate of 163, he is in the fast lane for Afghanistan.
His team-mate Fazalhaq Farooqi may not have had the perfect finish to this tournament (Naseem Shah hit him for two sixes) but he started impressively with his left-arm swing bowling. His three wickets dented the Sri Lankan batting order.
Sri Lanka made a massive turnaround after that opening game against Afghanistan. Not many, including myself, thought they will pose a threat, until they chased Bangladesh out, getting to 184 in the last over.
The rest is history. Pathum Nissanka with 173 runs (115 strike rate) and Dilshan Madushanka (six wickets) have stood counted with their respective efforts for Sri Lanka.
For Pakistan, churning out quality fast bowlers is a standard. Naseem Shah with the bat and ball has stamped his arrival in the shortest format too for Pakistan. He has won matches both with the bat and ball in his debut series.<br> <br>For Bangladesh, Afif Hossain made an impression with the bat. His 39 off 22 balls against Sri Lanka bolstered the score for Bangladesh in a must-win game. Announced as vice-captain to fellow left-hander Shakib Al Hasan, he is one of the future stars for Bangladesh along with Mehidy Hasan Miraz.<br> <br>Arshdeep Singh, the tall left-arm seamer from India has experienced quite a bit in his short international career. From a member of the India Under-19 World Cup-winning team in 2018 to bowling economical spells for his IPL franchise, Arshdeep has made rapid progress to become a mainstay in the Indian bowling line-up. In the list of Indian fast bowlers, Arshdeep should find a regular mention.
Every team goes through the phase of rebuilding. It takes time, especially when the batch of players call time on their international career. It’s never easy to fill the void immediately. That is why the bench strength becomes a strong base for teams to excel consistently.
The shortest format is played at a very level footing by all teams. Sri Lanka, who were possibly the least favourites to win the Asia Cup, eventually walked away with the honours. They defeated Pakistan not once but twice in three days after overpowering India.
The Asia Cup in future will continue to throw up opportunities for upcoming players to stake their claim and be counted. For now, Congratulations Sri Lanka!
<br>(Anjum Chopra is a former captain of the Indian women’s cricket team. The views expressed here are personal)