The Battle for Asian Supremacy.

“Sheer joy and excitement! The subcontinental rivalry at its imperious best! ”

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The Asia Cup 2018 would surely go down in the books marking an uprising of the ‘minnows’. Despite India winning the coveted title for the 7th time, it was the stellar performances from Bangladesh, Afghanistan or even Hong Kong that grabbed attention. It was a tournament where Sri Lanka looked at its tormented worst and Pakistan, India were at ease with their mundane, the so called ‘minnows’ stunned everyone to bits with surprising upsets and technically pleasing skills.

It all began in Dubai, the adopted home of Pakistan, where the tournament opener saw Bangladesh take on Sri Lanka in a match that almost set the tone for the tourney. Tactically outplayed, aggressively outnumbered and defensively penetrated, Sri Lanka was slumped to a whooping 137 run loss. This win for Bangladesh was a great morale boost and the underdogs promised a great near future. However, it was followed by a disastrous loss against Afghanistan, again a team which in itself has made significant inwards in world cricket. prv_1537213178Afghanistan got better of Bangladesh in all departments and abided to a strict gameplan. Sri Lanka’s successive loss to Afghanistan then meant that the island nation was out of the competition. Their youth misfired and experience lopsided its value as none could make any worthy contributions. The losses also raise questions to their competitiveness at the World Cup next year. Meanwhile, the other pool too was host to couple of interesting matches. hongkongOne where Hong Kong cruised along to 174-0 chasing India’s mammoth 284 before losing out to experience and the other where ancient India-Pakistan resumed after the Champions Trophy final. India cruised to a win riding comprehensively on their disciplined bowling attack. The respective table toppers Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India, Pakistan went on to qualify for the Super Four stages.

The group phase had sowed seeds of excitement in the Super Four stage. The teams battled hard and fair to knit close battles and interesting finishes. The reincarnation of India-Pakistan rivalry was the most sought after event. India reigned supreme over the neighbors once again with the openers scoring blistering hundreds. cms-imgComing to the tournament as in-form favorites, their vigorous routing through the opposition wasn’t unexpected. Under Rohit’s captaincy, India were aggressive yet watchful. They capitalized on smallest of chances and made crucial breakthroughs time and time again. Perhaps the only time when India was tested was against Afghanistan where Indian batting lost plot against the Afghan bowlers and Jadeja somehow scrambled home a solitary point, gifting Dhoni a tie in his 200th ODI as captain. Afghanistan resided to the able prowess of the dependable Shahidi, Nabi and Rashid Khan while Bangladesh rode on Mushfiqur and Mustafizur heroics. The two teams also battled each other till the very end where the formers defending mere 6 in the last over provided one of the rarest photo-finishes. Another such which followed was when Pakistan and rather Shoaib Malik almost single handedly got better of Afghanistan in the ultimate over. But Pakistan’s lucky escape was not meant to have a fruitful destination. An easy and a flamboyant victory for the Tigers against Pakistan shattered their hopes to bits. The tale of Bangladesh’s fight to the top against India in the preceding edition of the tournament was relieved and re-celebrated.

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It’s often said that the FINALS of a tournament depict the flow of how the tides have traversed. And this one in Dubai was exemplary to the referred saying. Going Right down to the wire, a hamstrung Kedar Jadhav managed to hobble around for a single on the last ball of the match to give India the title. The injured Jadhav was also a reason for India’s bowling coming back as he broke through crucial partnerships after Bangladesh blistered off to a start courtesy Liton Das’ major ton. Mashrafe Mortaza in the later half of the match was stunning with his captaincy but could only lead his side to a runners up claim. Though India would lift the title, Asia Cup 2018 would be remembered for all round performances. Be it Hong Kong’s 174 run opening stand or Mohammad Shehzad’s blistering ton against India, be it Mushfiqur’s consistent performances or Shahidi’s frequent rescue innings, be MSD’s lightening quick stumpings or a few sloppy drops, each and every moment would surely be remembered.

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The tournament was a thorough mix of the good and the ordinary. The scheduling of the event was one of the critical talking points all along. Teams were made to play matches on consecutive days and especially in the heat wave of Dubai, it certainly took a toll of their fitness. The umpiring, especially in the game that tied, was mediocre and gathered criticism. Albeit all this, there were also a few moments which brought joy to cricketing hearts. aftab-alam.jpgShoaib Malik consoling Aftab Ahmed after hitting him for 10 off his first 3 balls to sneak a win, Tamim Iqbal coming in to bat with a single hand despite injury and every team playing fairly without any heated arguments invariably increased the beauty of the sport.

“My asia cup was won when Tamim came out to bat with a broken finger.”
-Mashrafe Mortaza

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Alastair Cook: The revolutionary Brit!

“This boy has as much talent as anyone in the game” – Kapil Dev

Upwards of 12,000 test runs, more than 30 test centuries and bountiful heartening memories.
The Chef’s now done Cooking. One of England’s prolific openers and successful captains hangs his boots from international cricket. A lesser significant 5th Test is suddenly the most important test of the season for the host. Often referred as the ‘Tendulkar of England’, Alastair Cook has proved to be revolutionary for English cricket over the years. Though his form has seemed to taper off in the later phases, his contributions can never be neglected.

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Alastair- ‘Defender’ as the name suggests has defended England out of crisis umpteenth time, as a player as well as a captain. Born in Gloucester 1984, Alastair Cook was an avid lover of music and played clarinet, piano and saxophone to utmost perfection; perhaps, it’s been a reason to his soundness in the techniques. Soon, as time passed, cricket eclipsed his love for music and the well-known little musician was talked about for centuries and noteworthy cricket performances. Scoring at around five thousand runs at a healthy average of almost 90 in his schooling years, Cook was invited to play for Essex Cricket Club. In 2003, the 18-yr old made his first class debut against Nottinghamshire and has never looked back since. He scored consistently and gave Essex the required boost at the top. The knocks yielded him a place and captaincy in England’s U19 squad in 2004. The elegant left-hander continued getting better off all his opponents and his selection at the highest level was nothing but inevitable.

Cook’s maiden Test call up came in 2006 when he was included in a tour to India after both Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick were left injured. Playing alongside the likes of Strauss, Flintoff, Collingwood was a great opportunity but at the same time, Trescothick and Vaughan were great shoes to fill. He scored a valuable 60 in the first innings at Nagpur, following it up with his maiden century in the second innings thereby entering a group of elite players to score a 50 and 100 on Test debut. In Sri Lanka, where England next stopped for a brief Test and ODI series, Cook meticulously tackled the spin threat of Muralitharan guiding the team to a Test victory. He also had his limited overs debut on the same tour but failed to make any notable performances. However, the journey of Alastair Cook had just begun and with time he promised to mature into a better batsman.

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England then came back home for the return tours of Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka where again Cook didn’t fail to impress. Post the retirement of England’s big guns, Cook crept up to be the mainstay of England’s batting. The perfectly placed sweeps, crunching cover drives and elegant late cuts, the southpaw always had the right belief and talent to succeed at the highest level. The ability to rotate strike, the ability to adapt to the situation, the ability to soak in pressure, the ability to control his instincts and the ability to lead from the front is what made him a better player. Be it the home seasons, the subcontinental tours or the Ashes, the batting order largely revolved around his performances. The Ashes of 2010-11 shot him to utmost fame. Battling the hostile crowds of Australia, England started with a real bang at Gabba where Cook scored his 14th test hundred & first of the 5 double centuries. He hung in with utmost concentration and salvaged an important draw for England.images (1)771985760..jpg  

The corresponding Tests matches were even more fruitful as England won 3 out of the next 4 to regain the Ashes. This 3-1 series win was historical for not only England but also for Cook. He was adjudged Man of the series for his mammoth 766 runs reaching multiple milestones due course. ‘Cookie’ as he was often called was named England’s full-time captain in 2011 after Strauss stepped down from the post. It was a dawn of new phase in Cook’s life and he was ecstatic to become a flagbearer of his nation.

The phase and pressure of captaincy is generally quite cumbersome to handle. However, it brought out the best of this gutsy left hander. In record 59 tests as captain, Cook amassed as many as five thousand runs at an average of 47. He also achieved a rare feat of being the only player to score centuries in first four tests as captain. His famous double hundred during the Ashes 2017 at Melbourne is still afresh in  England’s cricketing memories. He marshalled his troops well and was always an eager ear to improvements. He believed in the young and gelled well with the seniors.

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Against India too, Cook holds an impressive record. He also led England to the famous series win in India in 2012. His 294 against India at Birmingham is still regarded as one of the greatest innings by an English batsman. Despite often being dummied by first Zaheer Khan and then Ishant Sharma, Cook was versed in tackling the Indian bowlers and especially the spinners to good effect.  He’d bat day in and day out without any discomfort to opposition’s dismay. He disdained life out of the fielders and brought England close to wins more often than not. More than anything, to all people in India, Cook was the only possible threat to break Master Blaster Tendulkar’s test record. Cook rarely had a dip in form until recently where he failed to convert his starts and didn’t move like he used to. With the legend set to retire after the last test, England will surely be void of an exuberant athlete and a trustworthy slip fielder. He has driven a revolution in English cricket for more than 15 years and now it’s all upto Root and his boys to give him a winning farewell at The Oval.

The ‘Elegant southpaw’ bids adieu, ALASTAIR COOK you’ll be missed!!