The Asia Cup final between Bangladesh and Pakistan was the ultimate in one-day cricket – 4 runs to get with one ball to go. Pakistan’s victory was partly due to mature captaincy by Misbahul Haq and partly due to the fact that Aizaz Cheema bowled an excellent last over including a very well disguised slow delivery. Bangladesh performed outstandingly in this tournament, beating cricket giants India and a very strong Sri Lankan side, on their well merited journey to the final of this prestigious event. They almost beat Pakistan but for panic in the last few overs during the pool match. The Asia Cup, telecast live, was viewed with great passion not only in Asia but other cricket following countries of the world.
Cricket commentators, cricket experts and analysts showered praise on the performance of Bangladesh team. However, just when the excitement was beginning to die down, some of the Bangladesh officials spoilt it all by publicly saying that Bangladesh had been cheated out of victory by Aizaz Cheema who, according to them, had deliberately obstructed their batsman while taking a run. One can understand the desperate wish of Bangladesh spectators and followers including their government to see Bangladesh triumph over Pakistan but this outburst was in very bad taste. They even insisted that they had repeatedly watched TV replays and were convinced of what they were advocating. They even went to the extent of demanding from the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) and indeed the International Cricket Council (ICC) to award the match to Bangladesh!
It just showed the ignorance of the Bangladeshi sports officials and their poor knowledge of cricket administration. International cricket matches are run by officials appointed by the ICC including the two umpires on the field and the match referee. Their verdict is final and it is they who decide what is right and what is wrong. Ashraful Haq, chief executive of the ACC, did well by announcing immediately that the final was fairly played and there was absolutely no need to review the outcome of the final.
The outburst of Bangladesh officials also indicated that they have no idea of how modern cricket is played. It might still be called a ‘gentleman’s game’ but it no longer is played in the manner in which it used to be played twenty years earlier when batsmen just walked after seeing the umpire’s finger being raised or bowlers moving out of the way of batsmen running between the wickets. In modern cricket, no bowler moves out of way of batsmen on his follow thorough nor does a fielder while trying to stop a throw and break the stumps. So it is time for Bangladesh officials to educate themselves about how modern cricket is played.
Asia Cup was the brainchild of former ACC president Jagmohan Dalmiya, , backed by former ICC president Ehsan Mani, former PCB chief Tauqir Zia and ACC chief executive Ashraful Haq with some input by me as cricket development manager of the Asia region. The motive was simple. It was to generate additional sources of income for Asian cricket, simultaneously providing a platform to Asian cricketers to excel especially Bangladesh who, at that point of time, were not being favoured for overseas tours or visits by leading teams. It is also pertinent to mention here the important role Pakistan played in securing Test status for Bangladesh and Ashraful Haq, who was also a former captain of Bangladesh, is aware of this reality more then anybody else. The second reason for instituting Asia Cup was to develop a resource base to supplement development funding which is mainly doled out by the ICC. Lastly, it provided a platform for regular India-Pakistan confrontations that had been inhibited by the tension between the two countries. Asia Cup competition has come to stay and is held regularly depending on vacant slots in the international cricket calendar. Any damage to this premiere Asian event could adversely affect the ACC itself and that is what cricket officials in Bangladesh should keep in mind irrespective of their desire to win. It was Asia Cup that gave an opportunity to Bangladesh cricketers to excel and they have rightly proven their newly found confidence and professional ability. Let us hope they capitalise on this new found confidence and start success a journey against leading cricket teams of the world. I wish them all the luck.