New Delhi:Since its inception in 1984, the Asia Cup has been contested for eight times. We look at how each tournament panned out.
India: 1984, 1988, 1990-91, 1995
Sri Lanka: 1986, 2000
1984: India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka contested the first Asia Cup played in Sharjah. The Lankans were the weak link, but they defeated the collective might of Pakistan, while India won both their league games. The format was round robin, and there was no final. Hence India, with two wins in two matches, were declared winners giving Sunil Gavaskar his first major ODI triumph as India s captain.
1986: Sri Lanka hosted the tournament. India opted out of it after their cricketing relations with Sri Lanka soured. The previous year in a Test match in Colombo, several controversial umpiring decisions cost India the game. Bangladesh were the newest team in ODIs and they made a forgettable debut, scoring 94 against Pakistan and 131 against Lanka. Pakistan were the favourites, having walloped Sri Lanka in the group stage. But in the final, Sri Lanka demonstrated why they d later come to be known as the best chasers in the business. Chasing Pakistan s 192 in 45 overs, they were in early trouble. But Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda de Silva, aged 22 and 20, respectively, stitched a breezy partnership that took Lanka home by six wickets.
1998: The action now moved to Bangladesh, who were hosting their first major cricket tournament. They proved no match for the stronger teams, losing all three league games. Sri Lanka headed the group with three wins. Pakistan found themselves in a do-or-die game against India, but Arshad Ayub recorded the best figures (5-21) by an Indian bowler as India reached the final. Sri Lanka weren t impressive batting first, and four run outs marred their innings. India smoothly chased down the 177-run target with Navjot Singh Sidhu hitting his third fifty of the tournament, and taking the man of the series award with it.
1990-91: This was the first and only time India hosted an Asia Cup, and when Pakistan opted out, the hosts were strong favourites to win the title for the third time. Sri Lanka beat India in the league stage, while Bangladesh were still eight years away from their first ODI win. In the final, Kapil Dev took a hat trick the second of India s two such feats in ODIs and India were able to hold Lanka down to just 204 runs. With fifties from Tendulkar, Azharuddin and Sanjay Manjrekar, India romped home by seven wickets.
1995: The action returned to Sharjah after 11 years. The power equations in Asia were changing. Sri Lanka had begun their ascent to world supremacy, Pakistan were explosive as ever, and India had hit a purple patch. Bangladesh were still no-hopers. Tendulkar helped India to big-margin wins over Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. But after Aquib Javed took 5-19 to help Pakistan beat India by 97 runs. It left Lanka and Pakistan playing a virtual semifinal. The Lankans bowled admirably, holding Pakistan down to just 177. But the challenge was to chase those runs in 33 overs and enter the final on a better run rate. Sanath Jayasuriya led a memorable assault on Pakistan and Lanka won in 31 overs. In the final, their batting was insipid except for Asanka Gurusinha s 83 and they made 230. India, thanks to a big 175-run partnership between Sidhu and Azharuddin, India raced home by eight wickets. India, having never lost an Asia Cup they d played, have not won it since.
1997: Things were different when Sri Lanka hosted the tournament the second time. The hosts were world champions, India were struggling under Tendulkar, and Pakistan were unpredictable. The Lankans, playing at home, won all their three league games. The real competition was between India and Pakistan. India had their neighbours on the mat 30 for 5 in 9 overs when bad light stopped play, and the subsequent reserve day was washed off. It left India to try and win big against minnows Bangladesh and edge Pakistan out on run rate. India were up to it they restricted Bangladesh to 131 and won in just 15 overs. The run rate (8.8) was a record at the time. Yet again, India and Sri Lanka met in the finals. India played an extra batsman but still made just 239. Lanka s catching in the final was the best you would expect to see in a session. Then, once their openers Jayasuriya and Atappattu had scored 98 in the first ten overs, the game was more or less settled. It was the first time India lost an Asia Cup final.
2000: When the tournament moved to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka were no longer world champions. The world was recovering from the horrors of match fixing. Pakistan, under Moin Khan, were emerging a tough side while India had a new captain in Sourav Ganguly. Mohammad Yousuf then Yousuf Yohanna was on his way to becoming one of the top batsmen in the world, scoring a century to that helped beat India in a league match. India s bowling was thin, and they bled to death. Bangladesh hit them for 250 runs, Sri Lanka 276 and Pakistan 295. This time, Pakistan went into the final with Sri Lanka. A brisk fifty by Moin helped Pakistan score 40 runs in their final two overs. The slog cost Sri Lanka, and in the end, they lost by 39 runs despite an Atapattu century. It took Pakistan 16 years to win their first Asia Cup.
2004: Sri Lanka hosted this tournament. Asia Cup s newest entrants, the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong, along with Bangladesh, were brushed aside by the stronger teams. Pakistan s batsmen, Shoaib Malik especially with his twin hundreds, were a force. India, going through a dry ODI patch, were weak-willed, while Sri Lanka looked formidable. The point system 5 points for a win, and 1 for a bonus point opened the tournament up in a manner not expected. It helped India steal a point against Pakistan in a game they lost by a considerable margin of 59 runs. That point, coupled with a marginally better run-rate than Pak s, helped India enter the final with Sri Lanka. Having restricted the hosts to just 228, India choked with the bat. Runs dried up in the middle even as Tendulkar played a slow, lone hand with his 74. India finished 25 runs short in an embarrassingly slow batting display, and lost yet another final.