ALL SPRUCED UP FOR 20M. PRIZE MONEY ASIA CUP
By Srian Obeyesekere
The INR 2 crore (20 million) prize money 2023 Asia Cup will commence on August 30 with Pakistan taking on Nepal at Multan while defending champions, Sri Lanka will take on Bangladesh on August 31 in the day-night starting at 3 p.m. at the Pallekelle International Cricket Stadium.
Sri Lanka will host all but 4 of the tournament’s matches which will be staged in Pakistan. The tournament will run till September 17.
Sri Lanka defeated Pakistan in the 2022 final by 77 runs having run up 170 for 6 in 20 overs and dismissing their opponents for 147 off 20. Bhanuka Rajapaksa was adjudged Player of the Match for his unbeaten 71 off 45 balls while fast bowler Pramod Madushan shone with the ball claiming 4 wickets for 34 runs.
Sri Lanka has won the Asia Cup on six occasions in 1986, 1997, 2004, 2008, 2014 and 2022 and is next to India which has won it on 7 occasions in 1984, 1988, 1990-91, 1995, 2010, 2016 and 2018 while Pakistan has won the title twice in 2000 and 2012. India, skippered by Sunil Gavaskar won the inaugural edition in 1984 held in the United Arab Emirates.
With a switch in the tournament format from 20 to 50 overs this year, Sri Lanka will carry an eight-match winning streak in this year’s world cup qualifiers despite failing for automatic qualification having begun the year with 0-3 and 0-2 series defeats against India and New Zealand, respectively, but winning a 3-match home ODI series 2-1 having bounced back from losing the first ODI to Afghanistan.
India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Nepal will participate in the tournament which has a total of 13 ODI matches.
The tournament will feature two groups of three teams apiece this year with the top two making it to the Super Four stage.
The much-hyped India-Pakistan day-night clash will be played on September 2 at the Pallekelle International Cricket Stadium.
The top two teams of the Super Four then play the final on September 17.
India, Pakistan and Nepal are in one group while Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan form the other.
India come into the tournament ranked third in the ICC Men’s ODI Team Rankings having won its last ODI series 2-1 against West Indies in the Caribbean after losing to Australia 1-2 at home. Skippered by Rohit Sharma, India has won nine of its 12 matches this year having started the year on a high – sweeping Sri Lanka and New Zealand 3-0 at home.
Pakistan: Babar Azam-led Pakistan is the highest ranked team in the tournament – placed second in the ICC Men’s ODI Team Rankings. Pakistan has played eight ODIs this year – all at home and all against New Zealand – and has won five of them. It lost a three-match series 1-2 against the Black Caps in January before settling scores with a 4-1 win against them in May.
Sri Lanka: The host won the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier event in Zimbabwe – where it won all eight of its matches – albeit against lower-ranked oppositions. It is on a 10-match unbeaten streak in ODIs, but began the year with 0-3 and 0-2 series defeats against India and New Zealand, respectively. It lost to Afghanistan in the first ODI of a three-match series at home before bouncing back to clinch it 2-1.
Bangladesh: The Tigers have been a strong side in the 50-over format of late, especially at home. They beat India in a three-match series 2-1 last year and also managed to pinch a victory against England while losing the series 1-2. After beating Ireland with identical scorelines 2-0 in back-to-back series, first at home and then away, Bangladesh suffered a shock 1-2 defeat against Afghanistan at home last month.
Afghanistan: Considered the perennial dark horse ahead of every tournament, Afghanistan will hope to do better than pulling off an upset here and there or just playing party-spoiler. The team is coming off a remarkable 2-1 series win in Bangladesh after upsetting Sri Lanka in the first match of a three-match series. However, having played just six ODIs in 2023, the Afghans might be a little short on preparation for an event like the Asia Cup.
Nepal: Led by 20-year old Rohit Paudel, Nepal has enjoyed a fruitful year in ODIs, winning 15 out of 20 matches. The team was buoyed by a stellar string of performances in the World Cup League 2 event, where it won 11 of its last 12 matches to secure qualification for the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe. While winning a game in the Asia Cup will be a bridge too far for the 15th-ranked side, Nepal will hope to show it belongs at the big stage.
ASIA CUP 2023 SCHEDULE
August 30: Pakistan vs Nepal, Multan – 3:30 PM IST
August 31: Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka, Pallekele – 1:00 PM IST
September 2: Pakistan vs India, Pallekele – 1:00 PM IST
September 3: Bangladesh vs Afghanistan, Lahore – 1:30 PM IST
September 4: India vs Nepal, Pallekele – 1:00 PM IST
September 5: Afghanistan vs Sri Lanka, Lahore – 3:30 PM IST
September 6: A1 vs B2, Lahore – 3:30 PM IST
September 9: B1 vs B2, Colombo – 2:00 PM IST
September 10: A1 vs A2, Colombo – 2:00 PM IST
September 12: A2 vs B1, Colombo – 2:00 PM IST
September 14: A1 vs B1, Colombo – 2:00 PM IST
September 15: A2 vs B2, Colombo – 2:00 PM IST
September 17: TBC vs TBC, Colombo – 2:00 PM IST