Boardroom battles in the world of sports hardly interest fans. After tough talks and even tougher negotiations during International Cricket Council's recent Board meetings, Asian cricket is all set to return where it belongs - on the field!
Asian countries stood 'divided' when India piloted a controversial 'Position Paper' aimed at restructuring ICC's governance and revenue share model. The ICC revamp plans which gave more power to the Big Three -- India, Australia and England, hurt the sentiments of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Pakistan alleged being 'threatened', Sri Lanka likened the pressure to 'terrorism' and a Bangladeshi hacker defaced Board of Control for Cricket in India's website. Solidarity of the entire sub-continent was under siege. It was about cricket but cricket did not seem to be paramount as egos clashed head on.
But much water has flowed down the Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. Come Tuesday (February 25), all acrimony will change as the sport takes centrestage. While off the field, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have agreed to the BCCI-led ICC revamp proposals, the fight will be a lot harder when the national teams face off against each other in the Asia Cup. The final is slated in Mirpur, Bangladesh on March 8.
The heavyweights of Asian cricket - India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, will fight to the tooth to lay hands on the coveted title. This time though, unlike in ICC's Board meeting in Singapore, skill and application and NOT the brute power of the US Dollars will separate the victors from the vanquished. Isn't that what cricket is all about?
Asia Cup tournaments have always been closely contested by both the strong teams as well as by the 'minnows'. India have the distinction of winning the title five times. The current world No. 2, India, however lost a chance to play in the finals to Bangladesh in the last edition due to an unfavourable net-run rate. This clearly shows how unpredictable the tournament can prove to be.
The five teams that will compete this year are India, hosts Bangladesh, defending champions Pakistan, four-time winners Sri Lanka and underdogs Afghanistan. While Pakistan will play the tournament-opener against Sri Lanka in Fatullah, the marquee match - India vs Pakistan, will be played on March 2. It will be a chance for fans to once again show their jingoistic support and this time, a few members of the two cricket Boards may be taking a dig or two at each other too after the match! At the time of writing, Pakistan were the only cricket Board to accept the India-led ICC revamp plans.
That competition in cricket is best enjoyed on the field then, is clear. For all the money, influence and administrative strategies, both players and fans are really interested in the actual sport and how it is played on the cricket field. Asia Cup will be one such stellar tournament - with rivalries of continental proportions - that will define what the sport is all about. And what it isn't about - boardroom bickering!