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Asia Cup Final: Third Time The Charm?

By Gaurang
July 30 2004

The last two times India and Sri Lanka met in an ODI tournament final in Colombo, both were suspended midway, hit by rain and inflexible ICC rules. Will the third time be the charm? In the ICC Knock Out Trophy played in Sri Lanka in 2002, India came and conquered all. First, they survived a scare from the Zimbabweans when playing a game hours after returning from the cool English summer to a steaming Sri Lankan one, followed by a terrific shellacking of a clueless English team who were battered out of contention. Then a come-from-behind nail-biter semifinal against the South Africans, only to be thwarted in the Final not once, but twice, by rain, and an inflexible ICC. The ICC refused to re-consider the strange tournament rule that a match in which one innings had been completed and the other one barely begun had to be replayed in its entirety the next day, even though rain was again almost 100% likely to cut short the amount of time available. India could have easily been asked to complete its innings the next day. Win or lose, this would have been more satisfying.

However, in the end the Indian Team was forced to share the trophy with Sri Lanka. As this writer wrote back then, Sanath Jayasuriya the Sri Lankan captain at the time, was pleased as punch with the result, sensing that his team was in poor positions in both partially played matches, while Sourav Ganguly, the Indian captain was, at best, bemused by the outcome, which denied his team outright possession of the trophy.

Nearly two years later, the same two teams again meet in the Final of a tournament. This time it is the Asia Cup, which has once again regained its luster and prestige with the participation of all the major Asian cricketing nations. This time Ganguly and his Team will be hoping the rains stay away so that they can try to hold the Trophy without having to share it.

The stage is set. The RPS ground in Colombo which has been the locale of the past few matches in the tournament, will be packed to the rafters as India take on Sri Lanka on Sunday. The atmosphere will be electric, and if the previous two games between these sides in the competition are any indication, the cricket will be heart-stopping.

There are many permutations that can be envisaged. Both teams are evenly matched. India are on the upswing having pulled a game back from the brink, to sneak their way into the finals, Sri Lanka will be firing on all cylinders with the return to the team of Mutthaih Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas, its two most experienced bowlers.

It will come down to who wants it more on the given day. Will India be satisfied with their ouster of defending champions Pakistan and let their game come down a notch or will that win inspire the will to win it all? Or will Sri Lanka succumb to pressure of being the favorites and falter at the last hurdle after looking like the best team in the tournament so far.

In any case, every Indian fan who is also a genuine cricket fan will want an outcome -- win or lose -- rather than a repeat of the ICC rule-induced stalemates that substituted for a Final the last time these two powerhouses of Asian cricket met in a decider in the Emerald Isle.

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