<b>Close-in<b>: Asian supremacy
Cricket is flourishing much more in Asian countries, including Afghanistan, even though these nations still lack the technical and analytical skills as compared to the developed countries
The Champions Trophy has reached the final stage with two Asians giants all ready to fight for the prestigious trophy. The summit clash between defending champions India and archrivals Pakistan will be the icing on the cake.
Virat Kohli’s men have already proved their superiority by thrashing Pakistan in the group stage. The confidence that India will bring to the table would require a very charged and resolute Pakistan side to overcome.
Cricket is an unpredictable game and the Champions Trophy has shown that in abundance. World no. 1 side South Africa was beaten by eight-placed Pakistan while strong contender New Zealand was humbled by Bangladesh. No one expected such outcomes. The tournament has shown how close each of the top eight sides in world cricket is and that on a given day, any team could emerge victorious. England looked so convincing and strong to win the trophy at home, but Pakistan -– helped by some outstanding individual performances -- beat the hosts convincingly in the semifinal. India, in the meantime, defeated the spirited Bangladesh with ease.
As the tournament progressed, the wickets have become slower and dryer. As a result, the big totals that the teams posted in the initial stages of the event have gradually diminished.
Teams batting first have shown some uncanny statistics. In most cases, the top order has helped the side to a respectable total inside the first 25 overs. But from being in a good position, most teams have lost wickets when least expected and rather than accelerating the score, they have struggled to survive and keep wickets intact. The second phase of the power-play allows only four fielders in the circle. And with weaker bowlers mostly in operation during this period, sides should have ideally consolidated and creamed them to set the tone for the ultimate assault. The reason I feel many teams failed to do so was because they felt the target needed to go past the minimum 300-run mark. This was quite understandable as the first part of the tournament did see a few 300+ totals. India lost to Sri Lanka after posting 321 runs, which to anyone looked like a very safe score.
The coaches of some of the sides too were the culprits for their respective team’s defeat. Apart from miscalculating targets, once the wicket became slow and the ball older, they encouraged their bowlers to bowl slow short deliveries with a packed leg side field. This made batting easier. The yorker too was used very sparingly, as the bowlers were not comfortable to exercise it

The Asian sides have shown that they have more tenacity to win and that’s why three teams from the region reached the semifinals. Cricket is followed with great passion and enthusiasm in the eastern countries. Players here make a fortune through the sport. This makes them much more focused and eager to do well.
Players from the developed countries do not have the same hunger and pressure while easier lifestyle too makes them far less desperate to do well. A cricket match for them is a game to play and enjoy as a sport rather than one to make a life as is the case for most Asian cricketers. For countries in the sub-continent, cricket is the way to a better living.
Cricket followers from Asia also play their part, as they are far more emotional and critical. The Pakistan side is a prime example, given the brick brats they received after they lost their first match against India. Pakistan skipper even had to apologise to the raging fans. Reaching the final has brought them back from the dead, but another defeat against archrivals India will make life very uncomfortable for the players and no excuses will suffice. This is precisely why an Asian side cannot afford the casual luxury of a defeat like teams from South Africa, England, Australia and New Zealand. This is also the reason why cricket is flourishing much more in Asian countries, including Afghanistan, even though these countries still lack the technical and analytical skills as compared to the progressive countries. Cricket is after all played by the cricketer on the field, and not through excessive planning.
The platform is now set for a final encounter that billions from India will watch with baited breath. India will start favourites, but the young Pakistan side will want revenge at all costs. This is not cricket anymore, but a battle for supremacy.
(The author is a former India cricketer)
Yajurvindra Singh