The Asia Cup is over. India are champions, for the eighth time. Deserving winners too. At the end of it, here’s the team of the tournament, put together with votes from Andrew Fidel Fernando, Mohammad Isam, S Sudarshanan, Shashank Kishore, Sidharth Monga and Yash Jha.
302 runs from six innings; Avg 75.50; SR 93.49; Best 121
He started the tournament slowly, bowled by Haris Rauf for 10 in India’s opening game, but had just one poor outing after that – 19 against Sri Lanka. Outside of that, his scores read 67*, 58, 121 and 27*. That century in a losing cause against Bangladesh was his fourth in ODIs this year. Gill ended comfortably at the head of the scorers’ chart. His strokemaking was gorgeous as usual, and he often ensured he batted deep.
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Rohit Sharma (capt)
194 runs from five innings; Avg 48.50; SR 107.77; Best 74*
Not a huge tournament by Rohit’s standards, but he strung together three consecutive half-centuries: 74* vs Nepal, 56 vs Pakistan, and 53 vs Sri Lanka. Marking a departure from India’s strategy in the last World Cup, Rohit also showed more intent in the early overs, and helped get India away quickly. Having led India to the title, he’s the obvious choice for captain.
Kusal Mendis displayed uncharacteristic consistency during the Asia Cup•AFP/Getty Images
270 runs from six innings; Avg 45.00; SR 85.71; Best 92
Mendis was only behind Gill in the scorers’ chart, and – importantly – showed the consistency he has often lacked. He scored three half-centuries in the Asia Cup, all from No. 3, and two of them were big ones: 92 vs Afghanistan and 91 vs Pakistan – the game they won off the last ball to get into the final. He was Sri Lanka’s designated keeper too, and finished with nine dismissals.
KL Rahul (wk)
169 runs from three innings; Avg 84.50; SR 89.41; Best 111*; eight dismissals
Mendis can keep too, but we’ll go with Rahul for his better dismissals-per-match record at the Asia Cup. He didn’t do badly with the bat either. Drafted into the India XI just a little while before the toss in the Super Four game against Pakistan after Shreyas Iyer had to opt out with back spasms, Rahul hit 111 not out in 106 balls and put together an unbroken 233-run stand with Virat Kohli for the third wicket.
179 runs from six innings; Avg 44.75; SR 74.27; Best 62*
Asalanka is Sri Lanka’s one-of-a-kind rescue package, and never was that quality more evident than when he took Sri Lanka home in a chaotic last-ball finish against Pakistan, which secured Sri Lanka’s passage to the final. He starts quickly, is an effortless rotater of the strike, and consistently contributes – all good qualities for a batter still in the early phase of his international career. Though rarely called upon to bowl, he also took four wickets on a big-turning surface, against India.
Shakib Al Hasan
173 runs from five innings; Avg 43.25; SR 97.19; Best 80; 3 wickets at an average of 63.66
It wasn’t a particularly great tournament for Bangladesh, but they had their moments, such as the first-round game against Afghanistan. Shakib, captaining a side without some key players, led from the front in their other win at the Asia Cup – against India. Shakib was the star of the show, even if debutant Tanzim Hasan cornered a plenty of deserved attention. Shakib first scored 80 in 85 balls and then bowled out Suryakumar Yadav.
Hardik Pandya played his part whenever he was called upon to do so•Associated Press
92 runs from two innings; Avg 46.00; SR 85.18; Best 87; 6 wickets at an average of 11.33
Hardik bowling regularly is what Indian cricket fans have been waiting for, and he is putting in the overs now, in time for the ODI World Cup. At the Asia Cup, he performed the role of the third seamer superbly, and his six wickets came in just 20.2 overs of bowling, including the last three Sri Lankan wickets in the final. He played his part with the bat too, especially in the first-round game against Pakistan, when Ishan Kishan and he revived India from a precarious 66 for 4 to take them to 266. Hardik ended with 87 in 90 balls.
10 wickets from six innings; Avg 17.90; ER 4.26; Best 5-40; 86 runs from five innings at an average of 28.66
Looking back, Wellalage might well have been the biggest story to emerge from the tournament. A 20-year-old (okay, almost 21) whose bowling is threatening on turning decks, whose batting is fearless, and whose fielding is excellent, shapes as an asset heading into the World Cup, even after the return of Wanindu Hasaranga to the Sri Lanka side. He linked up with Maheesh Theekshana to give Sri Lanka’s innings the finishing kick against Afghanistan, picked up wickets each time he bowled bar in the final when he just got two overs, and put in one of the best all-round performances of the tournament when he ran through India’s top order to return 5 for 40 and followed it up with a solid 46-ball 42 not out.
Shaheen Afridi picked up at least a wicket in every match•AFP/Getty Images
Shaheen Shah Afridi
10 wickets from five innings; Avg 23.50; ER 5.73; Best 4-35
Another bowler who picked up at least a wicket each time he bowled, but Afridi has made a name for that, hasn’t he? His best – don’t forget he is still kind of coming back from a long injury layoff – was easily that first-round game against India, when he did exactly what he is a champion at, blasting out the top order. On that occasion, he had Rohit in the fifth over and Kohli in the seventh, and came back later to remove Hardik and Ravindra Jadeja for 4 for 35.
9 wickets from four innings; Avg 11.44; ER 3.61; Best 5-25
Back-to-back returns of 5 for 25 (vs Pakistan) and 4 for 43 (vs Sri Lanka) made Kuldeep irresistible for the specialist spinner role. He has a straighter run up now, with improved pace, and greater accuracy, and he picked up the Player of the Tournament trophy with these new adjustments. Along with Wellalage, Kuldeep was the standout spinner in the tournament. His economy was especially impressive.
10 wickets from four innings; Avg 12.20; ER 4.63; Best 6-21
Matheesha Pathirana would have been in this XI for his chart-topping 11 wickets, but for perhaps the most exciting spell of fast bowling in the tournament, in the final, where Siraj blew Sri Lanka away with his 6 for 21: it included four wickets in an over and five in ten balls. He is a wicket-taker, and with conditions helping his swing, he was pretty much unplayable on Sunday afternoon. And an opening combination with Afridi does make the mouth water, doesn’t it?