Which cricket rivalry in Asia is the hottest?
The oldest rivalry is between India and Pakistan, and there have been tense political events between Pakistan and Afghanistan, but the most unexpected rivalry is between the ‘lovely’ Sri Lankans and Bangladeshis. recollect the Naagin dance?
During this Asia Cup, a unique trifecta of cricketing rivalries will emerge. The first and longest-running conflict is India vs. Pakistan, but two other conflicts also carry spice warnings. The third rivalry—Sri Lanka vs. Bangladesh—is the most unexpected development in recent years. Afghanistan vs. Pakistan, of course, which even drew in a retired Shoaib Akhtar during the most recent Asia Cup after chairs started flying about in the stands, is of course the most notable. In some ways, it would have been reasonable if nation-building politics had permeated the cricket field whenever Pakistan and Bangladesh competed. Despite’mauka-mauka’ jeers from India and Sri Lankan supporters, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have Bangladesh’s most intense rivalry. Typically viewed as a lovely, amicable cricketing nation on par with New Zealand, Sri Lanka engages in simmering conflicts with Bangladesh.
Moreover, it all began with a silly dance. Nazmul Islam Abu, a left-arm spinner for Bangladesh, probably had no idea that his naagin snake dance would spark a conflict. It evolved into a distinct beast from the Bangladesh Premier League in 2016, when Nazmul performed the hooded-snake celebration to the enjoyment of his skipper Darren Sammy. Including when he removed Danushka Gunathilaka, Nazmul performed his naagin act after each of his four wickets during his home T20 debut against Sri Lanka in 2018. The series’ last game was the one in which Gunathilaka pulled out his own version of the naagin and grabbed two wickets in an over to win. There it was. A month later, during the Nidahas Trophy in 2018, the rivalry gas started by Gunathilaka erupted into a massive blaze when Bangladesh’s senior batsman Mushfiqur Rahim, who smashed a 35-ball unbeaten 72, pulled out the Naagin dance following his team’s successful chase of 215.
While the majority of the joy and hostility that followed occurred in the bilateral series, it has attracted additional attention at significant events when these two teams have engaged in intense competition that has frequently come down to the wire. And given that Pakistan and Nepal’s match against Nepal was lopsided, the Asia Cup’s opening match between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in Pallekele may be just what this competition needs.
Sri Lanka is the defending winner of the Asia Cup, which it has won a record six times and in which it has won both the 50-over and T20 global championships. World-class players were developed by it even before it was given Test status. And since it began to appear in long formats, it has produced the world’s leading Test wicket-taker. It is the home of Aravinda de Silva, who is thought to be the most lethal middle-order batsman since Viv Richards. When they form lengthy partnerships, it has produced graceful, beautiful batsmen who you could watch all day. More than all of that, Arjuna Ranatunga, one of the best captains to ever play the game, is from here and currently sports a drastically reduced body mass.
A group of underachievers who haven’t always followed through on their promises is up against them. They were given Test status when they least expected it, and unsurprisingly, it showed in the results for years, despite the fact that they staged a few upsets. Then, in the previous ten years, they began to live up to their moniker as Tigers, ratcheting up illustrious victories but at home. However, it is a team that is very emotionally committed, with devoted home supporters that bring to mind Indian cricket in the 1980s and 1990s. They have players who can definitely compete with other teams for a spot in the ODIs. Both the expansion and the competition between the two are evident.
Dasun Shanaka, the captain of Sri Lanka, provided insight into the dynamics between the two teams. He began by underplaying it, or playing it safe, similar to what Shakib Al Hasan did a little while ago. When asked about the rivalry between the two teams, Shanaka replied, “The noise is outside. “The teams get along well with one another. The cacophony outside is out of our control. This brotherhood is good. We value that regard.
Shanaka then went on to elaborate on why this rivalry has developed from Bangladesh’s perspective, claiming that it is comparable to how Sri Lanka viewed its games against India in the 1990s, where they entered the field hoping to make a statement to their highly respected neighbors. “Playing against Sri Lanka or any of the other nations (in the Asia Cup) is crucial before entering the World Cup. Therefore, there is where the conflict starts since they had to start somewhere. Earlier, Sri Lanka played primarily against India, and we frequently prevailed. But things have changed. Bangladesh therefore intends to defeat us first before continuing. It’s just how the game is, he said.
“Sri Lanka has a history of playing good cricket; in World Cups and Asia Cups, we have shown that we are a good team when we visit. Bangladesh has a strong team as well, but regrettably they haven’t prevailed in either the Asia Cup or any of the World Cups. They have great promise, said Shanaka.
In the end, Shanaka would discuss the genuine connection between the two players. Former Sri Lankan athletes have recently joined Bangladesh as support workers. Additionally, Chandika Hathurusingha, the current coach of the Tigers, left Bangladesh for Sri Lanka a year prior to the 2019 World Cup before returning to Dhaka early this year. The Lanka Premier League hasn’t been able to strengthen ties between Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi players, in contrast to the IPL, which did so after the Monkeygate scandal involving players from India and Australia.
“Being able to play with Shakib in the LPL has many benefits. The Bangladeshi players occasionally make decisions a little bit too quickly. He doesn’t speak much, therefore I wasn’t able to learn a lot from him. Despite being teammates, we don’t have a lot in common. It’s best to keep your plans a secret when the Asia Cup is approaching, Shanaka said.
Bangladesh has frequently battled to control their emotions during stressful situations. Conflict amongst players and altercations with the umpires have resulted from it and continued long after the game had ended. Even the glass doors of changing rooms have been damaged as a result. By all means, it appears that the drama will continue in Pallekele as well.