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Asia Cup history: From ODIs to T20s, a classic crowd-puller for 39 years

The Asia Cup was started after India's World Cup win and to fulfil the rising aspirations of Asia's cricketing nations

Asia Cup

Asia Cup. Photo: @Pakistancricket

Abhishek Singh New Delhi
Right after India won the Cricket World Cup for the first time on June 25, 1983, the cricket aspirations of Asia as a continent enlarged and in just five months, the Asian Cricket Conference was formed. It was converted to its current form- Asian Cricket Council (ACC) ten years later in 1993. But before that- the biggest outcome of the formation of ACC- Asia Cup was introduced to the world.

The early years of the continental tournament: 1984 to 1993

In April 1984, the Asia Cup started rivalling the Australian Tri-series. It was played between three permanent members of the ICC from Asia- India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In the first edition, India lifted the cup with Sunil Gavaskar’s men remaining unbeaten in their two matches. It was played in a round-robin format in UAE.

In 1986, the tournament was moved from a neutral position to a host country, which also played in the tournament. Sri Lanka got the hosting rights, but India refused to participate. This made the way for Bangladesh to participate in the tournament for the first time. Till then Bangladesh were an Associate member of the ICC. Sri Lanka beat Pakistan to win the trophy.

In the 1988 edition of the tournament, for the first time, four teams participated. It was held in Bangladesh and India turned out to be the champions, defeating Sri Lanka in the final.

After India pulled out from the 1986 edition, it was now the turn of Pakistan to pull out as the 1990/91 tournament once again became a three-team competition. All teams played against each other twice at the league stage, and then India and Sri Lanka played the final with the former winning its third title.

1991 was the last edition to witness a pull-out. India decided not to travel to Pakistan due to strained political relations between the two countries. Since then either of the two teams have pulled out of the continental event, or the entire tournament was cancelled- like in 1993 or moved to another year- such as the 2018 edition or 2023, held in various countries to keep it going anyway.

Also Read: Asia Cup 2023: KL Rahul to miss India vs Pakistan game - Rahul Dravid

The middle years of Asia Cup: 1995 to 2014

The Asian Cricket Council matured into a professional outfit after its headquarters were moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2003. Before that, the headquarters and presidency were rotated with all the positions being honorary.

In 1995, the Cup was held in UAE again after 11 years. Four teams participated, and India once again beat Sri Lanka in the final to lift its fourth title.

Pakistan remained a meagre participant for 13 years after the Asia Cup inauguration. It failed to make it to the final of Asia Cup during this period, barring one occasion when India pulled out of the tournament. The trend continued in 1997 too as Sri Lanka lifted their second title by beating India in the final.

With the turn of the century, Pakistan’s fortunes also took a turn for the better. Held in Bangladesh, Pakistan managed to win their first-ever trophy at the Asia Cup 2000. They qualified for the final where they beat Sri Lanka in the final by 39 runs.

The 2004 Asia Cup saw the tournament move back to Sri Lanka. This was the first time more than four teams were invited to participate in the Asia Cup. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Hong Kong made it through based on their associate rankings.

The teams were divided into two groups of three each, and then the top two moved to the Super Four. In the Super Four, Sri Lanka and India emerged as the top two and played in the final. The hosts won it and claimed their third title.

In 2008, the Asia Cup went to Pakistan for the first time, and it will be remembered forever as the tournament of Ajantha Mendis. Sri Lanka unleashed the mystery spinner which anyone could not read, and claimed the Cup without much of a problem.

In 2010, the Asia Cup reversed to its original format of four teams playing against each other in a round-robin format and the top two going into the final. Hosted by Sri Lanka, the tournament saw fiery games with an India-Pakistan match witnessing great tussle between Harbhajan Singh and Shoaib Akhtar and Kamran Akmal and Gautam Gambhir. India won their fifth title by beating hosts Sri Lanka in the final.

In both 2012 and 2014, Bangladesh hosted the tournament. In the 2012 edition, Pakistan beat Bangladesh by two runs to clinch a thriller and win their second title. In 2014, Pakistan made it to the final once again, but this time around, they were beaten by Sri Lanka by five wickets even as Fawad Alam hit a century in the final.

The modern Avatar of Asia Cup- 2016 to present

For the third time in a row, Bangladesh hosted the tournament in a gap of only four years. The 2016 edition was also the first edition of the Asia Cup in the T20 format. It was played between five teams with UAE being the additional side apart from the five Test-playing nations of Asia.

Played in a round-robin format, India and Bangladesh finished as the top two teams in the tournament. India won the final by eight wickets.

The 2018 Asia Cup saw the return to the ODI format and for the third time in its history, the tournament returned to UAE after 1984 and 1995. India were magical on their way to the final, losing not even a single game with the group stage and super four combined. It was the first tournament when Sri Lanka failed to make it to the Super Four stage as tournament debutants Afghanistan stunned them.

Afghanistan even tied a game against India, but eventually finished fourth in the Super Four. India faced Bangladesh in the final, who were playing their third final in six years. In a close contest, Litton Das’ century went in vain as India won by three wickets in a low-scoring final. Hong Kong had returned to the Asia Cup for the first time since 2008.

In 2022, Asia Cup returned to the T20 format, indicating a pattern that it will be played in the T20 format when the T20 World Cup is close by and in an ODI format in an ODI World Cup year.

India and Pakistan were the favourites to win the trophy. Still, dark horses Sri Lanka came from behind to beat India and Pakistan in the final and clinch their sixth Asia Cup title.

In 2023, Asia Cup returns to Sri Lanka for the first time since 2010 and the second time ever to Pakistan after 2008. Nepal would become the eighth team to participate in the continental tournament as they have made it through by winning the qualifying game- ACC Premier Cup. 

Asia Cup winners list with formats

Asia Cup winners list
Year Winner Runners-up Host Format
1984 India Sri Lanka UAE ODI
1986 Sri Lanka Pakistan Sri Lanka ODI
1988 India Sri Lanka Bangladesh ODI
1990–91 India Sri Lanka India ODI
1995 India Sri Lanka UAE ODI
1997 Sri Lanka India Sri Lanka ODI
2000 Pakistan Sri Lanka Bangladesh ODI
2004 Sri Lanka India Sri Lanka ODI
2008 Sri Lanka India Pakistan ODI
2010 India Sri Lanka Sri Lanka ODI
2012 Pakistan Bangladesh Bangladesh ODI
2014 Sri Lanka Pakistan Bangladesh ODI
2016 India Bangladesh Bangladesh T20
2018 India Bangladesh UAE ODI
2022 Sri Lanka Pakistan UAE T20
2023 TBA TBA Pakistan ODI

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First Published: Aug 30 2023 | 10:59 AM IST

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