Something totally unbelievable and illegal happened during the ongoing Asia Cup Cricket Tournament currently being played in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). According to the pre-set and pre-determined rules under which the Tournament is being held, the 6 teams in the competition have been divided into two groups of 3 teams each. In the first stage, the 3 teams in each group have been set to play in a league against one another. The two teams coming last in each group were to be eliminated leaving the four remaining teams to play in a knockout or the Super Four stage.
The winners in the two groups were supposed to play against the losing teams. The winner and loser of the first group comprising India, Pakistan and Hong Kong were determined after India beat Pakistan leaving Bangladesh and Afghanistan to play the last game of the league stage to decide the number one and number 2 in their group that had also included Sri Lanka. Thus as Bangladesh was preparing for its final match in its group to be played on 20th, it knew that if it defeated Afghanistan and came out first in its group, it would play Pakistan.
Lo and behold, before that was to happen, the Asian Cricket Conference (ACC), the organisers of the tournament, changed the rules! It made the outcome of the Bangladesh-Afghanistan match redundant and decided that Bangladesh would have to play India even if it won against Afghanistan and earned the right to play Pakistan! The rule in any competition that is divided into the league and knockout stages, the champions in a group play the runners-up in another group that is logically designed universally in all competitions of league-cum-knockout format to give the champion in a group an extra edge for performing well in the group stage.
This change in the rules of the ongoing Asia Cup is therefore illegal by any consideration because it has been done while the tournament has been going on. No one has heard or read something as absurd as this happen in any tournament in any game involving the two-stages format, namely league and knockout. And that is not the end of the absurdity that the ACC has committed in making this illegal change in the rules of a major tournament while the tournament has been going on.
For instance, if Bangladesh was to win its last league game against Afghanistan, it should have played Pakistan that is already the runners-up in the other group. This will undoubtedly be the much better option for Bangladesh than playing the Indian team that is stronger on perception - and more so after the way they defeated Pakistan in the last match. In fact, Bangladesh has been eyeing winning the top group spot by defeating Afghanistan so that they would play Pakistan. That hope has now been taken away from them by backstage manipulation, rendering Bangladesh nothing to play for in its last group match.
This is not the end of the sordid affair. The Bangladesh team will have to travel to Dubai from Abu Dhabi where they will play the game against Afghanistan and travel 140 km to Dubai to play India immediately after the game that will end late into the night while the Indians will remain in Dubai resting comfortably where they played the Pakistanis. And it was well-known before the illegal change was made in the tournament rules that the Indians did not want to travel out of Dubai to play the first match of the knockout stage. The Bangladesh team, on the other hand, were not willing to travel to Dubai to play the same match that should have been the case by the rules under which the tournament is being played. Why did the ACC make to the Indians these concessions which are not just illegal but also ones that stink?
The Indian team was given the scare of their recent cricketing life in the match against Hong Kong (HK). The Indian team was looking at the barrel of the gun with the HK openers at 174 for no loss chasing its modest total of 285. The HK team eventually lost by 26 runs but had given the Indians the run for their money. The scare must have made the Indians worried and forced them to look ahead into the tournament. They must have felt that if they became the group champion after defeating Pakistan that they did, their better chance of going to the final would be playing against Bangladesh than the Afghans because the latter had the three best spinners in the tournament in their team in Rashid, Mujib and Nabi.
The Bangladesh team on its part quite definitely would have liked to play the Pakistan team with its very brittle middle order batting than against India to go to the final. And the final is always a different ball game where no matter which team it faced of the three, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, it could have very logically and legitimately given itself the fair chance of bringing the Asia Cup home. The question that the cricket fans of Bangladesh would now like to put before the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) is how did all these blatantly illegal things happen and what did they do when right under their nose and before their eyes, all these have happened?
India's negative role in international cricket is widely acknowledged in the cricket world. Bangladesh cricket fans know it all too well being the victims of Indian conspiracy many times in the past. It was India with England and Australia that had tried to push Bangladesh out of Test cricket. It was again India that many cricket fans in Bangladesh believe robbed the team the chance to move towards the knockout stage in the World Cup in Australia in 2015 by conspiring with the umpires in the match and the International Cricket Council (ICC). It was blatantly wrong umpiring against it that robbed the game from its grasp. Thus when India plays anywhere, the overwhelming majority of cricket fans in Bangladesh does not just hope India would lose; many pray it would.
The prima facie indications for Bangladesh cricket fans regarding this grossly illegal change of rules is that the ACC committed this grossly illegal act to force Bangladesh to play India and bow to its wishes because the Indians wanted it that way to avoid facing Afghanistan. It is now widely known in the cricketing world that by the money it spins through the Indian Premier League (IPL), India is not just destroying cricket, once the game of gentlemen, by turning it into a game of betting and money making, it has also virtually turned international cricket to answer to all its illegal needs and demands. To quote a cliché, this is not cricket!
Bangladesh cricket fans are praying for justice to be delivered in Dubai on the 21st when Bangladesh would be forced to play India. That prayer would be enforced if Bangladesh Team was to defeat Afghanistan on 20th to become the group champion and the right to play Pakistan that has been illegally taken away from them. The way Bangladesh played Sri Lanka decimating the past World Champions clinically, Indians may not have been wise in choosing their opponent for what is the semi-final of the tournament with the obliging concurrence, albeit subservience, of the ACC. And if Bangladesh is knocked out on Friday by India, the BCB would have a lot to answer about what its representatives in the ACC did while the Indians used their power and influence to commit such an illegal act.
Serajul Islam is a former Ambassador.
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