Till 1984, UAE had sporadic visits, especially from Pakistan domestic teams that visited the country for a match. The fact that the country’s weather was hot and dry also did not help their cause. Hence, the 1984 Asia Cup – the tournament's first edition was like a breath of fresh air when three countries – India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – participated in the tournament to determine the continent’s best team.
It was the vision of Abdul Rahman Bukhatir, often referred to as ‘the father of Sharjah Cricket’, who made cricket in Sharjah and the UAE possible. Sharjah had hosted cricket matches before, but none of them befitting the stature of an Asia Cup. In 1981, an unofficial match was hosted between India and Pakistan – Sunil Gavaskar XI vs Javed Miandad XI – a benefit match for Pakistan legends Hanif Mohammad and Asif Iqbal. It was a one-sided encounter that saw the Miandad XI romp home to a comfortable victory, but the crowd in attendance was substantial.
The following year saw a Sunil Gavaskar XI vs Intikhab Alam XI and in 1982-83, an England XI too took on a Pakistan XI, which was further proof that cricket was well received and the teams were willing to play in a neutral venue like UAE, which was just the push needed to make the country a popular venue for cricket.
Since the Asia Cup 1984 consisted of just three teams, each side played the other once. The first match saw Sri Lanka stun Pakistan by five wickets, but were on the receiving end when they were handed a comprehensive 10-wicket thrashing at the hands of India in the second match after being bowled out for just 96.
Since India and Sri Lanka had won one match each, Pakistan needed to win their encounter against India by a massive margin to at least finish second. Runs per wicket – and not run-rate – was the determining factor back then. India had an unassailable lead with 71.25 and even a 10-wicket win for Pakistan would have taken them only up to 41.78. Sri Lanka on the other hand had an average of 19.07. Even a one-wicket victory for Pakistan was good enough for them to surpass Sri Lanka.
India won the toss and elected to bat. Wicketkeeper-batsman Surinder Khanna who scored an unbeaten fifty against Sri Lanka was once again the thorn in the opposition’s flesh as he went on to score a valiant 72-ball 56. There were useful contributions from the middle-order too – with Sandeep Patil (43) and skipper Sunil Gavaskar (36*) stitching a 78-run stand for the fourth wicket as India eventually finished on 188 for 4 from 46 overs.
FUN FACT: The on-field umpires had counted Abdul Qadir’s overs wrong and as a result, the leggie bowled another extra over despite finishing his quota of 10 overs. Qadir bowled a couple of no-balls and Patil scored a run off the bat as well. Once the mistake was notified, the umpires declared the over void.
Pakistan were well on course for a victory when they were comfortably placed at 125 for 4, but they ended up losing their remaining six wickets for just nine runs and as a result, India were gifted a 54-run win and with that, they won the first-ever edition of the Asia Cup.
Winning the tournament was not as much of a surprise as India, less than a year ago had upset West Indies to win the World Cup in 1983, proving that they now had the side to win against big teams and big tournaments.
That was the beginning of some epic matches hosted in Sharjah, which to date has witnessed 240 One-Day Internationals (ODI) – most by any venue. India are also the most successful team in the Asia Cup, having won the title on seven occasions and it all began on this day in 1984, under the stewardship of Gavaskar. Sri Lanka have won it six times, Pakistan have tasted success twice, and Bangladesh have made it to the final on two occasions.
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