Surinder Khanna & Arshad Ayub — Unsung heroes of India's Asia Cup triumphs

Arshad Ayub
Off-spinner Arshad Ayub produced a match-winning spell against Pakistan in the 1988 edition of the Asia Cup. Photo: Manorama Archives

The Asia Cup begins in the UAE later today with Sri Lanka taking on Afghanistan. The 15th edition of the tournament will be played in the T20 format. Prior to this only once the Asia Cup has been staged in the T20 format — in 2016 when India emerged triumphant.

Defending champions India have been the most successful team, having lifted the Cup seven times. The Lankans have triumphed on five occasions, while Pakistan have reigned supreme twice.

A couple of unsung heroes played their part in the triumphant campaigns of the Men in Blue.

The inaugural edition of the tournament was held in Sharjah in 1984. Wicketkeeper-opener Surinder Khanna was the star as India outplayed both Sri Lanka and Pakistan to emerge champions.

Khanna smashed an unbeaten 51 in India's 10-wicket win over Lanka and followed it up with a fine 56 against Pakistan. The Delhi player performed well behind the stumps too as he bagged the man-of-the-match award in both games. He was also named the man-of-the-series.

However, Khanna, who made his ODI debut against the West Indies in 1979, could not continue his merry run. The last of his 10 ODI appearances came against Pakistan in 1984 itself.

Likewise, Arshad Ayub played a stellar role in India's win in the 1988 edition. The off-spinner bagged career-best figures of 5/21 as India bowled out Pakistan for 142 in their must-win group game at Dhaka. Ayub ran through the Pakistan batting line-up as he accounted for Rameez Raja, Aamer Malik and Shoaib Mohammad in addition to lower-order batters Naved Anjum and Wasim Akram.

India made heavy weather of the chase and scraped through by four wickets, with Mohinder Amarnath producing a splendid unbeaten 74. Ayub won the man-of-the-match award for his game-changing spell.

Dilip Vengsarkar's men outplayed Sri Lanka by six wickets in the final. Ayub ended up as the highest wicket-taker in the tournament, with nine scalps.

Ayub featured in 13 Tests and 32 ODIs. The Hyderabad player's last international outing was an ODI against Sri Lanka at Margao in 1990.

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