‘Dhoni’s Head To Gambhir-Akmal Spat’: 5 Thrilling Moments In Asia Cup

| Updated: 28 August, 2022 2:41 pm IST

As India prepare to take on their arch-rivals Pakistan on Sunday in the Asia Cup encounter, The New Indian revisits five thrilling and tendentious moments from the tournament’s history which created ripples –

1) Gautam Gambhir vs Kamran Akmal: The Asia Cup 2010 match between the two nations remains arguably the most high-octane affair with a string of confrontational moments.

Chasing 268, India lost Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli in the first 20 overs before Gautam Gambhir and MS Dhoni started shoring up the innings. On the last ball of the 34th over, bowled by the off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, the wicket-keeper Kamran Akram rose in excitement and began appealing furiously as Gambhir tried to nudge the delivery towards square-leg but was beaten.

Akmal was convinced that the left-hand batsman had edged but Gambhir was visibly cheesed off. Eventually, the umpire Billy Bowden turned down the appeal. During the drinks break after the over, Gambhir – known for his quicksilver temper – and Akmal got embroiled in eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations and exchanged colorful expletives. The umpires and Dhoni had to intervene to avoid a physical brawl.

“He appealed in such a way that he thought that the ball hit the bat. Then I told him that there is no point in appealing because nothing like that happened. We just got into a heated argument and then it just got from bad to worse,” Gambhir recalled the infamous incident.

In the end, India squeaked home by three wickets in the final over and Gambhir was adjudged Man of the Match.

2) Harbhajan Singh vs Shoaib Akhtar: In the same match at Dambulla, another flaming altercation occurred between two equally hot-headed cricketers. The drama kicked off in the 47th over when Harbhajan clubbed Shoaib for a six over long-on. The temperamental pacer was livid for being carted away by someone not known for his batting. What added salt to his wound was the fact that the match was on a knife’s edge at that point and he was letting down his team.

In his next over, Harbhajan once again tried to clout Shoaib for a six but was deceived by a slow-ball. The abrasive pacer then unleashed a barrage of abuses at him as tempers flew thick and fast. At the end of the over, Harbhajan walked up to the fast bowler and hurled the choice of cuss words at him.

The off-spinner finally had the last laugh as he smoked a six off Mohammad Amir in the last over to seal the match for India.

3) Shahid Afridi vs R Ashwin: India thought that the match was in their pocket after the off-spinner R Ashwin cleaned up Saeed Ajmal around his legs with a carrom-ball on the first ball of the last over. As the last man Junaid Khan came to the crease, Pakistan needed 10 runs off balls with just one wicket in hand.

On the next ball, which was slightly shorter, Junaid managed to filch a single to give strike to mercurial Shahid Afridi. Anticipating another carrom ball, Afridi gave himself room and walloped the next ball by Ashwin over deep extra-cover for a six. The shot came off the bottom of his bat but Afridi’s raw power was enough to carry the ball over the ropes. On the next delivery, Afridi once again mis-timed the shot but the ball went sailing over the long-on for another maximum.

Ashwin, as well Indian fans, were stunned into silence as jubilant Ashwin kissed Junaid on his cheek.

4) MS Dhoni vs umpires: It is not often that one has seen ‘Captain Cool’ MS Dhoni losing his cool on the ground, but the intensity of India-Pakistan rivalry got the better of him as well when he clashed with the umpires in the Asia Cup 2016 match.

On the fourth ball of the fifth over of Pakistan’s innings, bowled by Ashish Nehra, opener Khurram Manzoor tried to reel off a scoop but got some glove through to the keeper. Dhoni, Nehra and other fielders appealed enthusiastically only to be rebuffed rudely by umpire Sharfuddoula Ibne Saikat. Dhoni went up to the umpire and animatedly exchanged a few words with the umpire after he turned down the appeal.

The replays clearly showed that Manzoor had nicked the ball. However, the umpire’s folly didn’t prove costly as India bundled Pakistan for 83 and won the match by five wickets.

But Dhoni launched a diatribe against umpiring in the post-match press conference. “You know all the umpires now have a walkie-talkie and earpiece in their ear. So effectively, in a way it means that they are umpiring with only one ear and the other ear is stuck with an earpiece. They can’t hear when it’s so loud, so definitely they should consider this thing. At least, have both the ears around, there is no point having an earpiece when a bowler is bowling as you don’t need to use it then,” he firmly stated.

5) Dhoni’s ‘severed’ head: Before the 2016 Asia Cup final, in which Bangladesh were crossing swords with India at Dhaka, some vicious Bangladesh fans sparked off a malevolent social-media campaign against Dhoni.

They started circulating a morphed image of Bangladesh’s pacer Taskin Ahmed holding Dhoni’s head triumphantly signifying that Bangladesh bowlers would decimate the Indian team. What made the matters worse were nauseatingly spiteful comments accompanying the derogatory picture. The incident received massive coverage from the media and the atmosphere was vitiated. The then Indian coach Ravi Shastri condemned this despicable campaign but said that their job is to focus on cricket, not on such things which are outside their ambit.

All the frenzied chatter on social media aside, the final turned out to be an utterly one-sided affair with India clinically thumping the hosts by 8 wickets and winning the tournament.

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