Saqlain Mushtaq did not hold back praise when crediting Sri Lanka for their Asia Cup triumph, stating the Pakistan team was beaten in both innings of the game. He went on to analyse the batting approaches of the top three before handing it to Bhanuka Rajapaksa for his incredible knock.
Sri Lanka proved the bookmakers wrong emphatically when they not only beat Pakistan convincingly in the Super Four game but also triumphed in the final to claim a surprise Asia Cup. Having built their name as a menacing chasing side of late with a ferocious middle order -- as was on display in the round-robin encounter -- the Lions proved they can adapt equally well and be victorious in a final even when defending a total.
"If you're a champion team, you need to be a champion irrespective of whether it's first innings or second innings," Pakistan head coach Saqlain Mushtaq said at the press conference.
"In the previous game, they asked us to bat first and won. In this game, we batted second and they still won. The way they played in both games, it's well-deserved."
Sri Lanka ended with a five-match winning streak, the final's burden shouldered by Bhanuka Rajapaksa's 71 for 45 deliveries. He steered them from 58/5 to a total of 170.
"The way they played today, we played just nine overs of good cricket. After that they dominated for 31 overs in all aspects. They have been playing brilliant cricket; credit goes to all the boys. Looks like they are on top of the world. The way they played against India and got momentum against Afghanistan, a lot of praise for all of them."
"I'll credit the Sri Lankans. We'd broken their backbone in the first nine overs, but the way Rajapaksa played, and the others rallied around him, no praise is enough. I'm sure it should be the best innings of his [Rajapaksa's] life. The way he lifted them, hats off," Saqlain admitted.
Mohammad Rizwan looked to be the sole anchor of the Men in Green's batting unit, managing 55 runs. However, they took 49 balls to come, leaving the team a mountain to climb in terms of run rate towards the end. Mushtaq defended the opener's approach, stating it has worked wonders on previous accounts.
"Every team and player has their own style and method. The way we played, we reached the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup last year, we got to the final of an Asia Cup here. Evidence suggests you're doing something right to get here. It's not compulsory that you do what the rest of the world is doing. We'd rather focus on the small things we aren't doing right instead of looking at what others are doing. His [Rizwan] andaaz (method) is not bad."
Meanwhile, Babar Azam struggled throughout the tournament as well despite entering it in brilliant form. He managed 68 runs in six games with a high score of 30.
"I said it earlier too, if someone looks at his [Azam] batting, you'd just say he's unlucky, especially the way he's getting out. It's just a patch. If you look at the rankings, he's top in T20Is and in ODIs. It's just been bad luck. The way he's training and playing it's amazing. His work ethic is top notch. I don't need to say more," Mushtaq said on the Pakistan skipper.