Surinder Khanna, the wicketkeeper-batsman who was Man of the Series, during a recent visit to Sharjah Stadium. Image Credit: K.R. Nayar/Gulf News

Dubai: April 13, 1984 is a special day in the history of cricket for the UAE, India as well as the Asian continent. It was on this day, 36 years ago, that the first Asia Cup was completed at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium with India emerging as the first champions of the tournament. 
Indian skipper Sunil Gavaskar lifted the Rothmans Cup, as the tournament was named then.

Sharjah Cricket Stadium was then the headquarters of the newly formed Asian Cricket Council (ACC) and the tournament contested by India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka with matches being held in front of a packed stadium. The venue also hosted its first One Day International match, thanks to this tournament, on April 6 with Pakistan and Sri Lanka ushering in big ticket cricket in the desert.

In the second match on April 8, India defeated Sri Lanka by 10 wickets and in the third match, they outplayed Pakistan by 54 runs to win the tournament. The hero of both India’s wins were India’s wicketkeeper-batsman Surinder Khanna, who hit 51 against Sri Lanka and 56 against Pakistan to win the Man-of-the-Match award in both matches and also bag the Man of the Series.

Gavaskar, Shastri and Vengsarkar with the Rothmans Cup in 1984.

Speaking to Gulf News from New Delhi, Khanna recalled this day: “It was Friday the 13th in 1984, but my teammates and I created history that day.”

Khanna was well backed by Sandeep Patil, who hit 43, while Gavaskar remained unbeaten on 36. “The first Asia Cup match was a low-scoring one and I cracked an unbeaten 51 after Sri Lanka were bowled out for 97 to give India a 10-wicket win. In the final against Pakistan, I scored 56 to help India post a fighting total of 188 for four and win the match by 54 runs,” recalled Khanna.

In the match against Pakistan, Indian medium-pacer Roger Binny bagged three wickets for 33, backed by left-arm spinner Ravi Shastri, now India’s head coach, with three for 40.

“When India won the tournament, the atmosphere was electrifying. It was Sharjah Cricket Stadium’s first tournament. Except for a few who played in some unofficial matches in the UAE, most of us were on our first visit to Sharjah. For me, it was a comeback tournament as I was out of the Indian team for five years since playing in the 1979 World Cup,” Khanna added.

Sharjah Cricket Stadium went on to host the highest number of One Day Internationals in world cricket after this tournament - producing several classic encounters between India and Pakistan.