(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photos courtesy of Pakistan Federation Baseball & Sri Lanka Amateur Baseball and Softball Association)
Sri Lanka surprise winner West Asia Baseball Cup
ISLAMABAD (Pakistan) -
Sri Lanka became the surprise winner of the West Asia Baseball Cup, as it won the all-deciding Final of the event on Wednesday-afternoon (March 1) against favorite Pakistan with a 4-2 score.
With the upset, Sri Lanka defeated the team that had won the previous three editions of the event.
Earlier in the day, Iran finished in third place by winning 10-6 vs. Nepal.
By reaching the Final, both Pakistan and Sri Lanka qualified for participation in the Asian Baseball Championship.
This will be held in late September in Taiwan and also will serve as Qualifying Tournament for the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.
The National Baseball-teams of host Pakistan, Iran, Nepal and Sri Lanka participated in the fourth edition of the West-Asia Baseball Cup (or 13th when counting previous tournaments).
The five-day event opened last Saturday (February 25) and was held in Islamabad, the capital of the sports-loving Pakistan.
There, the games were played in Jinnah Sports Stadium at the Islamabad Sports Complex.
It was the fourth time that Islamabad was the host-city of the Asia Baseball Cup.
Six countries were scheduled to participate, but only five did.
Pakistan played in Pool A in the Preliminary Round against Iraq and Nepal.
Pool B initially consisted of Iran, Sri Lanka and India.
While India had confirmed its participation, it was unable to participate due to visa problems.
With that, the games of India were ruled a forfeit-victory for their opponents.
That meant that Iran and Sri Lanka already were secured of a spot in the Semi-Final without playing.
Pakistan was the defending champion and was the favorite again this time.
Pakistan is ranked 24th on the World Ranking list and fifth in Asia.
Sri Lanka is ranked in 52nd place, followed by Iran (54), Iraq (67) and Nepal (72).
The first Asia Baseball Cup was held in 1995 in Philippine capital Manila.
After nine editions, the event was split into an East and a West Division.
Pakistan won all three West Asia Cups held since 2012.
Before that, Pakistan also won the title twice (plus four times silver and one bronze) when countries form east and west Asia jointly participated in the Asia Baseball Cup.
Since 2001, Pakistan finished in either first or second place during the event.
Two years ago, when the event also was held in Islamabad, Pakistan won the Final against Iran with a 12-0 score.
Back then, India finished in third place after winning 20-0 against Iraq.
...Before traveling to Pakistan, the Sri Lanka Baseball Team met with...|
...Minister of Sports Dayasiri Jayasekera (sitting, 6th from left)...
(© Photo courtesy of Sri Lanka Amateur Baseball & Softball Association)
Pakistan is the most successful team in West Asia and very productive in promoting baseball and softball in the country.
Last year, the National Baseball Team participated for the first time in a World Baseball Classic Qualifier.
During the event, which was held in Brooklyn, New York (USA), the team was unable to score a run and lost to Brazil (10-0) and Great Britain (14-0), but it had realized a historic moment by participating.
Also last year, the National Women Baseball Team of Pakistan participated for the first time in the World Championship in South Korea.
In 2016, the National Women Softball Team also was to participate in the World Championship in Canada, but in the end was unable to do so.
Before departing to Pakistan, the National Team of Nepal was giving a farewell and good luck speech by Ganga Bahadur Thapa, the Acting Member Secretary of the National Sports Council.
The team of Sri Lanka had a meeting with Minister of Sports Dayasiri Jayasekera before it left for the tournament.
During the Opening Ceremony on Saturday, Pakistan's Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination, Riaz Hussain Pirzada officially opened the event.
On Saturday, the first two games were scheduled.
In Pool A, Pakistan opened against Nepal and registered a convincing 16-1 victory.
Waseem Ali, who made his international debut for Pakistan, hit a homerun.
Also on the first day, Iran was to play against India, but that ended in a forfeit-win for the Iranian squad.
Iran is led by Spaniard Rafael Lemes, who is the Head Coach of the squad.
On Sunday, two games were played.
Nepal won 13-3 against Irak in Pool A.
The game was attended by Ali Baldavi, the President of the Irag Baseball Federation, who was the Chief Guest of the organization for this game.
In this game, Anil Pariyar scored three runs for Nepal.
Sri Lanka recorded a 22-0 win in Pool B against Iran in a game that ended after five innings, due to the mercy-rule.
Dr. Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera, the Director-General of the Pakistan Sports Board, was the Chief Guest.
He was introduced to and met the players of both teams before the game, accompanied by Syed Khawar Shah, the President of the Pakistan Federation of Baseball.
Sri Lankan-players Sandun, Asanka and Nelan all scored four runs in this game.
...Dr. Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera (2nd from left), Director-General...|
...of the Pakistan Sports Board, was the Chief Guest...
...on Day 2 of the event; Standing in the middle is...
...Syed Khawar Shah, the President of Pakistan Federation...
...Baseball that organized the event...
(© Photo courtesy of Pakistan Federation Baseball)
On Monday, Pakistan registered a big 25-0 shutout-win against Irak to remain unbeaten and finish in first place in Pool A.
With that, Irak lost its second game and was eliminated for the Semi-Final.
On the third day, Tariq Masood Yasin, the Inspector-General of the Islamabad Police, was the Chief Guest.
As was done on the previous days, the Chief Guest was introduced to the officials and the players of both teams before the game.
In the highscoring game, Arsalan Jamshaid and Faqir Hussain both scored four runs for Pakistan.
There were four players, who scored three runs each.
The remaining game in Pool B between Sri Lanka and India was not played and ended in a forfeit-win for Sri Lanka.
On Tuesday, the two Semi-Finals were played.
Pool A-winner Pakistan met Iran, which finished in second place in Pool B.
In the second Semi-Final, Pool B-winner Sri Lanka met Nepal.
Both pool-winners won their game and both did it with an 11-0 shutout.
That meant that Pakistan and Sri Lanka reached the all-deciding Final.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka also faced each other in the West Asia Baseball Cup Final in 2012 and 2013.
Pakistan won both times, as they did in 2015 in the Final against Iran.
On the final day of the event on Wednesday (March 1), Iran won the Bronze Medal by winning 10-6 vs. Nepal.
Again, Iran had a good competitive team during this tournament.
As mentioned, Iran reached the Final two years ago.
In the afternoon on Wednesday, Sumair Zawar and Wasim Ali homered for Pakistan early in the all-deciding Final.
Hereafter, the favorite was held scoreless by the Sri Lankan pitching and defense.
En route to the Final, Pakistan registered three convincing victories.
It was reported that because of that, the team might have become somewhat over-confident.
The score was tied at 2-2 after seven innings, then Sri Lanka scored a run in the eighth and ninth inning to complete an upset-victory.
Sri Lanka played a good game and recorded its first victory against Pakistan.
It marks the first time that Sri Lanka wins a big international event.
Sri Lanka won bronze in 2009 when there was a single Asia Cup-tournament.
It then finished in second place participating in the West Asia Cup in 2012 and 2013.
Sri Lanka again won bronze in 2015 when it participated in the East Asia Cup.
This year, the country returned the West Asia Cup.
Both Pakistan and Sri Lanka want to organize more baseball tournaments in the future to make the sport more popular.
Currently, cricket is the most popular sport in countries as Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India.
The Asia Baseball Cup was first held in 1995 in Manila (Philippines) and was then won by the host country.
The event was split into two separate divisions in 2012, the West Asia Baseball Cup and the East Asia Baseball Cup.
West Asia and East Asia both will be represented by the two finalists in the Asian Baseball Championship, which will be held late September in New Taipei City in Taiwan.
For this event, China, Chinese Taipei, Japan and South Korea automatically qualify and do not compete in the Asia Baseball Cup-tournaments.
The next East Asia Baseball Cup will be held in 2018.
In the last edition, in 2015, the Philippines and Indonesia played in the Final.
The Philippines won that game with a 10-0 score.
The Asia Baseball Cup-tournaments, as well as the Asian Baseball Championshop are played under the auspices of the Baseball Federation of Asia, which has 24 member-countries.