Asia Cup is a mini world cup with as many as 6 International teams competing against each other for the coveted Trophy. Since the time it has started, the tournament has ensured some nail-biting matches and individual performances. Asia Cup also brings together the most loved and popular rivals of cricket-India and Pakistan together making it a blockbuster tournament.
In the recent ODI match between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, it was proven that anything can happen in the tournament with minnows having the right balance to shock the major teams. The way Mushfiqur Rahim led from the front with his attacking ton just shows the amount of confidence and zeal with which Bangladesh team has stepped in the tournament. Also the manner in which Pakistan defeated Hong Kong was a testimony on how good their bowling line up is.
Hence, let us assess each team and what to expect from them in this tournament.
With their run machine Virat Kohli on rest, Rohit Sharma will be leading the National team for the first time. What’s more? Rohit has a very well balanced team with the right blend of experience and youth. With the inclusions of MS Dhoni and Ambati Rayadu in the middle order, India has the strongest middle order while Dinesh Karthil as keeper will also prove quite handy.
The bowling front also looks good with spinners like Kuldeep and Yuzvendra Chahal always proving to be match winners in the shorter format of the game. Also new entrant Khaleel Ahmed has a bowling action like Mitchell Starc and generates 140+ with the ball making him a bowler to look out for.
The trio of Bhuveneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya with the ball makes for a one potent pace attack. Additionally, Pandya’s batting lends that oomph into the team as he can be dangerous with the bat if he gets going.
The only concern is the top order with Shikhar Dhawan being out of form throughout the England tour. Lokesh Rahul also struggled against the quality pace bowlers in England. Coming to Rohit Sharma, the skipper has an excellent record as an opener but has a tendency to struggle in the opening spells against left arm pacers.
Mustafizur Rahman and Mohammad Amir- two Asian bowlers of the same breed can make his life miserable early on. India on paper looks the most powerful side with only a minor dent in the top order department. Hence, let’s see how India fares up at the end of the tournament.
As the legacy coninues, Pakistan is always blessed with the most impressive bowling attacks. The current Pakistani side has the best bowling department out of the 6 teams. Pace bowlers like Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan & Mohamad Amir have the ability to trouble any batting side in the world. They already displayed their bowling armory vs Hong Kong restricting them to just 116 runs in 37 overs.
The batting also looks good with Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam and skipper Sarfaraz shaping up the top 5. Shoaib Malik brings the much needed experience just like how Dhoni brings to the current Indian team. Malik also has an envious record against India and especially in Asia Cup where he has single-handedly won matches for Pakistan.
The Pakistani team looks really solid and can give a few shockers to India. On paper, Pakistan team looks the 2nd best team but you never know as it has all the capabilities to be on the top
Sri Lankan team has become a pale shadow of its rich history with the current team nowhere close to the earlier teams of Sri Lanka but the inclusion of LasithMalinga in the side will prove to be a major boost. Malinga’s 4/17 vs Bangladesh showed how much difference he can bring to the side.
They are also blessed with some quality players like the experienced Upul Tharanga, the hard hitting all-rounder Kusal Perrera, Niroshan Dickwella and Kusal Mendis. The team is out of form with a not so impressive year for them so far but you can’t write them off with just one loss. Sri Lanka can make a comeback and give any team a run for the money.
Whether Bangladesh wins the tournament or not, they are the most exciting and enthusiastic side in the Asia Cup. Every time they come on the ground, the energy with which they play is simply incomparable. What’s more they have some dangerous players like Litton Das, Mustafizur Rahman, Mahmudullah and keeper Mushfiqur Rahim who can change the game individually. They also have the right amount of experience with players like Shakib Al Hasan, Mashrafe Mortaza and Tamim Iqbal in the side.
Tamim’s injury maybe a big blow for Bangladesh but just like how India can play without Kohli, Bangladesh can also adjust without him in the rest of the matches. Also we can’t ignore the fact that Bangladesh has a history of shocking big teams when no one is expecting anything out of them. Hence, Bangladesh will be the most mysterious yet unique teams to lookout for in the Asia Cup.
Hong Kong is one team which will consider itself lucky to get a chance to play against the top tier teams with world class players. This will be a platform for them to learn as well as gain experience. Expecting too much from Hong Kong would not be fair but they do have some good players who can put up a good show.
Afghanistan have shocked some of the big teams earlier and it would be a mistake to compare them with Hong Kong. They have world’s no.1 ranked spinner Rashid Khan to some supremely talented players like the tall fast bowler Zadran in the side. They also have good amount of experience with players like Mohammad Nabi and Mohammad Shahzad. Pace bowler Zadran has the ability to break stumps with his pace and he can be a dangerous customer with the ball.
Even though the bigger teams will most likely defeat Afghanistan, but if they enter the field with over confidence under estimating them, then script can change drastically.
From the Analysis, India and Pakistan look favorites to win Asia cup while Bangladesh and Afghanistan will be the most exciting teams to lookout for.