The much awaited Asia Cup begins from 24th February in Bangladesh. This is much awaited tournament for fans, as top 5 Asian powerhouses will be battling for their supremacy. This is the first occasion the tournament is held in T20 format. Many pundits termed this event as a semi final to T20 World Cup, as Asian team is most likely to win ICC World T20 given the sub-continent conditions. India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Qualifier 1 would be looking to add more trophies to their cabinet.
India certainly the favourites to win the cup would be looking to their T20 form. India has a settled top order including the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, and Virat Kohli. Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh will provide much needed experience in the middle order. Bowling also looking very much settled given the conditions. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are bowling really well. Ashish Nehra has impressed with new ball taking wickets early and the find of Jasprit Bumrah might have solved India’s death bowling worries. India is looking at his very best with two recent series win against Australia and Sri Lanka. Although pressure of expectations can take a toll on Indian team but ‘Captain Cool’ Dhoni knows how to handle pressure and lead a team to glory.
Indian will be challenged by host nation Bangladesh. For many years Bangladesh have just been the underdogs. With performances in last two years specially in home conditions have definitely make them favourites to win the cup this time. This can be a start of something big for Bangladesh Cricket, as it is a best possible chance for Bengal Tigers to win their 1st major ICC trophy. The team is looking very much balanced and had a good mixture of youth and experience. Shakib Al Hasan by far the best player Bangladesh has produced will lead the way with both bat and bowl. Along with Shakib captain Mortaza, Mahmudullah, Mushfiqur Rahim will provide team with experience in the side. Youngsters like Mustafizur Rehman, Sabbir Rahman, Soumya Sarkar will be key if Bangladesh has to achieve their 1st ICC victory.
It would be very difficult not to consider Sri Lanka as favourites too. Yes they have lost lot of key players like Sangakara, Jayawardene and Malinga is still struggling with his injury but past record of Lankans in ICC events make them a strong contender too. Mathews and Chandimal will have to take lot of responsibility on their shoulders. Recent series loss against India will also hamper their confidence. Sri Lanka needs to find the right combinations early in the tournament if they want to challenge their opponents. They need to remember they are current T20 World Champions and motivate themselves to do well.
Pakistan would also like to win Asia Cup ahead of ICC World T20. The main point of worry for Sahid Afridi’s side is their lack of consistency. They have got some great talent with likes of Umar Akmal, Babar Azam and comeback man Amir. Their bowling is boosted by four left arm quicks in the side. Irfan, Amir, Wahab and un-capped Rumman Raees. There bowling has never been in question. The most important thing for them will be to score runs on a consistent basis as a team. Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik will provide experience in the batting line up. If Pakistan plays to their potential they are certainly favourites to win the cup along with India and Bangladesh. With PSL in operation all the players are getting good T20 experience before important series.
All in all it is looking very interesting series ahead of T20 World Cup. All the teams will try hard and gain their Asian supremacy. My two finalists would be India and Bangladesh.
Date: 19th February Qualifiers; 24th February Main Draw
Location: Fatullah and Mirpur (Bangladesh)
Number of Teams: 5
Current Champion: Sri Lanka
Most Successful: India and Sri Lanka (5 titles)