DUBAI: Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will have an eye fixed firmly on the 2019 World Cup when they get the Asia Cup underway in Dubai on Saturday.
Defending champions India, who have won the Asia Cup six times, are led by dashing opener Rohit Sharma as regular captain and world-class batsman Virat Kohli is rested after a gruelling tour of England.
Sri Lanka, hot on India’s heels with five titles, two-time winners Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and qualifiers Hong Kong complete the line-up.
Sharma said although a lot cricket is to be played between now and the World Cup, to be held in England between May 30 to July 15 next year, the Asia Cup can help in the build-up.
“In a way you can say that (the Asia Cup is a build-up) because every team wants to go to the World Cup wanting to know their combination,” Sharma said at a press conference. “But having said that its important to focus on the job at hand rather than thinking too far ahead. All the teams and players have a great opportunity to do well and stake claims for the World Cup squad.”
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed described the event as a “journey towards” next year’s tournament in England.
“Yes, there are still eight months to the World Cup, we have to play a lot of cricket before that. But yes the Asia Cup is a continuation of the journey towards the World Cup,” Sarfraz said.
Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews and Bangladesh’s Mashrafe Mortaza described the Asia Cup as the process towards the World Cup.
“It’s a process and in a tournament like this we have to find the right combination with an eye on the World Cup,” said Mathews.
Mortaza believed his team has worked hard for the Asia Cup.
“Asia Cup is an important tournament so we have done a good homework for it and build-up towards the World Cup which is still far,” said Mortaza.
The highlight of the Asia Cup remains a high-profile group match between arch-rivals Pakistan and India on Wednesday in Dubai.