2022 Asia Cup: ‘Pakistan, India are favourites’

Former captain Sana, ‘Babar has balanced squad’; pacer Sami, ‘spinners will be key’

Abdul Majid August 27, 2022
GREEN OR BLUE: The 2022 Asia Cup, being played in the T20 format for the second time in its history, boasts six continental cricket giants, but Pakistan and India are favourites to lift the trophy this year. PHOTO: AFP


A mini T20 World Cup, the 2022 Asia Cup, will kick off in the hot and humid UAE from Saturday, with the Asian cricketing giants putting on display their prowess in the six-team event.

All the headlines before the event included either Pakistan or India and usually both countries’ names as the build-up to the cricketing extravaganza was focused on the arch-rivals facing off, probably at least thrice, in the Asia Cup.

Pakistan and India are pitted in the same group (read commercial benefits) with a qualifier Hong Kong. Meanwhile Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan make up the second group.

Top two teams from each group will round up in the Super fours, where, once again, the top two teams will play for the coveted Asia Cup trophy.

The event kicks off with Afghanistan squaring off against Sri Lanka, with a spin-versus-spin duel on display, while the first blockbuster match of the Asia Cup, the Pakistan versus India match, is scheduled for Sunday at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

“It is difficult to predict anything in the T20 format. I believe Pakistan and India are favourites, but I will be really interested to see what Sri Lanka can do. Afghanistan have a potent spin attack, but Pakistan and India are clear pre-tournament favourites,” said former Pakistan women’s team skipper Sana Mir when asked who she thinks can win the 2022 Asia Cup.

“We can’t take Bangladesh lightly too because they have a good track record in the Asia Cup.”

Meanwhile, when confronted with the same question, Pakistani pacer Mohammad Sami replied, “Pakistan,” even before the question could be completed.

The reason? “They’re winning, so confidence is high,” Sami explained succinctly.

The T20 tournament, which was scheduled to take place in Sri Lanka, was shifted to the UAE because of the Island nation facing an economic and political turmoil.

But apart from the added heat in the UAE, nothing will be different as spin-friendly pitches in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah will see teams trying to quickly run through overs and potentially batting orders, courtesy all kinds of spinners at their disposal.

“India’s spin attack is pretty good. They have a left-arm spinner, an off-spinner and a wrist-spinner too. Afghanistan obviously have Rashid Khan which makes them the team with the best spin attack in the UAE conditions.”

Sami on the other hand was confident that it will be an all-spin show in the Asia Cup. “All the spinners will be effective in the UAE,” said Sami, when asked who will rule the bowling charts in the event.

Shaheen’s absence

One of the biggest news that came out before the Asia Cup started was the injury of Pakistan left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi, the chief destructor of India during Babar Azam and co’s 10-wicket win over India at last year’s T20 World Cup.

While Pakistan will feel his absence dearly, the event itself will lack shine due to the absence of one of premier pacers of the current generation, Shaheen.

“Shaheen’s absence will make a difference. India have always been vulnerable to left-arm pacers. We couldn’t even replace Shaheen with a left-arm seamer. Pakistani left-armers have always given Indian batting a tough time be it Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan or Shaheen,” said Sana on the topic.

“Shaheen will be the one important factor which is missing in Pakistan’s bowling attack, and in favour of India.

“But hopefully, I am proven wrong by the Pakistani right-arm seamers,” Sana added optimistically.

Sami, however, showed no hint of doubt and put all his bets on Pakistan without any hesitation. “Pakistan will miss Shaheen, but they’re on a winning spree so they have confidence on their side. Also the conditions will favour Babar and co.”

Pakistan’s strength

When asked about what Pakistan’s strength will be during the Asia Cup, Sana didn’t choose batting or bowling, instead she put the burden of responsibility on the all-rounders. She also feels that the perfect ‘balance’ of the Pakistan squad is what makes them dangerous going into the tournament.

“In the recent past, Pakistan’s batting has been its strength. With Shaheen missing, bowling seems a little weak. However, Pakistan’s overall team is balanced this time,” explained Sana.

“We have all-rounders like Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Khushdil Shah and also Iftikhar Ahmed who can pitch in match-winning knocks. Although other teams have good all-rounders too, but overall, you cannot single out one department as Pakistan’s strength this time because the squad is quite balanced.”


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