In the previous article on the upcoming Asia Cup to be staged in Bangladesh this year, we looked at India’s chances, its strengths and important facets like leadership and form. Today, it is the turn of India’s opponents to be put under the scanner:
Afghanistan: The newest entrant to the tournament is a highly competitive team that may not win the trophy but has the wherewithal to cause a few upsets here and there, which could change the very complexion of the championship. The batting line-up is fairly experienced with the likes of Karim Sadiq, Nawroz Mangal and Asghar Stanikzai and Mohammad Shahzad. Skipper Mohammad Nabi and Samiullah Shenwari will be pivotal to the team’s success owing to their allround skills. The team’s main strength is, however, its exceptional fast bowling. Hamid Hasan and Shapoor Zadran are fairly quick and Dawlat Zadran and Mirwais Ashraf are pretty experienced as well. All this should ensure that they are fairly competitive.
Bangladesh: It will be playing in home conditions, which implies it will also get the maximum amount of public support as well. However, sometimes these factors can go against you as a team too. For starters, its batting is the main strength for Bangladesh. There are plenty of proven performers there – skipper Mushfiqur Rahim, Anamul Haque, Mominul Haque, Naeem Islam and Nasir Hossain. However, the absence of the talismanic Tamim Iqbal will be a major setback. Also pretty surprising is the omission of Mahmudullah, one of the better players in the country and a former vice captain. The presence of Shakib Al-Hasan, one of the finest allrounders in the world, will be a major boost for the Bangla think tank, though.
There are some decent seamers in the team like the experienced Mortaza and Rubel Hossain, who can be a slippery customer. However, spin bowling will be the real deal for the hosts when it comes to picking wickets with names like Abdur Razzak and Sohag Gazi.
Pakistan: Pakistan will be a major contender for the tournament along with the likes of India and Sri Lanka. The batting line-up at its disposal is commendable with names such as Misbah-ul Haq, Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal backed up by newcomers Sharjeel Khan, Sohaib Maqsood and Fawad Alam, who returns to the side after a long time. Allrounders Hafeez and Afridi will also play crucial roles in ensuring the side is well balanced. There is a couple of world class spinners in Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman but Pakistan can easily lay claim to have the best quick bowling line up in the tournament with the likes of Umar Gul and Junaid Khan to be supported by Anwar Ali, Bilawal Bhatti and Mohammad Talha. The absence of Mohammad Irfan will be a major blow though. One also feels that Sohail Tanvir could have been selected for this important tournament considering his guile with the ball, decent skills with the bat and his immense experience in the shorter formats.
Sri Lanka: Just like Pakistan can claim to have the best pace bowling line up, Sri Lanka can effortlessly say that it has the best batting line-up in the championship. With names like Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Mathews, Lahiru Thirimanna and Dinesh Chandimal it is unlikely that such a claim will be contested. Kusal Perera will also play an important role with his batting up the order in the absence of Dilshan. In the bowling department a lot will depend on Lasith Malinga and Thisara Perera to cover up for the absence of Nuwan Kulasekara. The absence of Shaminda Eranga is mystifying. Suranga Lakmal and Dhammika Prasad will play important roles in his absence. In the spin bowling department much will depend on Ajantha Mendis but he can expect to have good support from Sachithra Senanayake.
As of now, Pakistan looks to be the favorite to lift the trophy thanks to the quality in the side but Sri Lanka could get there as well. However, it shall also be a mistake to write off India completely, even after what happened in New Zealand.