After a long gap of over 20 years, Asia cup is returning to the deserts of United Arab Emirates. The inaugural edition of this tournament was held back in 1984 at Sharjah. Since then, it was played in 1995 again in Sharjah and now after a considerable gap, the fight between cricketing fraternities of Asia is going to be started from 15th of September. In the past, this tournament revolved around four test nations in Asia i.e. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
But this time around, there is a vivid change in the structure of the tournament. Foremost is the addition of one team from the qualifying round i.e. Hong Kong and total of six teams are participating which are divided in to two groups. Pakistan is placed alongside their arch rivals India and Hong Kong. Green shirts relatively have a balanced side with below described areas need improvement to come out on top:
- Dependence on Fakhar Zaman (Threat) In limited overs cricket openers always have a huge role to laid a solid foundation to reduce pressure on upcoming batsmen. This Pakistani side seems to be heavily reliant on their dashing and in-form opener Fakhar Zaman. He recently scored a belligerent and record double ton against Zimbabwe. But point of concern here is, had he fail to perform, and then there is no one to carry on the same scoring rate similar to Zaman. As of now, Imam ul Haq is supposed to partner him on the opening slot but his strike rate is not even close to match Fakhar’s. While Shan Masood has been inducted in the squad as third opener who has not been tested in limited overs format for Pakistan. That’s why it is imperative for Pakistan to see blazing Fakhar right from the word go. Otherwise it would be difficult for Sarfaraz XI to go past 300 marks each time.
- Specialist Spinners (Weakness) Pakistan would be competing with just one specialist spinner in shape of Shadab Khan. If we look at the other teams, they are coming with at least two regular spinners as the conditions would be far more favourable for spinners than the pacers. India has got Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal while Afghanistan has got Mujeeb ur Rehman and No.1 T20 bowler Rashid Khan in their ranks. Sri Lanka has Akila Dhananjaya and Dilruwan Perera, while Bangladesh has got quality spinners in the likes of Shakib ul Hasan and Mehidy Miraz. In the above scenario, Pakistan might fall short of one regular spinner. Although they have got Mohammad Nawaz and Shoaib Malik on their disposal, still Sarafraz would expect a lot from his pacemen.
- Experience of Conditions (Opportunity) Amongst all six sides, Pakistan is well conversant with conditions in UAE. After attack on Sri Lankan team in Lahore back in 2009, Pakistan is playing their home series’ there continuously. UAE has become their home and green caps exactly know how to exploit the conditions. In past India and Pakistan regularly played bilateral series in the era of 80s and 90s. Recent record of Pakistan in UAE has been phenomenal. Green caps thrashed Sri Lanka 5-0 in the ODI series last year. In light of above facts, Sarfaraz led side would definitely enjoy upper hand in contrast to their opponents in this tournament.
- Pace Battery (Strength) Pakistan is going with perilous pace attack. Totally in contrast of spin department, green caps certainly have luxury of handful, lethal and variant pace attack. With Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Usman Shinwari, Junaid Khan and Faheem Ashraf as frontline pacers with young Shaheen Afridi as back up, this attack would be a treat to watch. In dry conditions, they all are more than capable to use the art of reverse swing as well as strike early with the new ball. All in all fast bowling combo would be a real strength for Shaheens in this Asia cup.
Pakistan cricket team will commence their Asia Cup campaign with qualifier side Hong Kong on 16th of September. Whereas all eyes would be set on 19th September when two great rivals India and Pakistan will lock their horns at Dubai. It is expected that two more Indo-Pak games would be held had they both mange to reach to the final. India might really miss the absence of Virat Kohli but yet they are a highly competitive side. Pakistan have a real opportunity this time to get in to the final and clinch the title too. Fingers Crossed!