Asia Cup: Can Rohit Sharma Change Virat Kohli’s 2021 Rotten Luck Against Pak

BENGALURU | Updated: 23 August, 2022 8:55 am IST
Rohit Sharma and Babar Azam

The 15th edition of the Asia Cup is slated to start on August 27 with Sri Lanka taking on Afghanistan in the first match. Six teams in the tournament, which will be played in the T20 format, will compete fiercely against each other to lift the trophy.

The championship also assumes greater significance in view of the upcoming T20 World Cup which starts in October. All the major Asian teams will aim to fine-tune their squads, iron out deficiencies and find the right balance in the Asia Cup so that they’re fully prepared for the marquee tournament.

At present, India seem to be the strongest Asian team in the T20I format. They’ve the right mix of experience and youth along with a vast talent pool. Such is the bench strength of the Indian team that there are more than two players vying for one spot.

If one looks at the Indian squad for the Asia Cup, it covers all the bases. Batsmen like Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik are in blazing form. The ever-dependable Rohit Sharma is back as a captain while KL Rahul, who is a terrific T20 batsman, is returning after an injury.

Hardik Pandya is arguably in the best phase of his cricketing career and has been India’s best T20 cricketer in 2022 making prodigious contributions with both bat and ball. Deepak Hooda is also making great strides in the format as an all-rounder.

Though Jasprit Bumrah is out of the tournament due to injury, India’s bowling still has immense depth. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the spearhead of the attack, is still going strong and turning in consistently stellar performances in the T20Is. Avesh Khan and Arshdeep Singh have impressed one and all with their bowling this year. Yuzvendra Chahal is bowling with a stinging bite this year and running rings around batsmen. Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin have proven their mettle as world-class spinners.

After India, Pakistan are the best team in the tournament at least on paper. Babar Azam and Mohd Rizwan are two of the best T20I batsmen in the world right now. Rizwan, in particular, has been in astonishing form for the last two years. Shadab Khan is a fine all-rounder; he is economical with the ball and also has the knack of knocking off quick runs. The absence of Shaheen Shah Afridi due to injury is the biggest concern for Pakistan.

Also, strangely, Pakistan have played only one T20I in 2022 so many players are short of match practice. But despite these couple of issues, Pakistan are still a force to reckon with in the T20 format.

Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have not been doing well in T20Is for two years. While Sri Lanka are devoid of batsmen who can consistently come good, Bangladesh’s team balance is utterly skewed. But both teams still have some decent players who on their day can turn matches around.

Sri Lanka’s biggest strength is their spinner Wanindu Hasaranga who is the best T20 bowler in the world currently. Not only does he stifles batsmen for runs but also snaffles heaps of wickets. No batsmen in the world looked consistently comfortable against him. He also has the ability to score runs briskly and will have to perform out of his skin for Sri Lanka to do well. Their batting pivots around Dasun Shanaka and Pathum Nissanka and Charith Asalanka.

Bangladesh is bolstered by the return of Shakib-Al-Hasan who is their most prized cricketer. Barring him and Litton Das, no batsman in the team has the firepower to run amok. While Mustafizur Rahman is a fine bowler, his recent form has been middling. Their spinners – Nasum Ahmed, Mahedi Hasan and Shakib – will have to do the heavy lifting in the bowling department.

Though Afghanistan have won two T20I series against Zimbabwe in the last two years, their chances against stronger teams are minuscule. They will bank heavily on their captain Mohd Nabi, Hazratullah Zazai, Usman Ghani and Fazalhaq Farooqi to spring a surprise.

After looking at the quality of all teams, it will be surprising if India and Pakistan don’t lock horns in the final.

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