Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of all the contesting teams in the upcoming edition of the Asia Cup, former Indian batsman and great Sunil Gavaskar has picked his favourites for the much-anticipated marquee event in United Arab Emirates.
Gavaskar, who is considered one of the all-time greats to have played the game for his 10,122 runs at 51.12 across 125 Tests for India, wrote all things Asia Cup in his latest column for Times of India recently and he is very excited about the six-team ODI event.
In his write up, Gavaskar picked the most likely winner and expressed, "Pakistan, the ICC Champions Trophy winners, start as favourites because not only have they got a well-balanced team, but they will be playing on their 'home' ground. The familiarity with the pitches and the weather conditions is always a plus and Pakistan will want to add the Asia Cup to their trophy cabinet." and said, "With their former charismatic captain as their country's Prime Minister now, they will undoubtedly be inspired to give him the Asia Cup as a gift. The Sri Lankan team will be handicapped with the absence of skipper Dinesh Chandimal."
"Bangladesh also have uncertainty surrounding Shakib. Both teams, though, have players with experience as well as talented youngsters to make a difference." he added, "Where they are likely to be a bit short is in their bowling, for on the dry pitches, the ball won't do much."
He also thinks that while "The Asia Cup may have lost a bit of its shine in the eyes of the cricket lovers of the region, thanks to all the T20 leagues that have cropped up all over the world," but, he reiterated, "make no mistake, the players of all the participating countries want to win the magnificent trophy to have the bragging rights in the region."
The great man also questioned why the tournament, which will be played in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, has no games scheduled in the famous and historic Sharjah cricket stadium and shared his own experience of having played there in his prime.
He wrote, "I was fortunate to lead a young Indian team to a win in the inaugural Asia Cup which was played in Sharjah, and it's good to see that the tournament is back in the UAE, although strangely there won't be any matches in Sharjah." adding, "The CBFS matches in Sharjah were the ones that lit the flame of cricket in the UAE, so it's hard to understand why Sharjah does not have a single game."
In conclusion, Gavaskar reflected on how this tournament helps the participants better plan and prepare for next year's ICC Cricket World Cup in England and wrote, "The tournament assumes great importance as it gives the teams participating a good warm up for the ICC World Cup next year. The more matches the teams play, the better their preparation. They will also get a fair idea of the areas they need to tighten up on before the World Cup."
"Sure the conditions in England will be totally different from the ones in UAE, but teams can start bonding in these games. They will know who are the players who can take pressure and who doesn't quite have that fire in the belly to take his team forward." he signed off.