Despite Virat Kohli’s absence from the 2018 Asia Cup, former India pacer Venkatesh Prasad has tipped the Men in Blue to win the six-nation tournament.
Rohit Sharma will lead India in the 14th edition of Asia Cup. Considering the draining UK trip, the BCCI had rested Kohli from the high-octane event.
“The Asia Cup begins on Saturday and the Rohit Sharma-led Indian team, the defending champions, will start favourites having won six of the 13 editions,” Prasad wrote in his column for Times of India.
However, he feels that Pakistan will give Rohit and company a stiff challenge as they have the experience of playing in UAE.
“Pakistan, two-time champions, who beat India to the ICC Champions Trophy crown last year, will look to cash in on the ‘home advantage’. In the last few years, they’ve played most of their international cricket in the UAE,” the former fast bowler added.
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will lock horns with each other in the tournament opener on Saturday (September 15). Although Sri Lanka have traditionally bossed Bangladesh in ODIs, the former has improved by leap and bounds in the last few years.
Analysing the two teams, Prasad wrote: “The two other Asian teams — Sri Lanka and Bangladesh — have had to grapple with injuries in the lead-up to the event. Sri Lanka have just lost a One-day series to South Africa at home, while Bangladesh enter the fray on the back of a series win against West Indies. Player and fitness management will be key factors for both teams.”
Another team to look out for in the Asia Cup is Afghanistan. Led by Asghar Afghan, Afghanistan are entering into the tournament after a series win over Ireland. Despite a fragile batting line-up, Afghanistan boasts a pretty good bowling attack and can stun any strong side on a given day.
“Afghanistan, who are clubbed with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in Group B, will be making their second appearance in the tournament after 2014. Their biggest takeaway from their previous appearance is a win against Bangladesh. Since then, as a cricketing nation, they have made rapid strides which includes attaining their Test status. While batting remains their weak link, the spinners will surely be a handful,” Prasad wrote.
He also expected Hong Kong to spring in a few surprises. The 2018 Asia Cup qualifiers winner are slotted in Group A along with India and Pakistan.
“Thrown in amid the Asian power houses, one team which will look to make a mark is Hong Kong, who are pooled alongside India and Pakistan in Group A. Having flexed their muscles in the qualifying tournament, Hong Kong, who will make their third appearance in the event, having featured in the 2004 and 2008 editions, will be eager to cause a few upsets,” Prasad concluded.