Former Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene believes that familiarity with UAE conditions act as X-Factor for Pakistan in the 2018 Asia Cup. Given that leading cricketing nations are not touring Pakistan because of the security issues since 2008, the Men in Green are hosting all its matches in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.
While the 14th edition of the Asia Cup will start from September 15, Pakistan will play their first match on the second day of the tournament against Hong Kong. Subsequently, Sarfaraz Ahmed and company will take on arch-rivals India at Dubai on September 19.
In his column for TOI, Jayawardene wrote how Asia Cup has played an instrumental role in the development of cricket in the subcontinent.
“The Asia Cup has played an important role in the development of cricket in Asia and this year’s tournament in the UAE has even more spice by the emergence of a fifth major force in the region, Afghanistan, a team full of street-smart mystery,” Jayawardene wrote.
Talking about the much-anticipated clash between India and Pakistan, Mahela stated: “The tournament is of course special also because it’s one of the few occasions when we get to witness the spectacle and drama of an India vs Pakistan contest.”
“It’s always a mouth-watering one and millions will be looking forward to the big game next Wednesday. Both teams are probably also the favourites going into the tournament, although it remains an open competition by virtue of the fact that no team is dominating away from home right now. India, even without Virat Kohli, have some formidable players and a great balance,” he explained.
Highlighting Pakistan’s home advantage over all the other teams in the tournament, Jayawardene wrote: “They have the greater experience of UAE conditions, it being their second home for the past decade but that won’t be an overwhelming advantage.”
The 2018 Asia Cup will see six teams being divided into two groups. While India, Pakistan and Hong Kong are slotted in Group A, the Group B comprised of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.