Who will be the best Asian team in cricket, will be defined by this tournament. At the same time, the tournament is a preparation platform for the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup in India.
Apart from Nepal, all of the five teams– India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan– have the potential and skill to lift the trophy, making the tournament wide open for all.
This is the first time that the tournament is being co-hosted by multiple countries, with four matches taking place in Pakistan and the remaining nine in Sri Lanka.
Pakistan basically were the host of the tournament but the political turmoil between them and India forced the event to be shared by two countries.
India are the most successful team in the tournament, winning it for seven times while Sri Lanka came second to them with six trophies. Pakistan won the tournament only twice. Bangladesh who of late had made them an ODI giant reached the final three times but failed to win it.
India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have each missed one edition of the Asia Cup, leaving Sri Lanka as the only team to have competed in every tournament since 1984.
The format of the Asia will be ODI this time, considering the ODI World Cup in India later this year. In fact the organizers decided to hold Asia Cup according to the format of the World Cup since 2016. Therefore the 2016 and 2022 Asia Cup was a T20 format tournament.
Last time when the ODI format Asia Cup held was in 2018, a tournament in which Bangladesh moved to the final but despite a blitzkrieg century of Liton Das, they failed to overcome an Indian juggernaut.
In 2022, which was T20 format Asia Cup, Sri Lanka became champions. So, T20 format Asia Cup defending champion is Sri Lanka while ODI format Asia Cup reigning champion is India.
Apart from Nepal, other five teams of the Asia Cup will play World Cup and hence the tournament is crucial for them to sort out their shortcomings and other problems.
But the eventual question is who will be the favourite to clinch the trophy. On paper, India are the strongest outfit while Bangladesh of late proved they can win against any team in any condition now at least in ODI format.
Sri Lanka had to play the Qualifier to confirm their World Cup spot but their Asia Cup record is enviable. Moreover they will play at their own backyard and needless to say, they will be tough nuts to crack even though most of their crucial players will miss the tournament, either due to injury or due to Covid-19.
Pakistan though are not historically successful in Asia Cup, one simply can’t write them off due to their unpredictable nature. Moreover under the inspiring leadership of super calm Babar Azam, they became one of the most consistent teams in the world.
Afghanistan lacked consistency in ODI format but on their given day, they can beat any side in the world. Their batting depth is questionable but they can amend batting failure with their world class spin attack, led by Rashid Khan.
As per the stat since 2018 Asia Cup, India and Bangladesh are the most successful teams amongst the six teams of this tournament in ODI format of cricket.
In the last five years, India’s winning percentage is 61.90 as they won 52 matches, playing 84 while Bangladesh’s is 59.09 as they played 66 matches and won 39.
Pakistan’s winning percentage is 52.63 after winning 30 matches in 57. Sri Lanka won 31 matches out of 71 and their winning percentage is only 43.66. Afghanistan’s winning ratio is 40.90 as they won 18 amongst their 44 matches.
Former Pakistan captain and legendary fast bowler Wasim Akram meanwhile refused to pick any favourites for the tournament.
Akram said the road will be tough for all sides but at the same time, he said Bangladesh and Sri Lanka shouldn’t be taken lightly as the both of the teams have the credential to clinch the trophy.
“Last time we had predicted an India versus Pakistan final but Sri Lanka won the competition. All three teams are dangerous – anyone can win on their day,” Akram told reporters during a tournament sponsor’s event
“There are other teams competing too. Last time Sri Lanka won the title, India even failed to make it to the final. India versus Pakistan is very important, we know about so much support (teams get), so many eyeballs, so many people (following). But other teams are also here to play so you cannot minus Sri Lanka or Bangladesh,” he added.