The 14th edition of the Asia Cup is all set to start from 15 September in the UAE. India are the winners of the last edition which was a T20 version held for the first time in 2016. Afghanistan will be playing their first Asia Cup as a Test playing nation, the other teams include the five time Asia Cup title holders Sri Lanka along with Pakistan who’ve won the tournament twice. Bangladesh have been runners-up in 2012 and 2016 while this will be the third time Hong Kong make an appearance.
The conditions in the UAE at this time of the year will be extremely challenging for players, in particular the fielding side. It will be interesting to see how teams cope with the heat and humidity.
Here is a look at the top bowling options from each team.
Pakistan’s limited overs team has been on the right path since they won the Champions Trophy last year. They’ve won 10 out of their last 15 matches, this also means they are yet to lose a game in their adopted home since the CT final. Out of the six teams, Pakistan will have an advantage when it comes to getting used to the UAE conditions. Their bowling options consist of 6 pacers, a leggie and a left-arm orthodox. With UAE being known for its hot and humid conditions, this would've been a factor in picking a six-man pace attack. Out of the six pacers, Hasan Ali will be Sarfraz’ go to bowler. Hassan has played 8 matches here and has 17 wickets to his name at an average of 14.17. Not just his bowling, Hasan’s on field aggression and swag will also test out the opposition.
Picture: Hasan Ali
In the absence of Virat Kohli, many people might have lost interest in the Asia Cup but they are forgetting that India are still the No 2 ranked ODI team in the world. Jasprit Bumrah was one of their star performers in the recently concluded Test series against England. He has taken 8 ODI wickets this year but his Test form will definitely help him regain confidence in ODIs as well. One battle that is on the watch list of every cricket lover is between Fakhar Zaman and Jasprit Bumrah. Bumrah along with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and the wrist-spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal will be a perfect combination for the Indian side who will look to defend their title.
Picture: Jasprit Bumrah
Sri Lanka redeemed themselves in the recent bilateral ODI series against South Africa by winning the last two matches mainly due to another mystery bowler, Akila Dananjaya who took 6 for 29 in the final ODI against South Africa. He will surely prove to be more than handful for his captain and his presence can become a nightmare for the other teams. Meanwhile, Lasith Malinga, who has been recalled to the national side might not be as lethal as he used to be but with over 300 ODI wickets and still being the second highest wicket-taker in Asia Cup with 28 wickets, he is someone who will be on the watchlist of the opposition sides.
Picture: Lasith Malinga
Mashrafe Mortaza would be hoping to bring his A game and inspire his side to just not put up a fight but the belief to clinch the title. His go-to bowlers include Mustafizur Rahman who will prove to be a serious threat on his given day. In 2018, he has taken 12 wickets in 8 matches. The fast bowler has had injury trouble of late has but this tournament can be a platform for him to shine. The other go-to bowler, Shakib Al Hasan has always been Bangladesh’s star performer and if he gets fully fit, expect him to play a pivotal role in his team’s campaign to lift the title.
Picture: Mustafizur Rahman
Afghanistan are on a high after winning both the T20I and ODI series against Ireland. Their team is full of upcoming superstars along with Rashid Khan who has reached stardom like no other Afghan player. He holds the record to claim 100 ODI wickets in the fewest number of games and without a doubt he will be the main bowler for his team. He will be equally helped by Mujeeb Zadran and the fast bowling contingent to make group B a lot more interesting than group A.
Picture: Rashid Khan
Hong Kong are coming in to the tournament after beating UAE in a nail-biting contest in the Asia Cup qualifiers. This will be team Hong Kong’s third appearance in the tournament as they haven’t managed to win a single match till date. This year might not be any different as they have arch-rivals Pakistan and India in their group. In the Asia Cup qualifiers, Nadeem Ahmed a slow left-armer, took 14 wickets at an average of 10.42. On the other hand, Ehsan Khan took 11 wickets and Aizaz Khan was equally impressive with 10 wickets. Hong Kong will expect every bowler to chip in if they want to put up any fight whatsoever.
Picture: Nadeem Ahmed