With the Asia Cup just a sleep away now, there is a lot more than just pride at stake for each team featuring in the competition. The most anticipated cricket event at present promises to provide teams with a perfect platform to dish out combinations going into next summer’s World Cup. Amidst the nerve-wrecking clashes, it is hard to predict as to which outfit will come out victorious.
Let us look at six potential batsmen who can prove to be game changers for their respective teams in its fourteenth edition.
KL Rahul had an ordinary outing against England in the recently-concluded Test series, managing to score mere 140 runs in 9 innings, before finally finding his lost mojo in the final innings of the series. He has also found it hard to cement his place in India’s limited overs side in the recent past. However, the swashbuckling opener, with a solid technique, possesses the apt set of skills to outplay any opposition on his day. Rahul had a decent IPL season, scoring 659 runs in 14 matches at a fairly healthy average of 54.91. With the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu under the spotlight for obvious reasons, KL Rahul could be the dark horse in an otherwise very strong Indian unit.
Fakhar Zaman, better known as Fauji, is the only player from Pakistan to score a double century in ODI cricket. He will be coming into the competition on the back of some jaw-dropping performances against Australia and Zimbabwe in the tri-series. Fakhar scored at an average of 55.6 in the 5 T20Is against the two countries. The explosive opening batsman also accumulated 515 runs in 5 innings against Zimbabwe in the ODI series straight after. His average doubled for that series and rose to an astonishing 128.75. In doing so, he also reached the landmark of 1000 ODI runs in only his 18th innings, becoming the quickest to achieve the feat. His highly impressive overall average of 76.07 speaks volumes and is the perfect testament to his ability in limited overs cricket. Out of all the opening batsmen applying themselves at the Asia Cup, Fakhar Zaman may not let you leave your seat till he is at the crease.
Tamim Iqbal has been pivotal to Bangladesh’s rise in international cricket over the years. The stalwart opener is their leading run-scorer across all formats. His tally of 11939 runs is also the highest for Bangladesh in international cricket. Tamim’s recent performances in the format include two centuries and a half century in his last three outings. He managed to pile up 287 runs against West Indies at an average of 143.5. His performance in the T20I series which followed wasn’t too different. His presence in the side has instilled hope and belief amongst the fans of Bangladesh side.
Sri Lanka’s skipper and their highest run-scorer in the series against South Africa, Angelo Mathews has time and again proved to be his nation’s savior in the hour of need. At home against the Proteas, he made a total of 235 runs in 5 innings at an average of 78.33. Amidst the inconsistency which exists in the Sri Lankan outfit, Angelo Mathews provides solidity and balance. His skill with both bat and ball can cause trouble to even the toughest of oppositions. For Sri Lanka to advance to the next stage in a rather dicey group, his expertise will be much needed.
Najibullah Zadran is no mug with the bat and was snapped up this summer by Montreal Tigers in Global T20 Canada. Batting lower down the order, Najib made a brisk 42 against Ireland in a game where most of his teammates struggled to adjust. The hard-hitting left-hander needs very little introduction when it comes to the shortest format of the game, but his side would need him to come good in the 50-over format as well if Afghanistan are to cause any upsets in the tournament. Afghanistan will open their Asia Cup campaign against Sri Lanka on 17th September, before locking horns in a potential knockout game against Bangladesh on 20th September.
Just 20 years of age, Anshuman Rath will be leading Hong Kong at the Asia Cup. Hong Kong qualified for the main event courtesy of their win against Nepal in the qualifying final. ‘Anshy’ has come of age and is regarded as his side’s most dependable batsman. He averages a whopping 52.57 in One Day International Cricket, amassing a century and six half centuries. His performance in the qualifying round proved to be key to Hong Kong’s progress. Anshuman racked up a total of 209 runs in 6 innings, including 102 against the UAE. It will be interesting to see how he fares against much stronger bowling line-ups in the Asia Cup. Hong Kong are placed alongside Pakistan and India in Group A.