The 2018 Asia Cup is now less than a year away and it promises to be yet another exhilarating tournament, right in the home of the reigning champions.
India, who is currently enjoying its sixth title, will be hosting the 14th edition of the Asia World Cup, welcoming a number of other teams to compete in its stadiums. While one of the teams will be chosen a few months earlier during the Asia Cup Qualifiers, the other four teams make up quite the line-up: Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan will battle it out on Indian soil, each team eager to get their hands on the Cup.
For those of you well acquainted with the cricket world, you will realize why this tournament attracts so much attention. All the teams mentioned above form part of the top ten cricket team rankings according to the ICC, the global governing body of cricket. This means that exactly half of the top 10 table, with India placing a very close second to the current top spot, will be taking part and putting up a show next year. You may perhaps appreciate the magnitude of this tournament better. Let’s delve a little deeper into the tournament and the teams comprising it. The Asia Cup is a round robin tournament where teams clash against each other in an attempt to secure the most number of points. Given the popularity of the sport in the region (it is the most played sport in a number of countries in fact), bookmakers are sniffing the field and observing movements to be able to offer fans favourable and exciting bets, despite the tournament leaning towards another Indian win.
But let’s have a closer look at what each team can bring to the Asia World Cup table:
Afghanistan’s recent thumping of Hong Kong has reaffirmed the team’s status as one of the top 10 teams in the ICC rankings. Hong Kong’s innings-defeat was characterised by their inability to match Afghanistan’s pace and strength with the bat. While the team is still young, with a board only formed in 1995 and the Test status acquired just early on this year, it has progressed swiftly to reach the standing they have today. One look at the history charts will show you the sheer determination these team members have in the face of adversity. We predict they’ll be a team to look out for in the near future.
Sri Lanka has a long history, having played their first cricket match as a team in 1926-1927, achieving Test status in 1982. Despite their great ranking, this year was not Sri Lanka’s year as they come back from a 5- 0 ODI series loss against Pakistan. They are now going to start their six-week India Tour, a tour which they claim will be the toughest yet, but also a great challenge in terms of their own performance. Ahead of the World Cup, these games will be defining for The Lions, who need to show their mettle not just to their opponents but also to the rest of the participants.
Cricket in Bangladesh predates the formation of the state – so one can only imagine the love for the sport within the country. It is played on the streets and in backyards, and the fact that it is the most wagered sport in the entire country speaks volumes about its popularity. Their performance in South Africa in the last ODI series (their preferred format) and during the Tests however, leaves much to be desired. According to sources, the morale was already low during the Tests, a sentiment which lingered during the ODIs. And despite cricket being so popular on the betting stands, the Bengali were never favourites to win against South Africa, the number 1 ranked team of the ICC. However, this does not bode well for the team who are expected to keep their rankings up, and improve on them. The series they will participate in next is scheduled in January, with Sri Lanka in Bangladesh. We hope this will serve to better the morale of the team.
The Falcons or the Men in Green are the current champions of the ICC T20I and have had their Test status acquired back in 1952. This is another case of cricket predating the formation of the sate and with children learning to play cricket even before they learn to run properly. Pakistan have just come out of a successful ODI series against Sri Lanka, in a set which has been much anticipated by fans in the country. Due to a terrible accident in 2009, which left 8 members of the Sri Lankan team dead, there have been no major games played in Pakistan. This perhaps might have been a terrific boost for the players who went on to win the series and now look forward to the next ODI series in New Zealand. Pakistan have a terrific team, with one ambition: to be better than their arch-rivals India.
Speaking of which, the Men in Blue are truly – and in an astounding manner – giving everyone a run for their money. With a Test status acquired in 1932, India has heritage and history on their side, but not just. Traditionally, India was always an individualistic team, relying on two star players to take the lead and move the team forward. However, we have seen a radical change in the team (which is to some extent also reflecting the change in the nation as a whole) of a more united team with a can-do, will-do attitude that has changed the course of entire games. They are currently ranking second in the ICC rankings but they are out-fielding everyone, setting standards no one would have thought possible 10 or 20 years ago.
So where does it all go from here? Will the Asia World Cup be the moment for suffering teams to finally shine? Or will India outstrip them all, leaving everyone out of breath?