Tournament preview: Asia Cup 2016

Afghanistan

The Asia Cup will prove to be vital for the teams participating in it, ahead of the World Twenty20 in India, as the format has changed from ODI to T20 for this year's two-week event.

The organisers have made it a T20 tournament this year, and the extra game time ahead of the World T20 in India next month, starting just two days after the Asia Cup final, will give the Asian sides even more of an advantage.

The UAE have qualified as the fifth side, topping the table in the qualifying tournament with three wins in three. They will join defending champions Sri Lanka, five-time champs India, two-time winners Pakistan, and hosts Bangladesh.

Most would have expected Afghanistan, who have been steadily rising up the ranks and in peoples' estimations, to be the fifth side, but a shock loss to the UAE put paid to that assumption.

All sides have sent strong squads, given their desire to make sure their players are well warmed up for the event in India, though India will be without paceman Mohammed Shami due to injury.

This is the third time in a row that Bangladesh have hosted the tournament, and the fourth time this century. Passionate fans, lively decks and easy access seem to make it the preferred choice. To be fair, Pakistan's not an option, and this year sees India dealing with the WT20.

Players to watch

Starting with the UAE, a big reason they reached the main tournament was batsman Mohammad Shahzad, who scored 111 runs in the three qualifying games, including a half ton against Hong Kong. His 25 not out against Afghanistan was vital to that win as well.

India's top brass seem to have a thing for medium pacer Jasprit Bumrah, who took three wickets recently against Australia. He's averaging under 17 with the ball in T20s so far, and he'll be one to watch. His pace is deceptive, and opposition batsmen will do well to take him seriously.

It's not often Umar Akmal is written about in glowing terms, but this time he could prove vital for Pakistan. With the bat, at least. He was in superb form in the Pakistan Super League, scoring three half tons in a row, and four in total, for the Lahore Qalandars.

Sri Lanka have slingy paceman Lasith Malinga back in the mix after injury, and of the current players, he's the leading wicket taker in the tournament with 24 scalps over the years. He averages a touch over 21 with the ball.

As for hosts Bangladesh, all batsmen will be doing their homework on paceman Mustafizur Rahman. The youngster arrived on the international stage with a bang last year, and astonishingly averages under 15 with the ball in all formats.

Past winners

Sri Lanka – 1986, 1997, 2004, 2008, 2014
India – 1984, 1988, 1990-91, 1995, 2010
Pakistan – 2000, 2012

Fixtures

Wed Feb 24 India v Bangladesh Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur
Thu Feb 25 Sri Lanka v United Arab Emirates Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur
Fri Feb 26 Bangladesh v United Arab Emirates Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur
Sat Feb 27 India v Pakistan Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur
Sun Feb 28 Bangladesh v Sri Lanka Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur
Mon Feb 29 Pakistan v United Arab Emirates Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur
Tue Mar 1 India v Sri Lanka Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur
Wed Mar 2 Bangladesh v Pakistan Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur
Thu Mar 3 India v United Arab Emirates Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur
Fri Mar 4 Pakistan v Sri Lanka Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur
Sun Mar 6 TBC v TBC Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur

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