DUBAI: The 50-over World Cup is a little less than nine months away, and that automatically makes this year’s Asia Cup far more significant than previous editions. Last time, in 2016, it was played in the T20I format for the first-ever time keeping the World T20 in mind. However, this year -- for obvious reasons -- the ODI format is back at the forefront for one final dress-rehearsal before next year’s mega event. For the next couple of weeks, Dubai, along with neighbouring Abu Dhabi will host the 14th edition of the Asia Cup, the region’s premier international cricket carnival.

So, let’s find out what exactly the six participating teams want to achieve from this tournament.


For defending champions India this Asia Cup will be an ideal platform to sort out their middle-order woes. With regular skipper Virat Kohli being rested following the hectic tour of England, the likes of KL Rahul, Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav will be auditioning for a permanent spot in the middle-order. In the bowling department, the think-tank will monitor the performance of Shardul Thakur and the uncapped 20-year old left-arm seamer Khaleel Ahmed. Anything special here can bring them in the World Cup scheme of things primarily for the role of back up pacers.

Furthermore, following the humiliation in England, a triumph in this premier Asian tournament can at least provide head-coach Ravi Shastri, who is undoubtedly feeling the heat, some breathing space. Also, there are chances of three matches against arch-rival Pakistan, which allow India an opportunity to set the record straight after the defeat in last year’s Champions Trophy final.

Captain’s quote: "Firstly we are very happy to be back here. We know the focus and we know what we need to do as a group, of late we have played some great cricket in limited overs, we have won quite a few series outside India, so hopefully this gives us another opportunity before the big World Cup. Everyone is looking forward to it, we will be focused on the job at hand, it is important in a tournament like this we take one game at a time and think about how we need to go and dominate that game, rather than thinking too far ahead.

"It is always exciting to play Pakistan, they have been a great nation and they have played some really good cricket of late, and we are looking forward to that clash, but again there are other teams here as well who are eyeing that title so all the games that will be played here will be quite competitive."

Squad: Rohit Sharma (C), MS Dhoni (WK), Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur, K Khaleel Ahmed.


Of late, under the leadership of Sarfraz Ahmed, this young Pakistan side has performed brilliantly across formats. There are signs of stability in this particular unit. Clearly, they are building a team for the World Cup and here in the UAE, they would like to showcase their progress against the top quality opponents. Eyes will be on youngsters like Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Shadab Khan, who will are expected to be tested under extreme pressure situation. However, Pakistan will miss the services of left-arm spinner Imad Wasim and experienced all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez.

Captain’s quote: "First of all a great opportunity for all the teams to participate here, and hopefully people will have the chance to watch some great cricket. I believe it is better for us to go series by series and not look to far ahead to the world cup. We have a packed schedule next year, and you could say the journey to the world cup has begun. For now the focus is Asia Cup, and the effort is to improve ourselves so that by the time we reach the world cup we will have a fair idea of the teams strengths."

Squad: Sarfraz Ahmed(C & WK), Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Shan Masood, Shoaib Malik, Haris Sohail, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan, Usman Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Asif Ali, Mohammad Amir.

Sri Lanka

Dubai and Abu Dhabi have been two happy hunting venues for Sri Lanka in recent years. Their attack is perfectly suited for these slow-low pitches. Nevertheless, in the absence of injured Dinesh Chandimal, the batting does look a little weak. So, the team management should ideally want their youngsters to raise their game in order to be competitive. It will be an excellent learning curve for these players.

Captain’s quote: "It is a very important series for all the teams participating in it they are all excited, we have done our preparations and it is going to be an even contest and I wish all the teams the very best of luck. All the teams are quite even, and they are here to win and to play their best cricket. In this tournament if you lose one game you could be out of the series so you can’t afford to make too many mistakes, and you have got to be on your toes and play your best cricket."

Squad: Angelo Mathews (C), Niroshan Dickwella (WK), Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Upul Tharanga, Thisara Perera, Dasun Shanaka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Akila Dananjaya, Dilruwan Perera, Amila Aponso, Kasun Rajitha, Suranga Lakmal, Dushmantha Chameera, Lasith Malinga, Shehan Jayasuriya.


Having beaten the Windies in both T20I and ODI series recently in the Caribbean, the Mashrafe Mortaza-led Bangladesh team has come here with confidence in the side. Under the inspirational leadership of Mashrafe Mortaza, Bangladesh are a dangerous 50-over team, especially in these conditions. Though Shakib Al Hasan’s fitness is still a concern, but there is enough depth in quality in this line-up, that they can give the other ‘big three’ a run for their money. Having reached the final twice in past three editions of Asia Cup, Bangladesh now seem desperate to win their maiden title this time around.

Captain’s quote: "This is a very important tournament for our team as well, and we have done our homework and we hope to do well, our first game is against Bangladesh and we are looking forward to it."

Squad: Mashrafe Mortaza (C), Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mohammad Mithun, Liton Das, Mushfiqur Rahim, Ariful Haque, Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain, Mehidy Hasan, Nazmul Islam, Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman, Abu Hider Rony, Nazmul Hossain Shanto, Mominul Haque.


The Afghans have nothing to lose but everything to gain from this Asia Cup. Nobody expects them to win the title. So, they can play pressure free cricket and surprise a few opponents. It will be a huge mistake if any opponent becomes complacent against Afghanistan, as on their day, they can beat any team in the world, especially in these conditions. Afghanistan’s primary target should be reaching the second round by beating one of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the Group B.

Captain’s quote: "All the teams are very good teams here at Asia Cup, special congratulations to Hong Kong, they really deserve to be here. You can’t say any one team is the favourite at this stage because all the teams are here to win and they are looking good."

Squad: Asghar Afghan (C), Mohammad Shahzad (WK), Ihsanullah Janat, Javed Ahmadi, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Najibullah Zadran, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Aftab Alam, Samiullah Shenwari, Munir Ahmad, Sayed Shirzad, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Wafadar.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong have raised quite a few eyebrows by reaching the main round of the Asia Cup by playing exceptional well qualifying round. The last victory against a strong UAE side earned them a place in the tournament. Now it is all about showing the world by being competitive in their matches and Pakistan and India. They won’t be featuring in next year’s World Cup. Hence, for these Hong Kong players, Asia Cup is the biggest platform to showcase their talent.

Captain’s quote: "All of us are very excited to be here and it is an honour and a privilege to play against some of the legends of the game. We are just going to take it game by game, we are hungry we have worked very hard to get here."

Squad: Anshuman Rath (C), Scott McKechnie (WK), Aizaz Khan, Babar Hayat, Cameron McAulsan, Christopher Carter, Ehsan Khan, Ehsan Nawaz, Arshad Mohammad, Kinchit Shah, Nadeem Ahmed, Nizakat Khan, Raag Kapur, Tanveer Ahmed, Tanwir Afzal, Waqas Khan, Aftab Hussain.