Emotions and expectations are high as teams battle for supremacy. Reuters.
Young guns and old war horses alike will try to make themselves count, as the five teams face the big challenge of winning the prestigious Asia Cup, and gaining supremacy in the continent.
Defending champions Pakistan will look to retain the title as India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and debutants Afghanistan compete against each other in the battle for the throne, which promises to be a nail-biter, given that there are no obvious favourites going in to the tournament.
Nothing can take away the fact that Pakistan are the reigning champions, and they also have the credit of two back-to-back series victories over Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, who are both part of Asia Cup. That would be an advantage for Pakistan but the conditions and players are familiar to all the teams participating. Pakistan's bowling unit has come better recently with young players like Junaid Khan and Mohammad Talha making the cut. Captain Misbah-ul-Haq is confident that his team can deliver the goods with the bat as well.
Key Player: Misbah-ul-Haq
Virat Kohli is all set to take on the challenge of leading team India in MS Dhoni's absence. Batting is not a worry for India right now with Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli himself in good form. India's concern is to better themselves in the bowling department. Kohli was positive that India is going in with the young team and a young captain.
"I think that excites me to have a group that I can have a chat with and be on the same page. It's important to have an understanding," India's stand-in skipper Kohli told reporters.
Key Player: Virat Kohli
What other teams lack considerably and Sri Lanka boasts is all-rounders. Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera are experienced but missing out from the Asia Cup is another top all-rounder, Tillakaratne Dilshan. The team also has a few new allrounders like Sachithra Senanayake and Ashan Priyanjan. Kumar Sangakkara has been in good form and promises to be a part of the important scenes in the tournament.
Key Player: Kumar Sangakkara
Captain Mushfiqur Rahim will be the game changer for Bangladesh and is hoping to be joined by trump card Shakib Al Hasan very soon. The skipper has placed a request in front of the Bangladesh Cricket Board to reduce the ban on Shakib for the unacceptable gestures on the national television. However, Shakib will be available for the third match that Bangladesh plays in this tournament, regardless of BCB's decision.
Key Player: Shakib Al Hasan
Afghanistan's has been the most glorious of all the cricket tales in the last decade. This team does not go out silently nor does it accept defeat easily. They might not be the favourites but viewers can no doubt hope for a few upsets they are sure to cause here and there in the tournament. Captain Mohammad Nabi is known to lead his team aggressively, while Nawroz Mangal has been their star performer.
Key Player: Nawroz Mangal
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