The 2022 edition of the Asia Cup is almost here and as we know, this time round it will be played in the T20 format rather than the 50-over one.
It runs from the 27th of August to the 11th of September and will be held in the UAE.
But who is likely to win? If you’re a fan of online cricket betting, you might not like our choice! Read on to find out more.
Which is the Tougher Group?
As any football fan will know, there’s always a Group of Death at any football World Cup.
One that’s obviously stronger than the others and where getting out of it unscathed is an achievement in itself.
Having said that, those two know that they have the easier ‘third team’ in their Group because that’s the one who has come through qualifying.
For that reason alone (that they didn’t automatically qualify for this competition) you’d think that Pakistan and India will qualify easily for the Super 4 stage, because you just can’t see them losing to a qualifier.
That’s in stark contrast to Group B where Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are all very well-matched. Any two of those three could make it to the next round.
Conclusion: India and Pakistan are almost guaranteed a place in the Super 4, the three teams from Group B, aren’t.
Who’s Likely to Make the Final?
Assuming we accept that India and Pakistan will qualify from Group A, then what might happen next?
The smart money is on the winner of the India v Pakistan match at the Super Four Stage (September 4, don’t miss it!) having one foot in the final, while the loser of that game is likely to beat the other two teams in the Group Stages in their remaining two matches.
So we should have India or Pakistan winning all three matches in the Super Four stage while the other wins their remaining two, leaving the two teams who qualified from Group B to fight out among each other to finish third and avoid the wooden spoon.
Of course, things may not turn out quite like that with any one of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or Afghanistan capable of beating India or Pakistan.
Capable but pretty unlikely.
Assuming we’re right, it would then be an India v Pakistan final, the third time they’d meet in the 2022 edition of the competition.
India or Pakistan?
India have plenty going for them. They’re currently the Number 1 ranked side in the world, the most successful side in the history of the Asia Cup and the winner of the last two editions.
Ominously for everyone else, they’re in fine form, too. They’ve won 10 of their last 12 completed matches, losing only to England and the West Indies.
They also have a really strong record against Pakistan in T20Is, winning six out of nine, with two wins for Pakistan and a tie.
Following their policy of constant rotation in order to both experiment and keep players fresh, they have at least 20 top-class players who they could field at any given time in case of injuries or loss of form.
What about Pakistan?
The men in green are currently third in the ICC T20I rankings. They’ve been extremely good over the last year, winning 11 out of 13.
The only two matches they lost in that period were the semi-final of the 2021 World Cup to Australia in November and then again to Australia in April this year, the most recent T20I they played.
They have a really strong side at present that ticks all the boxes.
They always have good spinners, Shadab Khan offers great balance, Harris Rauf is a real pace threat and they have some power hitters in the middle-order.
But their greatest strength of all is in the Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan opening partnership, arguably the best in the world.
Proof of that is that Azam is ranked Number 1 and Rizwan Number 3 in the ICC T20I rankings.
To have one player in the Top 3 in your side is already a huge positive, to have two is rather special.
And crucially, Pakistan got the monkey off their back when they beat India at the T20 World Cup last year, something they’d never done at a World Cup in either the T20I or ODI formats.
So they’ll believe they can do it again.
There is however one huge Shaheen Shah Afridi-shaped negative.
The brilliant fast bowler is injured, will miss the competition and is in a race against time to be fit for the World Cup later in the year.
Are Bangladesh a Red Herring?
The simple answer is, yes. Despite making the final of the Asia Cup in three of the last four editions, there are reasons to think they may struggle to replicate those feats this time round.
The first is that in two of those three tournaments, they were at home.
The Asia Cup was held in Bangladesh for three straight editions- 2012, 2014 and 2016- and they made the final in the first and third of those.
The Tigers are generally very good at home on spinning tracks but won’t find it so easy in the UAE.
It’s also true that they’re stronger in the ODI format than the T20I one and this time round the 2022 Asia Cup will be a T20I tournament.
They’ll also be without Tamim Iqbal, who is arguably their best batsman ever and has opted to stop playing T20I cricket in a bid to give youngsters a chance.
And finally, they’re in a Group where no match is a gimme. It will be very hard for them to replicate their performances of the last few Asia Cups.