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Asia Cup 2016: India lead a tough field with an eye on sixth title

Joining the subcontinent's three powerhouses and the dangerous hosts Bangladesh will be the team from the United Arab Emirates that came through the qualifying phase unbeaten.

Cricketnext Staff |February 23, 2016, 6:13 PM IST
Asia Cup 2016: India lead a tough field with an eye on sixth title

There's a different air to this year's Asia Cup. So much so that there will be no defending champion and Sri Lanka will retain Asia's ODI crown even if they don't end up on the podium on March 6. Sounds a bit weird but it's true. Because it's a Twenty20 Asia Cup.

The Asian Cricket Council's decision to add flexibility to the region's limited-overs crown has been widely hailed. From this year onwards, the Asia Cup will be played in the format depending on the world title that follows, i.e., World Twenty20 and the World Cup.

It allows the Asian giants to not only vie for supremacy in the subcontinent but also run a check before appearing on the world stage that comes immediately afterwards. Since this is the year of ICC World Twenty20, the Asia Cup will don the T20 jersey in its 14th edition.

Joining the regions three powerhouses and the dangerous hosts Bangladesh will be the team from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that came through a qualifying phase having beaten Oman, Hong Kong and Afghanistan. The UAE finished top of the four-team round-robin phase to go through as the qualifier.

The Main Stage will be played in the similar format as the qualifying phase, with the top two of the five teams reaching the final at the end of a round-robin league where each team plays the other once. (Read the tournament guide)

Talking about the contenders, it's a tough field with Bangladesh, too, a real threat considering their recent success on home soil.

India - the favourites

For India, the roadmap is going perfectly to plan. Their build-up to ICC World Twenty20 (WT20) will hit the home straight in Bangladesh. After conquering Australia Down Under and Sri Lanka at home, Asia Cup will be the perfect precursor to the big-ticket WT20.

Talking about the five-time champions, India find themselves in the best shape and space among their chief challengers Pakistan, Sri Lanka and not-to-be-underestimated hosts Bangladesh.

If the Yuvraj-Raina partnership of Sydney 2016 reminded of the 2011 World Cup quarter-final in Ahmedabad, blooding youngsters like Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya and Pawan Negi reminds of Dhoni's 'boys' of 2007.

(Read Complete Team Profile)

Pakistan - the darkhorses

There's always an air of unpredictability surrounding the Men in Green. One day they may play like a team possessed and the another day hit a nadir. They can dictate terms as underdogs and can also take a beating being the favourites.

Like always, the team has some extraordinary talent, but their fortunes over the years have fluctuated between admiration and humiliation. However, this is the same iota of uncertainty that makes them perennial darkhorses in any tournament they play.

Come the 27th of February, when two-time champions Pakistan begin their Asia Cup campaign against arch-rivals India in much-awaited contest, Shahid Afridi and his men will look to rise above a miserable year gone by and get back in shape for the upcoming ICC World Twenty20.

(Read Complete Team Profile)

Sri Lanka - the T20 champions

The tournament, which is seen as the dress rehearsal for the ICC World Twenty20 in India, has a special place for Sri Lanka, who, along with India, have won the title five times since the inception of the tournament in 1984. And they are the reigning World T20 champions as well.

Despite suffering a 2-1 loss at the hands of India in the recently concluded away T20I series, Sri Lanka's squad for the Asia Cup looks formidable with the return of veterans who missed the India series due to various reasons.

The island nation will see this tournament as the perfect opportunity to show the world they are one of the best despite the retirement of legendary duo Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, who were part of the 2014 title-winning squad that beat Pakistan in the final.

(Read Complete Team Profile)

Bangladesh - the underdogs

After having a disastrous campaign in 2014 Asia Cup, things have changed drastically in Bangladesh’s favour over the last two years.

They reached the finals of the tournament in 2012 but failed to win even a single match in the next edition - finishing even below Afghanistan. But then things started taking turn for the better - on home soil.

The Bengal Tigers have been in stunning form of late in ODIs and have defeated the likes of India, South Africa and Pakistan at home, besides reaching the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup for the first time. But their T20Is show hasn't been as impressive, as they were held to a draw in the recently concluded series against Zimbabwe and beaten easily by South Africa.

(Read Complete Team Profile)

UAE - the rookies

The team from the Emirates upset Afghanistan the most as it swept all three league matches to top the qualifying phase unbeaten. But they might find themselves out of place even in the unpredictable T20 format.

However, progressing to the main stage is in itself an achievement for the UAE, and whatever they do from here will be a well-earned bonus before the players return to their jobs after a leave to play cricket.

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1 India 4659 119
2 New Zealand 2829 109
3 England 4366 104
4 South Africa 3177 102
5 Australia 3270 99
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1 England 6745 125
2 India 7071 122
3 New Zealand 4837 112
4 Australia 5543 111
5 South Africa 5193 110
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Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 8366 270
2 Australia 6986 269
3 England 5568 265
4 South Africa 4720 262
5 India 9349 260
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