Welcome Return For Key Tournament
We have to go back to 2018 for the most recent edition of the Asia Cup, stalled and postponed by the global pandemic. Finally back on track and time in Sylhet in Bangladesh, where the home team will be defending the title they won in Malaysia in 2018.
Seven teams will compete: Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and United Arab Emirates. The tournament has been held on seven previous occasions since the inaugural even in 2004 and India have won all but one, the most recent.
Both the home team and the powerful Indians are obvious favourites. Can one of the other teams spring a surprise? Let’s see. (ICC rankings)
Fresh from their victory at the T20 World Qualifiers, Bangladesh are riding high. Good signs from the skipper, Nigar Sultana, with the bat, becoming only the second Bangladeshi after Fargana Hoque to pass 1000 career runs, but more so from her words. She is quoted as saying the team don’t want to play qualifiers anymore. It basically says the Tigresses see themselves as part of the big time. It’s a good attitude.
Can they defend their title here? You bet they can. An eye watering combination of high class spin bowlers on their home turf. I mean, shut the gate. Salma Khatun is one of the most cunning off-break bowlers in the game (and a happy birthday to the former captain on day one of the tournament) and usually ties things up in the Powerplay – such a potent weapon for the team. Nahida Akter is the left-arm option and on her day can run through teams. There are more spin options but they are the linchpins of the slow bowling department.
Fast bowler Jahanara Alam returns to the side, the lone pace option. What gives the team an extra edge is the left-arm medium pace of Fariha Trisna. She was excellent in New Zealand at the World Cup – has the potential here to be the bowler of the tournament.
With the bat, aside from the skipper and “Pinky”, is the recent form of left-hand opener Murshida Khatun, excellent during the qualifiers and, like most left-handers, easy on the eye.
All facets of the game are solid, the team is in good recent form. Can they win this? For sure.
Squad: Nigar Sultana (c), Salma Khatun, Rumana Ahmed, Fargana Hoque, Jahanara Alam, Shamima Sultana, Fahima Khatun, Ritu Moni, Murshida Khatun, Nahida Akter, Sharmin Akhter, Lata Mondal, Sobhana Mostary, Sanjida Akther, Marufa Akter, Fariha Trisna, Shohely Akhter.
Fresh from a recent series in England where they white-washed the hosts in the ODI series, one could posit that India are in a good place. However the Mankad controversy in the final ODI did put a dampener on things. The India team was subject to cries about the “spirit of the game” which is a card often played subjectively. Putting all of that behind them, India will be glad to arrive in Bangladesh, away from the English media.
Having won the ODI series 3-0, it does hide the fact that the team lost the T20 series against England 2-1. That’s a worrying sign, for the England team they played were without three gun players, including their captain.
The most glaring issue for the Women in Blue was the fielding, so good during the Commonwealth Games, one felt they’d turned a much needed corner. Alas, not to be. Could it be as simple as the wicket keeper? That position sets the standard in most teams but India, like Pakistan, allow that position to be compromised by using a part timer. It hasn’t worked in the past when other teams have tried this option, but some strategists think it can work.
As with the home team, a dazzling array of spin bowling options – can’t play them all unfortunately. I’d be selecting Sneh Rana, such a valuable player for the team and then building around her. Radha Yadav will probably edge out Rajeshwari Gayakwad as the left-arm option, largely because of fielding.
With the bat, arguably the best top four in the world. Can India regain the Asia Cup? Of course. Anything to be out of the spotlight of the English media!
Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Smriti Mandhana (vc), Richa Ghosh, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Sabbineni Meghana, Sneh Rana, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Meghna Singh, Renuka Singh, Pooja Vastrakar, Shafali Verma, Radha Yadav, Dayalan Hemalatha, K.P. Navgire
Winifred Duraisingam and her team are a delightful bunch to watch and they grow taller in stature with every tournament they play. Malaysia is a hotbed of cricketing talent and will over time, grow to be a key team in Asia.
The team is the lowest ranked team in this tournament and is not a realistic chance to make the finals, but it is another step in their development and they will see it that way.
The team would be eyeing off their game against the UAE. If they can win that, and possibly make a couple of other teams nervous, then Winnie and her team will have had a good tournament.
One player to watch: Elsa Hunter
Squad: Winifred Duraisingam (c), Mas Elysa (vc), Nik Nur Atiela, Sasha Azmi, Aisya Eleesa, Ainna Hamizah Hashim, Elsa Hunter, Jamahidaya Intan, Wan Julia, Dhanusri Muhunan, Aina Najwa, Nur Arianna Natsya, Nur Dania Syuhada, Yusrina Yaakop
Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan… where does one start? Some of the most talented players in the game but so often pulling up short. I would contend that this is entirely due to poor strategy. Too often the batting strike power is in the lower half of the order, while the top half are playing Test cricket.
The good news for the top of the order is the recall of ODI specialist Sidra Amin. Not noted for her T20 International skills, her domestic form has been too hot to ignore. One hopes she can bring that to the table here.
Pakistan have shown great patience with the left-handed opener Muneeba Ali but have yet to see a return on the investment. The player has talent and a left-hander at the top of the order is a great option, but sooner or later that investment will need to produce some reward. If it doesn’t Pakistan lose twice, for Muneeba is the team’s wicket keeper and a part timer at that. The compromise of the wicket keeping position must pay good dividends with the bat, otherwise the team loses out twice.
Compounding the slow pace of the top order, and there’s no other way to put this, captain Bismah Maroof needs to get a move-on. Like India’s Mithali Raj, Bismah is old school, a legend no doubt, but her strike rate is just not up to scratch. Hopefully she can overcome that or Pakistan will continue to gather up dot balls in crucial overs.
Aliya Riaz is a player who could come up the order. She has a natural instinct for the pace of the game and adjusts her style to suit. Ayesha Naseem is another player too often with little to do and should also come in earlier. And then there’s Nida Dar. Plenty of high quality batting – just left to make something out of a few deliveries at the end of the innings when they could have made hay at the top.
The absence of the injured Fatima Sana is not as big a blow in these conditions as might have been the case in a different location. Pakistan will rely on Diana Baig for pace and the excellent spin bowling options they are well known for.
This is the final hurrah for head coach David Hemp. Will he go out on a high? Pakistan can make the semi-finals. Anything is possible.
Sri Lanka (8)
Chamari Athapaththu (c), Nilakshi de Silva, Kavisha Dilhari, Vishmi Gunaratne, Ama Kanchana, Achini Kulasuriya, Sugandika Kumari, Hasini Perera, Udeshika Prabodhani, Oshadi Ranasinghe, Inoka Ranaweera, Harshitha Madavi, Anushka Sanjeewani, Malsha Shehani, Rashmi Silva.
Naruemol Chaiwai (c), Nannapat Koncharoenkai, Nattaya Boochatham, Chanida Sutthiruang, Natthakan Chantham, Sornnarin Tippoch, Onnicha Kamchomphu, Suleeporn Laomi, Rosenanee Kanoh, Thipatcha Putthawong, Phannita Maya, Suwanan Khiaoto, Aphisara Suwanchonrathi, Sunida Chaturongrattana, Nanthita Boonsukham
United Arab Emirates (15)
Squad: Chaya Mughal (c), Natasha Cherriath, Samaira Dharnidharka, Kavisha Egodage, Siya Gokhale, Priyanjali Jain, Lavanya Keny, Suraksha Kotte, Vaishnave Mahesh, Indhuja Nandakumar, Esha Oza, Rinitha Rajith, Rithika Rajith, Theertha Satish, Khushi Sharma