Asia Cup 2018: Sunil Gavaskar predicts third title for Pakistan
Can Pakistan win their third Asia Cup crown? (Getty Images)

Former India batsman and captain Sunil Gavaskar has tipped Pakistan odds on favourites to win the 2018 Asia Cup. Writing in his column for the Times of India, Gavaskar mentioned that Pakistan have the experience of playing more cricket than any other team in the UAE, something that gives them the edge over the other participating nations.

Pakistan, the fifth-ranked ODI side in the world, have won the Asia Cup two times, in 2000 and 2012, and Gavaskar reckons that this time around, they can lift the title for a third time to give their newly-crowned Prime Minister Imran Khan a fitting gift on the occasion.

“Pakistan, the ICC Champions Trophy winners, start as favourites because not only have they got a well-balanced team, but they will be playing on their ‘home’ ground,” Gavaskar wrote. “The familiarity with the pitches and the weather conditions is always a plus and Pakistan will want to add the Asia Cup to their trophy cabinet. With their former charismatic captain as their country’s Prime Minister now, they will undoubtedly be inspired to give him the Asia Cup as a gift.”

With the World Cup approximately eight months away, Gavaskar pointed out that the Asia Cup switching back to the 50-over format was a good move. Usually conducted in one-day format, the tournament took place in the T20 format in 2016 keeping in mind the World T20 the same year. Hence, Gavaskar mentioned that it makes sense that the Asia Cup was switched back to the ODI format considering the World Cup starts in June next year in England.

“The tournament assumes great importance as it gives the teams participating a good warm up for the ICC World Cup next year,” he said. “The more matches the teams play, the better their preparation. They will also get a fair idea of the areas they need to tighten up on before the World Cup. Sure, the conditions in England will be totally different from the ones in UAE, but teams can start bonding in these games. They will know who the players are, who can take pressure and who doesn’t quite have that fire in the belly to take his team forward.”

This Asia Cup will see some big names missing though. While India captain Virat Kohli has been rested with a motive of managing his workload judiciously, Sri Lanka too will be without their skipper Dinesh Chandimal due to a finger injury he sustained during a domestic T20 game last week. Bangladesh are surrounded by concerns of their own, with uncertainty hovering over allrounder Shakib Al Hasan’s fitness. He injured his little finger earlier in January this year which forced him out of home Tests and T20Is against Sri Lanka and the Pakistan Super League.

“Sri Lankan team will be handicapped with the absence of skipper Dinesh Chandimal. Bangladesh also have uncertainty surrounding Shakib,” said Gavaskar. “Both teams, though, have players with experience as well as talented youngsters to make a difference. Where they are likely to be a bit short is in their bowling, for on the dry pitches, the ball won’t do much.”

The two teams will face each other later today in the Asia Cup opener.