Sanjay Manjrekar backs Pakistan to win Asia Cup
Can Pakistan win their third Asia Cup crown? (Getty Image)

Former India cricketer and renowned commentator Sanjay Manjrekar has backed Pakistan to lift the Asia Cup 2018 crown. Pakistan opened their campaign in emphatic style with eight-wicket win over Hong Kong on Sunday and gear up to face India on Wednesday.

Manjrekar, speaking to PTI, reckoned that above anything else, the fact that UAE has been home to Pakistan cricket for the past so many years, will play in their favour. Moreover, Pakistan have a near spotless record in the UAE ever since they took shelter here in 2010 and have won the title twice, in 2000 and 2012.

“I think Pakistan start as favourites more than India, because they have been playing in those conditions (in the UAE) for a while now and it’s a team which is on the surge,” Manjrekar said. “India, of course, are resting Virat (Kohli), which takes a lot of strength away from the team.”

Pakistan and India will face each other for the first time since last year’s Champions Trophy. Lately, India have possessed good record over India, but the 180-run loss to Pakistan in Lord’s has thrown the prediction hats out of equation.

“India are obviously one of the contenders, but when you look at favouritism, (question arises) which team can be rated as the strongest. It’s Pakistan because of where it (the tournament) is being played,” added Manjrekar, who played 37 Tests and 74 ODIs for India.

“India is a very good 50 overs outfit. India in the Test matches struggled a bit overseas, but if you look at their 50-over record, it’s very good in all conditions. Earlier, India had the batting strength, but the bowling did not quite measure up.”

Manjrekar added that the Asia Cup allows India’s fringe players to stake claim for a place in the side. The World Cup 2019 is approximately eight months away, and India’s middle order is far from settled, which Manjrekar pointed out can be worked upon provided the likes of Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav and the rest can prove a point.

“At the moment Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik and Manish Pandey are in the fray. Kedar Jadhav is also there, but I would like to see Shreyas Iyer get a look-in before the World Cup. K L Rahul will get (to bat at) number three, because Virat is not there,” he said.

“We will have a look at him (Rahul) and he is also another middle order option for India. So it is very important (to settle middle order woes). Because India need a couple of in-form reliable middle-order batsmen. So every match from now on would actually be about settling that (middle order) issue and most of the other areas are taken care of.”