How many of you think that Pakistan is coming home with the Asia Cup? I’m sure quite a few of you have their hands raised.  Regardless of all the negatives, at the end of the day, we all root for Pakistan.  However, before jumping to any happy endings, let’s see what the odds really are for us.

The Odds of Winning

Going onto the battlefield again after the disappointing one-day performance against England casts plenty of doubts, but at the same time it can be the fire-starter that allows our players to redeem themselves.  Despite the poor performance against England, Pakistan may have a really good shot at winning this thing.  Sri Lanka is the only side that can pose a real challenge for our team.

The Assembled Teams

Pakistani chief selector Iqbal Qasim seems quite confident about the team he has assembled.  “We have selected the best possible squad for the Asia Cup in the shortest time available,” he said.

Although Misbah is still the captain, this doesn’t automatically push us out of the race.  What he needs to do (as has been implied in all the SMS jokes) is to make his batting lively and pick up some pace.  If he and Umer Akmal rise to the occasion, our odds will become very different.  This brings us to the burning issue of the moment, which is the performance of the batting line-up.  Pakistani bowlers have amply proved their mettle in recent days; now the batsmen need to revive and relive the past glory days.

We need big scorers and one of the prospects people are looking towards to accomplish this is Nasir Jamshed.  A magnificent performance in the 2007-2008 Quaid-e-Azam trophy catapulted this fiery left-hander to international cricket scene.  His recent performance in the Bangladesh Premier league as well as in Pakistan’s first-class circuit, earned him a spot on the squad for the Asia Cup.  He has the capability of scoring quickly in the beginning of the innings to make room for the middle-order to play relatively pressure-free.  Together with Muhammad Hafeez, he can lay the foundation of a solid inning for Pakistan.

Both these young players [Nasir Jamshed and Sarfaraz Ahmed] have done well in domestic competitions. Nasir also had a good stint in the Bangladesh Premier League and is familiar with the conditions there,” says Iqbal Qasim.

When it comes to bowling, Pakistan has the best battery of the teams competing in this tournament.  Pakistani spinners are in the limelight; however, since the sides competing in this tournament are traditionally cozy against spinners, pace bowlers will play a key role.  This means Umer Gul is the man we are all focusing on together with Wahab Riaz and Aizaz Cheema.

Let’s Look at the Opponents

While we are at it, let’s size-up our opponents too.

India: Although India is at a very low point after their recent performances, the arch rivalry with Pakistan can still create surprises.  At the moment they seem to be struggling in almost every aspect but an intense pressure to perform may gel them together for a fight.

Sri Lanka: Their recent performance in Australia under the captaincy of Mahela Jayawardene makes them a strong contestant for the trophy.

Bangladesh: No great expectations here! Out of the four contesting nations, Bangladesh has the least experience and not enough muscle to show off the veterans.

What’s the Latest News

Pakistan has managed to win the first match against Bangladesh.  This is a good start but not good enough to rejoice yet.  Aside from the performances by the opening pair of Muhammad Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed and Umer Gul, the rest of the story is not so heartwarming.   After a solid start, Pakistani batsmen were unable to pile up a big score as they should have done considering that Bangaldesh was not one of the tougher opponents.