The 2014 Asia Cup commences this week, which sees Afghanistan join Asia's elite nations for a two-week exhibition of exhilarating One Day International cricket.
While the competition's three major teams in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will be considered the strongest contenders to claim victory, previous editions of the tournament have proved that shock results can occur— Bangladesh's run to the final in 2012 being the most recent example.
So with the tournament set to begin, here is an outline of the tournament's schedule and format, a run down of its somewhat turbulent history and a look at how the 2014 Asia Cup may unfold.
The fixture list for the 2014 Asia Cup to be contested between India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan is listed below.
|Tue, Feb. 25||Pakistan vs. Sri Lanka||Fatullah|
|Wed, Feb. 26||Bangladesh vs. India||Fatullah|
|Thu, Feb. 27||Afghanistan vs. Pakistan||Fatullah|
|Fri, Feb. 28||India vs. Sri Lanka||Fatullah|
|Sat, Mar. 1||Bangladesh vs. Afghanistan||Fatullah|
|Sun, Mar. 2||India vs. Pakistan||Dhaka|
|Mon, Mar. 3||Afghanistan vs. Sri Lanka||Dhaka|
|Tue, Mar. 4||Bangladesh vs. Pakistan||Dhaka|
|Wed, Mar. 5||Afghanistan vs. India||Dhaka|
|Thu, Mar. 6||Bangladesh vs. Sri Lanka||Dhaka|
|Sat, Mar. 8||FINAL||Dhaka|
All matches commence at 8 p.m. GMT (2 p.m. local)
The format of the Asia Cup is a very straightforward one.
Each team meets the other four sides in the competition just once in a round-robin format, resulting in the completion of four matches for each nation across a stretch of 10 days.
After each match, points are rewarded as follows:
|Win with bonus point||5|
|Win without bonus point||4|
|Tie or No Result||2|
Bonus Points: A bonus point is awarded when a team achieves a victory with a run rate of 1.25 times that of the opposition.
Net Run Rate: If two teams finish the round-robin stage with equal points, Net Run Rate will be used to separate the sides. For an extended explanation of how Net Run Rate is calculated, click here.
Final: The top two sides at the end of the 10-match round-robin will contest the final on March 8 in Dhaka. If no result is achieved in the final, the match shall be declared drawn. In the event of a drawn final, the teams will be declared as Joint Champion and the prize money will be shared equally between the two competing teams.
The Asia Cup was formed by the Asian Cricket Council in 1983 in order to enhance the unity of Asia's cricketing nations at a time when One Day International cricket was booming.
Originally, the tournament was scheduled to be held every two years, with the inaugural edition being played in Sharjah in 1984.
However, the tournament's history has been marred by political unrest between the competing nations.
When the Asia Cup was held in Sri Lanka in 1986, India pulled out of the competition due to tension between the national boards of the respective nations.
Four years later in 1990, Pakistan withdrew from the tournament due to ongoing political tension with India. From that point on, the Cup's biennial scheduling has been interrupted, with the 1993 edition cancelled altogether for continued turmoil between the competition's two largest nations.
Between 1990 and 2008, the tournament's irregular pattern saw it held in 1995, 1997, 2000, 2004 and 2008.
However, in 2006, the ACC announced that the Asia Cup would return to its biennial scheduling from 2008 onwards; a direction that has been adhered to since.
Asia Cup Tournament Summary:
|1986||Sri Lanka||Sri Lanka||Pakistan|
|1997||Sri Lanka||Sri Lanka||India|
|2004||Sri Lanka||Sri Lanka||India|
|2010||Sri Lanka||India||Sri Lanka|
Asia Cup Records:
|Most Titles||India (5)|
|Most Matches Won||Sri Lanka (29)|
|Highest Team Total||Pakistan (385/7)|
|Lowest Team Total||Bangladesh (87/10)|
|Most Runs||Sanath Jayasuriya (1220)|
|Most 100s||Sanath Jayasuriya (6)|
|Highest Individual Score||Virat Kohli (183)|
|Most Wickets||Muttiah Muralitharan (30)|
|Most 4WIs||Ajantha Mendis (3)|
|Best Bowling Figures||Ajantha Mendis (6/13)|
The 2014 edition of the Asia Cup arrives at an interesting time for many of the sides set to take part. Here's an overview of each of the teams and how they shape up ahead of the fascinating series.
ODI Form Line: LLTLLL
Key Player: Virat Kohli
Strength: Top-order batting
Weakness: Death bowling
India arrive at this tournament in torrid form after successive drubbings by South Africa and New Zealand. With MS Dhoni ruled out of the tournament with injury, Virat Kohli will assume the captaincy duties, creating another point of uncertainty for India.
However, a return to the subcontinent is just what India need. Given the team's strength at the top of the order in Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Kohli, the previously dominant ODI outfit will still be tough to beat.
ODI Form Line: LWWLWL
Key Player: Mohammed Hafeez
Strength: Bowling depth
Weakness: Enigmatic batting line-up
Pakistan are certainly the most unpredictable team in the competition given the side's propensity to switch from stellar to mediocre within 24 hours.
Yet, Pakistan enter the tournament with two successive ODI series victories over South Africa and Sri Lanka, meaning they've been victorious in four of their last five series.
How the team fares in this Asia Cup will likely depend on how successful Misbah-ul-Haq and the in-form Mohammad Hafeez are with the bat as well as how the bowlers deal with Pakistan's new rotation policy.
While India will be seen as the big scalp, Pakistan will enter the competition in the best form of all the competing sides.
ODI Form Line: WWWWLL
Key Player: Kumar Sangakkara
Strength: Batting experience
Weakness: Bowling depth
Sri Lanka will head into this tournament as third favourites given the team's mixed recent results in the 50-over game.
While Angelo Mathews' side was impressive in defeating South Africa on home soil last July, they've won only one of their past three series, which was a 3-0 defeat of Bangladesh.
However, Mahela Jayawardene's return to the squad for the Asia Cup is a boost, which provides plenty of experience in the team's batting stocks.
Whether Sri Lanka's bowlers are able to contain opposing batsmen might decide the team's fortunes.
ODI Form Line: LLLWWW
Key Player: Mushfiqur Rahim
Strength: Spinning options
Weakness: Middle-order batting
Bangladesh's recent problems will see them enter the Asia Cup as outsiders, with injury concerns for Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mashrafe Mortaza compounding their pre-series troubles.
After suffering a 3-0 drubbing by Sri Lanka in their latest series, Bangladesh will also be without Shakib Al Hasan for the first two matches due to disciplinary reasons, further hurting the side's strength.
With the team's batting woes appearing significant, it's difficult to see Mushfiqur's team pushing the big three in this tournament.
ODI Form Line: WWWW
Key Player: Nawroz Mangal
Strength: Top-order batting
The 2014 Asia Cup will be a learning experience for Afghanistan, with the team likely to use it as preparation for two major tournaments over the coming 12 months.
Their recent form suggests they are one of the better sides among international cricket's minor nations, with four consecutive victories over Scotland and Kenya, which produced a pair of centuries at the top of the order.
But coming up against established nations will prove too much for Afghanistan at this stage—the team is unlikely to claim a victory in such a strong tournament field.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka will head into this year's Asia Cup with the best form line, but both nations will be acutely aware of the threat posed by a wounded Indian side.
India's form has been abysmal recently, and cricket's most influential nation has always struggled outside of the subcontinent, which is evident from their recent run of results. Yet, in more familiar surroundings, it's likely that the top order of Virat Kohli's outfit will prove destructive enough to push India all the way to the final.
There, the Indians will most likely meet Pakistan or Sri Lanka, with Misbah-ul-Haq's team possessing the edge in both depth and current form.
Pakistan has unquestionably the best bowling attack in the competition, but the result of the Asia Cup will likely hinge on their enigmatic batting line-up, which in recent times has proved rather powerful.
Predicted Final: India vs. Pakistan
Predicted Winner: Pakistan