The third biggest tournament of the year (after the IPL and Champions Trophy) is just a few days away, and you can already tell which teams will reach the final four.
From there, you can tell which teams will be in the top three. The Asia Cup is like a tri-series more than anything else. The three-way battle for the cup will obviously be between India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Bangladesh will hope that the other three might just slip to give them an outside chance (and by that i mean a "one in a million" chance) to come in the top three. This is what I think of the teams:
Sri Lanka, without any doubt, will top the group. The question is whether they will retain the cup or not. I would say they have a better chance than Pakistan but after the World Cup last year, Sri Lanka has not been looking so good.
They played some fantastic cricket last time in this tournament, but they just don't look like that team any more.
Key Players: The same old names come up, and you can be sure that some of them will not be present in the next edition. Kumara Sangakarra has always been performing. Sanath Jayasuriya, who after being dropped, was called back following a brilliant run in the IPL. Farveez Maharoof, who learnt a lot from his Delhi teammate, Glenn McGrath, will be hoping to continue his good form. And of course, Muttiah Muralitharan! Do I have to give a description?
Bangladesh will make it through to the final four but will lose their way from then on; they didn't play up to their potential at the Kitply Cup. Since they have their first match against UAE, they will be hoping to make a strong statement to show Sri Lanka not to take them easily.
Key Players: Captain Mohammed Ashraful is the best player on the team and will have to show that. Mashrafe Mortaza, the most experienced bowler in the team, will have the job of picking up early wickets. Raqibul Hasan showed in their last match against India that he can stay at the crease and get the runs for his team.
United Arab Emirates: I have the feeling they have a little chance of going through to the top four. They will have to show a really good performance in the opening match against Bangladesh in order for this to happen.
Prediction: last in Group A
Key Player: Only one player who has performed for them, captain and opening bowler Arshad Ali.
Pakistan:With Shoaib Akhtar banned and Asif caught with drugs, Pakistan looked very weak in the Kitply Cup but surprised many by beating India in the final. Because of that, they could go on to win this tournament and, of course, they have the home advantage.
Key Players: Salman Butt is at the moment, for me, the best player in the team and showed that in the finals in Bangladesh. Younis Khan started the Kitply Cup horribly by getting two ducks and played just one ball in two matches but in the final showed his class scoring an amazing hundred.
Umar Gul impressed as usual and will continue his form. Sohail Tanvir after being the top wicket taker at the IPL failed to impress in the Kitply Cup, so he will be wanting to show his true abilities.
Hong Kong: They will be here for sight seeing more than anything else. That's really all that I can say.
Prediction: Last in Group B
Key Player: Will not really matter and anyway I don't think any of us know even one player from the Hong Kong team, but I will mention a name who might just impress, Courtney Kruger.
India: We all thought with Sachin injured, India won't look too good but they played superbly at the Kitply Cup and Dhoni's boys proved that young is in. The favourites of the tournament, without a doubt. Will reach the finals unless they do something terribly wrong and that has not been India's habit lately.
Key Players: So many have performed in the Kitply Cup and in the CB series, but the pick of the performers was Gautam Gambhir. He has shown that he can bat forever without stopping and has firmly cemented his place in the Indian team.
Virender Sehwag along with Gambhir demolished bowlers in the IPL and the Kitply Cup and it does not look like they won't continue. Praveen Kumar has shown that pace is not required to pick up wickets, and he picks those regularly. Piyush Chawla is the next big spinner for India and I expect him to play at his best.
So that's how it stands for me. It's India vs. Pakistan at Karachi.
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