Pakistan have won the Asia Cup twice. With a strong squad at their disposal, they will be hoping to clinch their third title when the tournament gets underway on August 27.
Pakistan have historically not been as great in the tournament, not even during their glory days of the 1980s and 1990s. They have also not impressed since 2012, when Misbah-ul-Haq’s team defeated Bangladesh in a tense final at the Shere Bangla Cricket Stadium in Mirpur. Their other win came way back in 2000, also in Bangladesh, when they beat Sri Lanka in the final.
It has been almost eight years since Pakistan last contested an Asia Cup final. When they did, in 2014 (once again in Bangladesh), they lost out to Sri Lanka. The last two iterations have been largely underwhelming, with Bangladesh catapulting themselves to a spot in the final at Pakistan’s expense.
However, things may change this time. Pakistan come into the tournament in a rich vein of form, and their T20I outfit looks strong. Since the start of the 2021 T20 World Cup, they have only lost two competitive games (out of 13), both against Australia.
They have been dealt a major blow, with Shaheen Shah Afridi ruled out due to injury. But in Haris Rauf, Mohammad Wasim and Naseem Shah, they have the firepower to offset it. Pakistan do not have a spin-bowling unit that would give opposition batters sleepless nights, although Mohammad Nawaz and Shadab Khan have the requisite wherewithal to hold their own.
With the bat, they will depend on Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan. The duo has been superb at the top of the order for Pakistan, and was a major driving force behind their semi-final run at the 2021 T20 World Cup. Fakhar Zaman also returned to form with an ODI ton against the Netherlands. His presence, coupled with that of Asif Ali, Haider Ali and Khushdil Shah gives their batting a strong look.
Pakistan schedule for 2022 Asia Cup
(All timings are in local time; matches will begin at 2 pm GMT)
August 28, Pakistan vs India, Dubai International Stadium, 6 pm
September 2, Pakistan vs winner of Asia Cup Qualifiers tournament, Sharjah Cricket Stadium, 6 pm
Pakistan in Asia Cup 2022: Key Players
Babar has been at the forefront of everything good Pakistan have done lately, and there is nothing to suggest a change at the Asia Cup. There have been murmurs about his strike rate in the shortest format. However, Babar has the strokes and the temperament to allay those fears. He was superb on their ODI tour to the Netherlands, and will be hope to lead Pakistan to their first Asia Cup title since 2012.
Pakistan’s vice-captain for the Asia Cup, Shadab lends adequate balance to this side. Capable of picking wickets in the middle overs, he has also improved his batting significantly. Pakistan’s middle order has historically struggled, especially in T20I cricket. But if Shadab can find his range, and act as the perfect foil to someone like Asif, it could go a long way in ending Pakistan’s wait for an Asia Cup crown.
Asia Cup 2022: Pakistan squad and team news
Pakistan: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan (vc), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Shahnawaz Dahani, Usman Qadir, Mohammad Wasim
News: Pakistan were dealt a major blow with the knee injury to Shaheen Afridi. Mohammad Hasnain has been called up to be his replacement.