Beginning September 15 in the United Arab Emirates, the Asia Cup will feature the best cricket teams in Asia. When the teams are from Asia – the tournament is in Dubai and Abu Dhabi – the best spinners from the subcontinent (and slightly beyond) can be expected to call the shots.
Here, we pick five spinners who are expected to bring their exceptional abilities to the table and create a splash.
Rashid Khan (Afghanistan)
Currently No.2 in the ICC ODI rankings for bowlers, only behind India pacer Jasprit Bumrah, Khan is arguably the best short-format spin bowler in the world. He’s young, he’s full of tricks, and he knows how to make the batsmen dance to his turns.
In 47 ODIs, Khan has 108 wickets at an exceptional average of 14.22 – that includes four five-wicket hauls.
The 19-year-old will be Afghanistan’s key bowler, and with plenty of variations up his sleeve and a deceptive quick-arm action, he can make survival quite difficult for the opposition batsmen, even the best of them.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Afghanistan)
What makes Afghanistan such a potent threat is the presence of young Rahman alongside Khan.
The 17-year-old finger spinner – he’s an offie who can make the ball go the other way too – made his first international appearance in an ODI against Ireland in December 2017. Since then he has featured regularly in the team and has played 18 games, picking up 37 wickets at 18.21.
Rahman was a part the Under-19 World Cup in February and then the World Cup Qualifier 2018. He was more impressive in the latter tournament, going on to top the wicket-takers’ chart with 17 wickets, as Afghanistan booked their place in the 2019 World Cup by finishing ahead of the West Indies.
He’s made massive strides in recent times and has indeed become a force to reckon with. If he can continue to be the partner he has been for Khan and Mohammad Nabi, oppositions beware!
Kuldeep Yadav (India)
For India, the defending champions having won the last edition – a T20 competition – of the Asia Cup in Bangladesh, Yadav is definitely a standout performer in limited-overs games. The left-arm wrist-spinner has scalped 48 wickets in 23 ODIs so far at an outstanding average of 19.35.
In the recent ODI series in England in July, Yadav returned career-best figures of 6-25 in the first ODI, which helped India register a comprehensive eight-wicket win. Coming soon after his heroics in the T20Is, he quickly became one of the most talked-about players in the visiting set-up, even though the charm didn’t quite last in the Test matches.
One of the highlights of his career was against Australia in September 2017, when took a hat-trick – dismissing Matthew Wade, Ashton Agar and Pat Cummins – to become only the third Indian after Kapil Dev and Chetan Sharma to achieve the feat in ODI cricket.
Yadav has become an effective limited-overs bowler for India, and the Rohit Sharma-led side will bank on his variations to a large extent.
Akila Dananjaya (Sri Lanka)
Dananjaya made his ODI debut back in 2012 against New Zealand. That game was washed out after 28.2 overs of play, and Dananjaya did not get a chance to bat or bowl. The second ODI took some time coming – in June 2017, when he played Zimbabwe at home.
Since then, he has become a lethal spin option for his team, regularly chipping in with wickets – 35 in 24 ODIs. He has returned six-wicket hauls twice in his career – the first was a 6-54 against India in Pallekele, while the second came in his last ODI appearance, against South Africa, where he picked up a career-best 6-29.
At the time of his selection, it was said that he could bowl seven different variations including the off-break, the leg-break, the googly and the doosra; even if that was a bit of exaggeration, it’s safe to say that the 24-year-old has a bagful of tricks, enough to trouble most batting units.
Of late, he has left batsmen befuddled with his variations and speed through the air from a lowish trajectory, and his side will want him to do exactly the same in the Asia Cup.
Shadab Khan (Pakistan)
Pakistan have found a gem in the young leg-spinning all-rounder. Hailing from the country that has produced exceptional fast bowlers, Khan is carrying forward the legacy of the likes of Abdul Qadir and Mushtaq Ahmed, two of the greatest leggies of all time. If anything, he has more tricks up his sleeve than his predecessors, which he uses to good effect in limited-overs cricket.
During the Champions Trophy in June last year – which Pakistan won against Virat Kohli’s India – Khan was Pakistan’s ace spinner. He has an unorthodox bowling action and delivers the ball with a Shane Warne-like approach combined with a Mushtaq Ahmed-like stride.
Apart from his bowling, he is also a reliable lower-order batsman. In 22 ODIs, the spinner has bagged 33 wickets, and at the same time averages 52 with the bat, having scored 208 runs including three half-centuries.
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