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September 14, 2018

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Babar, Hasan look to sizzle in Asia Cup

KARACHI: Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed is hoping that his team will lift this month’s Asia Cup in the UAE – a feat that will boost the former champion’s morale in the lead up to next year’s World Cup.

Sarfraz, who is leading a strong Pakistan team in the six-nation Asia Cup, also believes that a victory in the Asia Cup to be played in Dubai and Abu Dhabi from September 15-28 provides a perfect chance to Pakistan to rise in the international rankings.

“This tournament is a great chance for us to rise up in the ICC ODI team rankings, especially since the ICC Cricket World Cup is not very far away,” he said.“Half the teams who will feature in the World Cup are participating in the Asia Cup so it is a great chance for us to see where we stand. We have sweet memories of the ICC Champions Trophy last year but we have new challenges ahead,” Sarfraz added.

Two of Pakistan’s key players will also be looking to achieve personal milestones in the event.One of them is Babar Azam, the prolific batter, who is ranked number two in the ICC ODI rankings.

“We as a team are looking forward to the Asia Cup and I have some extra incentive in my individual ranking,” he said.“I know Virat (Kohli) is way ahead in terms of rating points but this is definitely a chance to consolidate my position at number two and gain some valuable ranking points.”

Hasan Ali, Pakistan’s wicket-taking pacer, is confident that he can win back his top spot in the ICC ODI rankings for bowlers by giving his best in the Asia Cup.“The Asia Cup is going to be a well-fought tournament and an opportunity for a lot of our players,” he said.

“I have been top-ranked in the format earlier and will give it my best shot to try and reach the summit once again. This tournament provides me with a chance to work towards that objective.”

Several other leading players go into the upcoming Asia Cup aiming to not only consolidate their positions in the ICC rankings but also to use the multi-nation tournament in preparation for World Cup 2019.

With five of the six teams in the Asia Cup to feature in next year’s mega event, the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Shakib Al Hasan are excited at the prospect of being pitted against the best of the region.

The Asia Cup commences with a match between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in Dubai on Saturday (tomorrow). Afghanistan, qualifiers Hong Kong, India and Pakistan get into action later as they try to qualify for the Super Four stage and get more tournament practice with just eight months to go for World Cup 2019 in England and Wales from 30 May to 14 July.

India fast bowler Bumrah, who has a lead of 20 points over Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan, is looking to maintain his top position. Bangladesh’s Shakib is aiming to be at his best and show everyone why he is top-ranked among all-rounders.

Several openers who figure prominently in the rankings will be seen in action, including the India pair of Rohit Sharma (fourth) and Shikhar Dhawan (ninth), Bangladesh’s Tamim Iqbal (12th) and Pakistan’s Fakhar Zaman (16th).

Among bowlers, Hasan Ali is looking to claw his way back two spots to number one, while India spinners Kuldeep Yadav (sixth) and Yuzvendra Chahal (joint-ninth) are the others in the top 10.

Pakistan, India and Hong Kong are in Group A while Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka form Group B for the preliminary stage. The top two teams from each group will advance to the Super Fours with the top two sides from there making the final.

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