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September 14, 2018

Pakistan favourites to win Asia Cup: Zaheer


September 14, 2018

KARACHI: Zaheer Abbas on Wednesday declared Pakistan as title favourites for this month’s Asia Cup in the UAE.

But in an interview with ‘The News’, the former Pakistan captain warned that the favourites tag shouldn’t make the national team complacent in the six-nation tournament to be played in Dubai and Abu Dhabi from September 15-28.

“The way Pakistan are playing these days I believe that they would be the favourites for the Asia Cup title,” Zaheer said. “Then there would be India and I think that the main battle for supremacy is going to be fought between these two teams.”

But Zaheer stressed that Pakistan shouldn’t take anything for granted.

“Limited-overs cricket has a tendency to throw up surprises which is why I would advice our team to not take even the weakest of sides for granted in the tournament,” he said.

The weakest team in the Asia Cup is going to be minnows Hong Kong, who recently sprang a surprise by winning the Asian qualifying tournament to claim an Asia Cup berth. Hong Kong, who lost their One-Day International status earlier this month, will face Pakistan in their opening Asia Cup game in Dubai on September 16.

“I don’t see Hong Kong creating any troubles for Pakistan,” said Zaheer, who is eagerly awaiting Pakistan’s second and last Pool A game — against old rivals India in Dubai on September 19.

“That is going to be the most important game of the tournament. Everybody likes to watch Pakistan-India games as they produce high-voltage action,” commented Zaheer, who would be going to Dubai to watch the big match.

Zaheer believes that India’s decision to rest their match-winning captain Virat Kohli will weaken the defending champions.

“Kohli is India’s biggest match-winner and his team is certainly going to miss him in the Asia Cup.

“That said the Indians have some really good ODI players in their squad.”

Zaheer, who played 78 Tests and 62 ODIs for Pakistan during an illustrious career, singles out big-hitting opener Fakhar Zaman as Pakistan’s most lethal player.

“If you ask me to name one Pakistani player whom I believe has the capability to light up the Asia Cup then I would say Fakhar Zaman.

“He is in great form and if he gets going then it is going to be difficult for their opponents to stop Pakistan.”

Zaheer said that Bangladesh could be the surprise package of the Asia Cup.

“Apart from Pakistan and India, there is also Sri Lanka who will be fancying their chances but personally I believe that Bangladesh have the best chance to upset the applecart. They have a highly improved team and could do well in the event.”

Zaheer is of the opinion that most of the Asia Cup games are going to be high-scoring encounters.

“I expect batting paradises both in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The wickets are going to be flat and hence we could see many high-scoring matches.

Zaheer’s advice for the Pakistan team was to target 300 plus totals in the event. “Any total below 300 is going to be tough to defend in batting-friendly conditions,” he said.

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