On the 27th of August, the Asia Cup gets underway for the first time since 2018.
In this 2022 edition, six Asian teams will face off in a power-packed T20I format, designed to prepare teams for the upcoming 2022 T20 World Cup. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are confirmed, and will be joined by one of Singapore, UAE, Kuwait and Oman who fight for a qualifying position over the coming week.
Boasting an almost sudden death format where teams are split into two pools of three, with a round robin and the top two teams moving through to a Super Four phase, the Asia Cup 2022 offers many opportunities for key players across these Asian cricketing nations to stand up and stamp their mark on the game.
We look ahead at five of these players, and preview who may be in the running for player of the tournament come mid-September.
Right now, Pakistan’s Babar Azam is head and shoulders above all other batters in T20Is.
As the ICC’s No.1 ranked men’s batter in T20Is, Azam has built a powerful case over the previous few years that he should be spoken about in the same breath as the likes of all-format greats Virat Kohli, Kane William, Joe Root and Steve Smith. Coming off a record-breaking 2021 T20I season that saw Azam lead Pakistan to the T20 World Cup semi-finals, Pakistan’s captain is poised for a strong Asia Cup 2022 where he could well be in contention for player of the tournament.
So far this season, Azam has scored a modest 66 runs in T20Is. However, don’t be fooled by the raw statistics—this has only been across the one innings. Looking back to last year’s T20Is, Azam amassed 939 runs across 26 innings, scoring an average of 37.56 runs at a strike rate of 127.58, making one century and nine fifties. His PSL form this year was equally as strong, accruing 343 runs at a strike rate of 119.
Expect Babar Azam to be chomping at the bit after his lack of T20I game time this year, which he will channel into plenty of runs against his Asian rivals.
Speaking of world class batters, young Indian batter Suryakumar Yadav is experiencing a rich vein of form that he will look to continue throughout the Asia Cup 2022.
Debuting for India’s national side in 2021, Yadav has since scored 672 runs at an average of 37.33 with a strike rate of 175.45. These are phenomenally good numbers in a T20I context, demonstrating just how dangerous Yadav is, and how quickly he can take the game away from an opposition. Having scored 321 runs already in 2022, at an impressive strike rate of 187.71, Yadav is the kind of player who can bring down an asking rate within the space of two or three overs, or add 40-50 runs to his side’s total in the blink of an eye.
Add his IPL form of 303 runs at an average of 43.29 and a strike rate of 145.67, and it’s clear that Yadav is running hot at the moment. Coming in at number three, with Rahul and Sharma ahead of him, and Kohli and Pant behind him, Yadav will have a license to swing in the Asia Cup 2022.
There’s every chance the young batter will continue his purple patch with the bat, and come away as player of the tournament.
With all the talk of fierce batting line ups heading into the Asia Cup 2022, it could well be an economical, wicket-taking bowler like Rashid Khan who walks away as the tournament’s MVP.
Debuting as a child prodigy for Afghanistan in 2015, 23 year old Rashid Khan has become a critical component of his nation’s T20I efforts. Since 2015, he has taken 111 international wickets, at an economy rate of 6.20. Pair this with his IPL record of 112 wickets at an economy of 6.38, and Rashid Khan is an absolute gem of a bowler, who can come into the world’s most hostile bowling conditions, and consistently take wickets while going for a little more than a run a ball.
Expect Khan to thrive on the slow, spinning pitches of UAE, and be a dominant force in the Asia Cup 2022. With an IPL strike rate consistently over 151 as well, Khan has the ability to play match changing cameos with the bat, while also taking wickets.
A player that can decimate a side’s middle order with the ball, then slap the winning runs an hour later, is always going to be in the running for player of the tournament.
In the world of T20, there’s nothing better than a player who threatens with both bat and ball.
Bangladesh’s Shakib Al Hasan is one such player, and his exploits on both fronts could well earn him player of the tournament in the Asia Cup 2022. As the number two ranked all-rounder on the ICC’s T20I All-Rounder Rankings, Hasan is a seasoned veteran of the T20I game for Bangladesh. With total runs of 2010 and wickets of 121, in a career that has been active since 2006, Hasan brings not only contributions with the bat and ball, but also an incredible wealth of experience to the field.
Nearing the twilight of his career, expect one last big push from Hasan in the Asia Cup as he captains his side. With 25 wickets at an economy of 6.05 in 2021, as well as 327 runs off the bat, Hasan will be looking to channel this form ahead of the T20 World Cup.
Big players stand up in big tournaments, and for Bangladesh, there’s none bigger than veteran all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan.
Here’s an unexpected headline—this time next month, Rohan Mustafa is named Asia Cup 2022 Player of the Tournament.
Imagine this scenario: UAE secure the final qualifying place in the Asia Cup 2022. Chances are they will, given their ranking of 12th in the world, well ahead of the other three teams in contention. Having just played and won the qualifying tournament, UAE will enter the Asia Cup 2022 full of momentum and confidence.
Drawn in the same pool as India and Pakistan, there will be absolutely zero expectation on UAE’s shoulders. However, as the host nation, playing with freedom and confidence, they will garner significant support from the home crowd. Conditions are perfect for a boil over, where UAE upset the loser of the Pakistan vs. India opening match, knocking one of cricket’s giants out of the tournament and progressing to the Super Four phase themselves.
For this to happen, key players need to stand up in the UAE side. No other player is more critical than the 5th ranked all-rounder in the world, Rohan Mustafa. With 11 wickets and 218 runs already this year, Mustafa is poised to play the tournament of his life, and take the cricketing world by storm.
Sure, it’s a long shot, but fast forward a month, and Rohan Mustafa could be a name everyone knows.