In less than a week, the 14th edition of the Asia Cup will kick off where the continent’s biggest stars (minus Virat Kohli) will be in action in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Defending champions India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Hong Kong make up the six teams and besides the big names, there are plenty of cricketers who are more than capable of doing the damage with bat or ball.
Here are five players to watch out for when the 50-over tournament begins from September 15.
KHALEEL AHMED (INDIA)
With 28 wickets in 17 List A matches, the 20-year-old has been knocking on the door for some time now for a senior cap and now he’s got his chance to press his case. Highly-rated by legendary batsman Rahul Dravid, the left-arm pacer was part of India’s ‘A’ squad in England this summer, taking five wickets against England Lions and isn’t short of confidence having played in the IPL. With his potential, Ahmed could well be the hidden gem that India are looking for.
SHAHEEN AFRIDI (PAKISTAN)
The signs were already there when Shaheen Afridi took 8/39 in the second innings of a domestic game but it was in January when the 18-year-old really came into the spotlight. At the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand, he produced the goods taking 12 wickets for the men in green. The only way has been up for the left-arm medium-pacer since then. He has replicated the goods at the PSL and then for Pakistan in their T20 tri-series against Australia where he has three caps to his name. It’s only a matter of time before he wins his first ODI cap and his selection itself suggests it could well come in the UAE.
MUJEEB UR RAHMAN (AFGHANISTAN)
Rashid Khan might well lead Afghanistan’s attack but even if the 19-year-old has a bad day, they can call on Mujeeb Ur Rahman. It’s hard to believe that at just 17-years-old, the right-arm off-breaker only made his international debut last December but has 26 caps already. With 46 wickets in all formats, (37 of those in ODIs) tells you everything you need to know about the threat that he can pose. He won’t be fazed by the occasion either considering he played in packed crowds at the IPL this year.
AKILA DANANJAYA (SRI LANKA)
Will miss the start of the tournament because his wife is expected to give birth but when he does land in Dubai, the 24-year-old off-breaker has all the qualities to make the difference. South Africa batsmen got a first-hand view of the damage he can do when he took 14 wickets in the recent five-match series including six scalps in the final ODI. He will certainly have a trick or two up his sleeve in the Emirates.
ANSHY RATH (HONG KONG)
Hong Kong-born but educated in England, Rath is still learning the game but his stats show he is quickly mastering the techniques to become a top cricketer. The batsman has already played 16 ODIs and 20 T20Is – not bad given he is only 20 years old. Even more impressive given he is the national team captain. He is certainly the least familiar name on this list but the left-hander comes into the tournament having scored big against ODI nations UAE (102) and Nepal (52) in the Qualifier as well as 85 runs against Test nation Zimbabwe earlier this year.
"We wanted to show the world what we can do despite losing ODI status." 🇭🇰@CricketHK's @anshyrath is delighted with how things have gone for them in the #AsiaCup qualifier, especially after a disappointing #CWCQ.— ICC (@ICC) September 8, 2018
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