Three Indo-Pak games, World Cup prep, stars returning: 2023 Asian Cup offers the full package | Cricket News

Three possible high-profile India vs. Pakistan fixtures for the starving fans on either side of the border, plus a last chance for five nations to put their respective homes in order ahead of the World Cup will add context to the Asian Cup, which begins in Multan on Wednesday . It's a tournament that has often struggled to become relevant over the past decade amid rising bilateral competitions and the dwindling popularity of T20 cricket, but the 2023 edition, which begins on Wednesday, holds a large part of the team's mindset availed think tanks.

For five of the six teams, with the exception of Nepal, it's the final stop in finding answers to some nagging questions ahead of the global event that kicks off on October 5th.

Of course, before the big cricket show, there are some bilateral matches and practice matches.

But the Asian Cup, held in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, will give the teams the atmosphere of a multi-nation tournament, very similar to the World Cup.

India will enter the Asian Cup as seven-time champions, the most of any team, but winning an eighth title may not be high on their wish list.

A title win will certainly be welcomed, but the brain bank of head coach Rahul Dravid and captain Rohit Sharma will be eager to see some pieces put together ahead of the World Cup.

KL Rahul has been conditionally included in the India squad and will miss the opening two games, according to head coach Dravid, and time is of the essence for the Bengaluru goaltender-batsman to get in shape for the competition.

While Rahul has shown progress in his batting level after recovering from surgery, his willingness to keep wickets is still under scrutiny as he contracted a problem squatting.

Rahul will be closely watched during the Asian Cup as his presence brings a sense of solidity and flexibility to the Indian midfield.

However, Shreyas Iyer is expected to be on the field when India take on Pakistan in Pallekele on September 2.

Shreyas completed extensive net practice and a match simulation process at the NCA prior to being selected for the Asia Cup squad.

But management will be interested to see how the right-handed batsman reacts to the rigors of a real game situation.

There will be a similar level of fear for Jasprit Bumrah and Prasidh Krishna.

The pacesetters returned to the Indian side after a lengthy injury layoff during the three-game T20I series against Ireland earlier this month. They too had bowled intensely.

But the requirements of ODI cricket differ from those of T20Is in that, in addition to fielding for 50 overs, 10 overs must also be bowled.

Indian management will be keen to see how the Tempo duo respond to the increased workload in the energy-sapping wet conditions of Sri Lanka.

India remains the Asian Cup's mainstay, but Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan will also struggle to get into our attention span.

On their own, they are also compelling teams. Sri Lanka, who have won six Asian Cup titles, are struggling to find a full squad following injuries to Dushmantha Chameera, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lahiru Kumara and Dilshan Madhushanka.

Chameera, Kumara and Madhushanka can reach speeds in excess of 140 km/h and their absence will cause great concern in Sri Lanka as they may even be out for long periods.

As is so often the case, Bangladesh's preparation for the tournament has been one of cacophony – injured Tamim Iqbal and Ebadot Hosain are out, leading to Shakib Al Hasan being reinstated as ODI captain after a six-year hiatus.

Surprisingly, amidst the turmoil other teams have found themselves in, Pakistan offer a picture of solid unity.

The Green Brigade will be keen to snag a title here as it will add extra confidence to their World Cup campaign.

Under Babar Azam, Pakistan have also moved up to No. 1 in the ICC ODI rankings after beating Afghanistan 3-0 recently and could peak at the right time.

This series was the latest episode of the newest rivalry in cricket – Pakistan vs Afghanistan.

It has yet to be hyped at the Indo-Pakistan level, but the dispute has already provided enough flashpoints to spell out its potentially explosive future.

The Asian Cup could add another chapter.

So over the next three weeks, we'll see the rivalries renewed and some new heroes emerge. But all of that lies behind the looming shadow of the World Cup.

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