‘You cannot minus Sri Lanka or Bangladesh’
The six-nation ODI Asia Cup begins on Wednesday with Pakistan, co-hosts of the regional biggest cricket extravaganza, taking on Nepal in the tournament opener in Multan.
Former Pakistan captain and legendary fast bowler Wasim Akram said on Sunday the upcoming Asia Cup will test the readiness of subcontinental bowlers for 50-over cricket ahead of the ODI World Cup, but he refused to pick any favourites for the tournament.
Akram said the road will be tough for all sides.
"Last time we had predicted an India versus Pakistan final but Sri Lanka won the competition. All three teams are dangerous - anyone can win on their day," Akram told reporters during a tournament sponsor's event
"There are other teams competing too. Last time Sri Lanka won the title, India even failed to make it to the final. India versus Pakistan is very important, we know about so much support (teams get), so many eyeballs, so many people (following). But other teams are also here to play so you cannot minus Sri Lanka or Bangladesh," he added.
Akram said India has a balanced squad for the competition.
"I think they are trying different things, new players especially in the T20 format, also a new captain. They have a balanced squad. But it will not be easy for India or any team," he said.
Asked if Pakistan could have taken a strong stand against India for not travelling to the neighbouring nation for the Asia Cup, Akram played it safe.
"The Pakistan government has given permission that Pakistan (team) can travel to India. I have always maintained and said that politics and sports should be apart from each other. People to people contact is very important and the average Indian and Pakistani, they do respect each other. I hope eventually sanity prevails."
The second highest ODI wicket taker with 502 dismissals, Akram termed the Asia Cup as the "second biggest tournament" in the world.
"It is the second biggest tournament in the calendar of the cricketing world. (The) World Cups and then the Asia Cup, two giants, clash of the titans… two titans, India and Pakistan then Sri Lanka, the previous Asia Cup champions last year in Dubai - what a success that was," he said.
"All six countries are looking forward to seeing their players. This is a prep tournament before the big one, the World Cup."
"Be it India or Pakistan or Sri Lanka, we will find out if the bowlers are able to deliver 10 overs or not, now-a-days they are all used to bowling four-overs (per game)," he added.
The competition will revert to the 50-over format in this edition after being organised in the T20 version last year, and Akram welcomed the change.
"This is a good idea by ACC to have a 50-over Asia Cup because right after it we have the World Cup," he said.
Akram said all teams will be challenged on the parameters of fitness and game plans.
"It is a long tournament - not a one-off that you can enter the semifinals after winning one game," he said. "You have to win games to get on top. You have to take it game by game. Also, it is a 50-over competition (this time) not T20, which means different mindset and fitness will be required."