Afghanistan training
Afghanistan skipper Mohammad Nabi limbering up with his teammates at the ICC Academy grounds ahead of the DP World Asia Cup opener. Image Credit: Courtesy: ACB

Dubai: The continental showpiece is set to resume after a four-year gap with hosts Sri Lanka taking on Afghanistan in the opener of the DP World Asia Cup at the Dubai International Stadium on Saturday.

It’s a clash of Sri Lanka’s youth against Afghanistan’s experience that will be at the fore when both the teams of equal strength clashes to have the edge in Group B, that also includes Bangladesh.

Sri Lanka will enjoy a slight edge over Afghanistan, who are still not able to maintain their consistency despite having numerous globetrotters in Twenty20 franchise leagues.

Afghanistan 1
Rashid Khan arrives with the team for the practice session ahead of Sri Lanka clash. Image Credit: Courtesy: ACB

Lack of consistency

“We managed to whitewash Zimbabwe in the recent series, that’s consistency,” said Afghanistan skipper Mohammed Nabi, with a smile, during the press conference on the eve of their opener. “Against Ireland we had a two and half month break, so we could not play as a unit. Hence, we came to Dubai to get acclimatised to the conditions and gel as a team.”

For Afghanistan, UAE had been their second home, where they played numerous matches, so they know the conditions well, but on the other hand for Sri Lanka, they must be missing that advantage after the event was moved away from home due to the political situation in the island nation.

Sri Lanka skipper Dasun Shanaka also rues the lack of cricket-loving home crowd, which was one of the main ingredient for Sri Lanka’s success at home against Australia.

Sri Lanka training
Sri Lankan players gearing up for the opener at the ICC Academy Grounds in Dubai. Image Credit: Courtesy: ACC

Crowd support

“It would have favoured us more. The crowd support will be there and always playing in home conditions has a bigger advantage,” said Shanaka.

The Sri Lankan skipper is, however, happy with the form the team had showed at home against Australia and will be eager to take the confidence in the Asia Cup.

“We had a fair bit of success against Australia at home. We have been playing good cricket over the last two, three months, including against Australia, that will play a major role here. I trust the process and we are in the right track and, hopefully, we can clinch the Asia Cup,” he said.

No favourites in Twenty20

Shanaka refused to believe that India are favourites to win the tournament. “India is a leading side, but in Twenty20 there are no favourites. On the day if we play well, we could beat the favourites a well. A good example is the last World Cup,” he added.

The Sri Lankans have had a two-day training session at the ICC Academy grounds in Dubai and the skipper is happy with the preparation ahead of the opener against Afghanistan.

“We were playing cricket for the past two to three months consistently and conditions are similar to Sri Lanka. We are well prepared for the games and hopefully we can deliver in the games,” he concluded.