This has been so far a low-key year for Pakistan cricket in terms of the amount of competitive cricket played and due to a dearth of international fixtures against top teams. However, the crescendo has been building up for the much-anticipated Asia Cup which is up and running! The notable feature of this year's Asia Cup is its venue (UAE) which is set to host this historic tournament for the third time after it got the opportunity way back in 1995. The venue deprives any massive home advantage to the strong contenders, but Pakistan does have a slight edge in this regard as they would be playing in their makeshift home venue which will surely bolster team's confidence especially in the all-important contest against India, the first one to be played tomorrow at the Dubai Cricket Stadium whose tickets have already been sold out.

It's been a year since that mouth-watering contest between the two Asian giants in Champions Trophy and it remains to be seen how both teams will fare out in the much-anticipated clash after a long hiatus. Pakistan will have a slight psychological edge against India as they were able to clinch the ICC Champions trophy in a mercurial fashion last year by resurging back in the tournament after a dismal performance against the same Indian team in the opener. The unpredictable factor will probably always remain attached to Pakistan team and perhaps fittingly too because that's what makes Pakistan such as an intriguing team to watch for any cricket enthusiast. Pakistan team arguably has become a formidable side over the last few years and we can be sure to witness a competitive show in the upcoming mega event. Indian squad is not full-strength as their captain Virat Kohli has opted out of Asia Cup citing workload reasons amidst the gruelling England tour and as a result this takes some thrill out of the contest. But apart from the Indian maestro, the remaining squad still got batting depth with the likes of Rohit Sharma who will be captaining the side and will be accompanied by KL Rahul, MS Dhoni, Shikhar Dhawan, and Hardik Pandya in the middle order. India has a strong record in Asia Cup as they have won it five times as well whereas Pakistan has managed to bag the trophy twice and would dearly like to add one more to the tally.

After a long search for a fielding coach, Pakistan has finally been able to rope in former New Zealand all-rounder Grant Bradburn who has previously coached Scotland. He was not the first choice after the current Islamabad United’s fielding coach Darren Berry pulled out from the offer citing personal reasons. Without a shadow of a doubt, Pakistan fielding and fitness standards have improved significantly in the Steve Rixon tenure who was known for his hard taskmaster style that has helped players attain perfect fitness levels. This change in raising physical fitness culture has been instrumental in Pakistan's lift in performance over the years and so it will be crucial for Grant Bradburn to build upon Australian's hard work.

Pakistan Asia Cup squad has been announced featuring a heavy pace battery as M Amir, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Usman Khan, Shaheen Afridi, and Junaid Khan have been inducted in the line-up. Imad Wasim has performed consistently over the years and has terrific record in the UAE but he has been left out after failing the fitness test. Another notable omission has been M Hafeez who is finding it tough to break into the squad amidst a surge of young cricketers jostling for positions. Hafeez though is not totally off the radar of selection committee as Chief Selector Inzamam-ul-Haq has offered some consolation to the veteran stating, 'he is part of the 2019 world cup plans'. Shan Masood is a surprise entry considering he had a lukewarm Test performance and has not featured in the recently concluded Zimbabwe tour, but he has been called back on the basis of his sublime domestic form but the only way he could get his maiden ODI cap in a high-profile affair is if Imam-ul-Haq fails to consolidate his position at the top order. Another debutant in this year's Asia Cup could be the 18-year-old prodigy 'Shaheen Shah Afridi' who has not looked back since his thumping performances in the PSL 3. With his youthful exuberance coupled with seasoned campaigners, Pakistan is surely one of the favorites to clinch the title. Winning this tournament will encourage Pakistan dream bigger and help gain momentum before stepping into the ICC World Cup 2019.