All you need to know about the 2022 Asia Cup

When does it start? What's the format? We've got all your questions covered

Hemant Brar
Hemant Brar
20-Aug-2022 • Updated on 26-Aug-2022
India are the defending Asia Cup champions  •  Associated Press

India are the defending Asia Cup champions  •  Associated Press

The Asia Cup - what's that?
Outside the ICC events, the Asia Cup is basically the biggest international tournament in terms of the number of participants, though you may not immediately think of it that way. It contains exactly what it says on the tin, i.e it is played between the top teams in Asia. The first edition was played 38 years ago in Sharjah and featured India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. After three round-robin games, India emerged as champions under the captaincy of Sunil Gavaskar. The Asia Cup hasn't been the most consistently scheduled tournament, but since 2008, it has been played every alternate year until the Covid-19 pandemic broke the sequence in 2020.
Which makes it how many now?
Fourteen Asia Cups: the last one was in 2018 in the UAE (a theme developing here), when a Rohit Sharma-led India beat Bangladesh in the final to lift the trophy.
India again? They seem to have won it…
The most times, yes. India have won the Asia Cup seven times, while Sri Lanka have won it five times. Pakistan, perhaps surprisingly, have only won it twice.
Trying to recall memorable Asia Cup moments but none are coming to mind. Can you jog my memory?
Sure, there's been more than you think. Surinder Khanna's quickfire knocks in 1984; Ajantha Mendis bamboozling India in the 2008 final; Harbhajan Singh's penultimate-ball six off Mohammad Amir to seal the win in 2010; Virat Kohli smashing his career-best 183 against Pakistan to help India chase down 330, and Pakistan beating Bangladesh by two runs to clinch the title - both in 2012; Shahid Afridi hitting R Ashwin for back-to-back sixes in the final over to win the game in 2014; Amir's new-ball spell against Kohli and Co in 2016; the India-Afghanistan tie in 2018… This could go on but you get the point.
Great. So, when is this year's edition starting?
The tournament starts on August 27 with Sri Lanka taking on Afghanistan in Dubai, and the final is on September 11, also in Dubai. It's being played in the T20 format because it's good prep for the T20 World Cup later this year.
Umm, you're missing something?
Yes, sorry, it actually started with a qualifier tournament, which ran from August 20 to 24 in Oman. UAE, Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuwait competed in a round-robin format, with Hong Kong qualifying with three wins in three games.
Hong Kong, really?
Really. They are at 23 in the ICC's T20I rankings and are led by allrounder Nizakat Khan at the Asia Cup. In the qualifying round, Yasim Murtaza was their top-scorer with 130 runs in three innings, while offspinner Ehsan Khan took nine wickets. You might not remember this, but Hong Kong gave India a bit of a scare in the 2018 Asia Cup.
And now back to the main event?
Simple: six teams, divided into two groups:
Group A: India, Pakistan, Hong Kong
Group B: Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan
Each team plays the other two in their group once and the top two qualify for the next round, the Super 4. There, each team plays every other team once, and the top two teams make it to the final.
Has the Asia Cup done a T20 version before?
Yes, the 2016 edition in Bangladesh was also played in the T20 format and it was done keeping in mind that year's T20 World Cup, which was scheduled to begin two days after the Asia Cup final. The tournament changes format depending on which year it is played: next year's edition in Pakistan, for example, will be an ODI Asia Cup as preparation for the 2023 World Cup in India.
That's handy. And did I hear it's being played in the UAE?
You did and it is. Again. It's actually the spiritual home of sorts given the Asia Cup began there (as a way to have India and Pakistan play regularly at a neutral venue). All games are being held in Sharjah and Dubai.
My weather app tells me it's not the best time of year to play anything in the UAE.
It's not, but needs must. The tournament was supposed to be held in Sri Lanka this year, but the economic and political crisis in that country meant it had to move: bilateral cricket has been held in Sri Lanka, but the logistics of a multi-team tournament would've been difficult to manage.
India and Pakistan were ruled out as options for various reasons, so it had to be the UAE.
And the heat?
It will be very hot. And very, very humid. International cricket has only been scheduled once in the UAE in August, when Australia played Pakistan in a white-ball series in 2012. It was physically draining but they just about managed, with later than usual starts. The Asia Cup games will start at 6pm UAE time. Other than that the UAE is more than adept, having held the 2018 Asia Cup, the IPL, the PSL regularly (and in June last year), as well as the T20 World Cup last year.
How many times will I see India play Pakistan?
Most likely twice, three times if we're lucky. They face each other first on August 28 in Dubai, their first meeting since the 2021 T20 World Cup, when Pakistan beat India by ten wickets at the same venue.
If both finish as the top two teams in their group, they will meet again in the Super 4 round. And then there could be an India-Pakistan final as well. India and Pakistan have never faced each other in the final of the Asia Cup.
And what's the head-to-head record between India and Pakistan in the Asia Cup?
The two teams have faced each other 14 times, with India winning on eight occasions and Pakistan on five. One game ended in a no-result.

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo