Pakistan, the newly crowned No 1 ODI team, enter a critical phase of their white-ball cricket history as they aim to cement their status as the top limited-overs team.
Wednesday marks the opening day of the Asia Cup 2023 tournament that will be co-hosted by Pakistan and Sri Lanka. And while the 50-over series has turned into a preparatory event for the ODI World Cup in India in October-November, it is significant in its own right.
The tournament has become the playing ground for one of the most intense rivalries in the sport, and we not talking about just India v Pakistan.
Afghanistan v Pakistan and Sri Lanka v Bangladesh is where is the real action is now, with plenty of recent history of player skirmishes, fan unrest and genuine mistrust between sides.
The tournament will also serve as an opportunity for all teams involved to finalise their plans for the World Cup in sub-continent conditions and against teams most suited for it.
So, can Pakistan preserve their status as the top-ranked ODI team?
Can Pakistan lose No 1 ranking?
It has not even been a week since Pakistan rose to the top of the ODI rankings, overtaking Australia after their 3-0 series win over Afghanistan. But so small are the margins, Babar Azam’s team could soon lose their status.
Pakistan are favourites to beat Nepal in the opening game of the Asia Cup in Multan on Wednesday. Their focus will then shift to the much-awaited clash against India, who are ranked third in ODIs.
If Pakistan lose to India in Kandy on Saturday, they will slip below Australia in the ODI rankings according to the ICC rankings predictor.
Even so, they will then only be one point behind the top-ranked Aussies, which means more wins in the latter stages of the Asia Cup could push them back to the top.
Asia Cup 2022 team of the tournament
Asia Cup 2023 schedule
August 30: Pakistan v Nepal, Multan
August 31: Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, Kandy
September 2: India v Pakistan, Kandy
September 3: Bangladesh v Afghanistan, Lahore
September 4: India v Nepal, Kandy
September 5: Afghanistan v Sri Lanka, Lahore
September 6: Super 4 - A1 v B2, Lahore
September 9: B1 v B2, Colombo
September 10: A1 v A2, Colombo
September 12: A2 v B1, Colombo
September 14: A1 v B1, Colombo
September 15: A2 v B2 Colombo
September 17: Final, Colombo (September 18 reserve day)
Note: All matches start 1.30pm UAE time. India, Pakistan and Nepal in Group A; Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan in Group B.
How to watch Asia Cup 2023 in the UAE
The tournament will be shown live on CricLife Max on the STARZPLAY app in the UAE.