An Asia Cup? Another one?
Yes, the men had their time under the sun in the UAE, and it is now time for the women to take centre stage.
Oh! And where is it being held?
Bangladesh will play host to all matches, which will be held at the Sylhet International Cricket Stadium. It is the first time women's international matches are being played in the country since Pakistan's tour in October 2018. It is also the first time since the 2014 T20 World Cup that Sylhet will play host to women's internationals.
Tell me more. Which are the teams? What is the format?
The Women's Asia Cup was first held in the T20 format in 2012. The last edition was in 2018, while the one to be originally held in Bangladesh in 2020 was first postponed to 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic before being cancelled altogether. So finally, 2022 will see the fourth edition of the T20 Asia Cup, and eighth including the four 50-over contests in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008.
This time, the competition will see seven teams vying for the trophy. India, Pakistan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, UAE and hosts Bangladesh will take on each other in a round-robin format. Each team will play six matches, with the top four qualifying for the two semi-finals, thus making it the longest Asia Cup for women. In the last two editions - featuring six teams each - the top two teams in the league stage directly played the final.
Also, UAE will be making their first appearance in the competition, having beaten hosts Malaysia in the final of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Women's T20 Championship, the qualifying event for the tournament proper.
When is it starting, and what are the timings?
It is a 15-day tournament, with Bangladesh taking on Thailand in the opener on October 1. India then play Sri Lanka in the afternoon game on the same day. The morning matches start at 9am local time, while the afternoon games begin at 1.30pm local time.
Who are the defending champions? And who has won the Asia Cup the most times?
Bangladesh are the current Asia Cup holders, having beaten India in a tight final in Kuala Lumpur in 2018.
Any specific matches to look forward to in 2022?
If it is an Asia Cup, then India vs Pakistan becomes inevitable. The two teams meet on October 7. Among the other fixtures, Pakistan vs Sri Lanka four days later could be interesting. They have so far played each other 16 times in T20Is, with Pakistan holding a 9-6 edge (5-0 since 31 March 2018). One game was washed out in 2013.
But before all of that, expect Sri Lanka vs Thailand on October 4 to also be eye-catching. Both teams have played each other only once - in the last Asia Cup in 2018 - with Thailand upsetting their opponents in what was their first win over a Full Member. Moreover, since this August, Sri Lanka have played only two T20Is compared to Thailand's eight.
In 2020, playing their first ever World Cup, Thailand gave Pakistan a scare before rain ruined their hopes of a win. That was the last time the two teams had met, so who knows, come October 6 this year, there could be a surprise in store.
Can you tell me a bit about each of the squads?
Jemimah Rodrigues returns to the Indian side after missing the tour of England due to injury. Richa Ghosh, who made a comeback in England after being dropped from the Commonwealth Games, is also in the mix. These two could be key in the middle order, as Renuka Singh spearheads the seam attack.
Pakistan, meanwhile, suffered a setback as promising fast bowler Fatima Sana was ruled out after twisting her ankle during the CPL earlier this month. But their squad still has a solid and experienced core in captain Bismah Maroof, and allrounders Nida Dar and Aliya Riaz. Add the young Ayesha Naseem, and Pakistan become a proper force to reckon with.
Bangladesh, who enter the Asia Cup with great momentum after winning the Women's T20 World Cup Qualifier last week, have been bolstered by the addition of Jahanara Alam and Fargana Hoque. Meanwhile, their captain Nigar Sultana comes into the Asia Cup after scoring 180 runs - the most for Bangladesh - in the qualifiers.
Sri Lanka's team could yet again be reliant on Chamari Athapaththu, especially with the young Vishmi Gunaratne out due to a stress fracture of her back. Spinners Inoka Ranaweera and Oshadi Ranasinghe could be key to their success with the ball, while with the bat, their middle order might revolve around Hasini Perera and Harshitha Samarawickrama.
Thailand have made their third straight Asia Cup, and would be hungry for success, especially after their fourth-place finish in the T20 World Cup qualifiers. Natthakan Chantham, Nattaya Boochatham and Chanida Sutthiruang are high among their players to watch out for.
After going down to UAE in the final of the ACC T20 Championship, Malaysia blanked Singapore 3-0 in the Saudari Cup, as Elsa Hunter led the spoils with the bat. Her strike rate of 135 was by far the best among both teams, and alongside captain Winifred Duraisingam and deputy Mas Elysa, Hunter could be key to Malaysia's fortunes. Right-arm seamer Sasha Azmi has also been in good form, and was part of the last edition of the Asia Cup.
UAE, on the other hand, have played 28 T20Is since 2021 - the most among all participating sides in the Asia Cup - and have won 20 of those, including beating an in-form Zimbabwe in the T20 World Cup qualifier. Esha Oza, Theertha Satish, Kavisha Egodage and captain Chaya Mughal form the heart of their Asia Cup squad.
Many of the UAE and Malaysia players also had the experience of rubbing shoulders with several star players in women's cricket at the inaugural FairBreak Invitational tournament held in the UAE this May.