Former Australia batsman Michael Hussey has picked India and Pakistan as the top two title contenders at this year's Asia Cup tournament, starting September 15 in the United Arab Emirates.
The left-hander acknowledged the Champions Trophy 2017 finalists' good run in ODIs and backed them to go the distance in the six-nation tournament.
Notably, India would have no rest between their tournament opener and the much-anticipated match against Pakistan as the two ODIs will be played on successive days.
"Looking ahead towards the Asia Cup, India and Pakistan are the favourites, both been playing some excellent ODI cricket and quality ODI teams," Hussey told The Press Trust of India.
Notably, the upcoming Asia Cup tie will also be the first time India and Pakistan will meet since the Champions Trophy 2017 final, in which a Fakhar Zaman ton sealed the title for the Men in Green.
How can India tackle Fakhar Zaman threat?
Hussey believes Zaman will be a tough nut to crack in the continental tournament, considering his recent form in white-ball cricket and India need to come up with special plans to stop the left-hander from hurting them once again.
The 28-year-old recently became the first Pakistan batsman to score an ODI double ton when he smashed 210 off just 156 deliveries against Zimbabwe. The aggressive left-hander also became the fastest to reach the 1000-run mark in the 50-over format of the game.
"Fakhar Zaman from Pakistan, what great form he is been off late and who could forget his century in the ICC Champions Trophy (final) against India, not too long ago. Such an exciting player, very attacking, likes to score quickly, backs himself and plays with no fear and he is hard to bowl to, because he can score all-round the ground," Hussey added.
"So plans for India against Fakhar (Zaman) is got to be nice, tight line and length, be very disinclined and try and maintain that pressure, try and build up some pressure on him with some dot balls and make him go for the big shots earlier than what he wants to do.
"I think change of pace could work against him because he goes hard at the ball, taking the pace off it (the ball) could be advantageous."
Hussey asks the big boys to be wary of Afghanistan
Meanwhile, Hussey also backed Afghanistan to spring a few surprises in the continental tournament. The high-flying side, who will bank on spinners Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, will be playing against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the round-robin group stage.
Afghanistan will be hoping to prove a point to their Asian counterparts, especially ahead of World Cup 2019 for which they qualified after beating West Indies in the final of qualifying tournament earlier this year.
"The surprise package could be Afghanistan, any team with Rashid Khan and Mujeeb, is not easy to beat, so keep an eye, so if they score enough runs, they are going to be hard to beat."