India will kick off their campaign in the seventh women’s Asia Cup against a relatively weaker Malaysian side at the Kinrara Academy Oval in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, having been champions in all six editions previously, defeating Pakistan in the most recent final in 2016.

The tournament will be crucial to gauge India’s form and confidence in the build-up towards women’s World T20 in the West Indies in November.

Organised by the Asian Cricket Council, the tournament is being played for the third successive time in the T20 format with six teams competing for the title over eight days. Besides India and hosts Malaysia, the other teams are Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Thailand.

After facing the hosts on Sunday, India will be up against Thailand on Monday before facing Bangladesh on Wednesday. The Harmanpreet Kaur-led side will then take on Sri Lanka on Thursday before playing their final league game against arch-rivals Pakistan on Friday.

Going into the opener, a strong Indian side, led by Harmanpreet, and including the likes of Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami will be expected to pull off a comfortable win.

All eyes will once again be on vice-captain Smriti Mandhana, who has been in stunning form for India ever since the tour of South Africa, despite results not going their way for the most part over the home season. Mithali, Harmanpreet and teenager Jemimah Rodrigues will look to provide the balance to the top of the order, which is one of India’s stronger areas.

The same cannot be said for the middle order that has been found wanting in the recent past. It’ll be another opportunity for Veda Krishnamurthy, who has been inconsistent in the recent past and young stumper Taniya Bhatia.

Veteran pacer Jhulan Goswami will lead the bowling department alongside Shikha Pandey but bulk of the workload will likely fall on the spinners once again with Ekta Bisht - the leading wicket-taker at the 2016 edition – expected to lead the way.

The shortest format has not been India’s strong suit in the recent past, as their struggles in the tri-series involving England and Australia proved, and this will be an opportunity for Kaur and the think-tank to iron out the flaws.

(With agencies inputs)