By Tahan Jansz in Dambulla
The tenth edition of the Asia Cup and the fourth to be held in Sri Lanka will get underway later today (15) when hosts Sri Lanka take on Pakistan in Dambulla. All the games will be day-nighters and the matches will be played at the Dambulla cricket stadium. Sri Lanka, the defending champions start the tournament as favourites.
In recent tournaments Sri Lanka have been performing well and the youngsters who did duty in Zimbabwe did not have to sweat too much to bag the Micromax Trophy. The triangular in Zimbabwe involved the hosts, India and Sri Lanka. Both India and Sri Lanka opted to rest the seniors and try out the youngsters at this tournament where the Lankan youngsters shone and the Indians flopped.
However Sri Lanka will face strong opposition from Pakistan along with India who are back at full strength and Bangladesh, fresh from a tour of England. Pakistan who are under the leadership of Shahid Afridi are unpredictable and it is this unpredictability that make them a dangerous proposition.
Afridi at a press conference held yesterday (14) in Kandalama said that he would be banking on his youngsters while old workhorse Shoab Akthar, who is back in the Pakistani team after a long lay off would lead the Pakistan bowling attack.
Out of the four teams India come in to the tournament with the worst possible build up with mediocre performances in the Twenty20 World Cup, and picking up just one victory in the Micromax Cup in Zimbabwe. But to write off the Indians will be a big mistake as it is likely that they will be a different outfit, rejuvenated by the return of opening batsman Virender Sevhag who is expected to play a big role in Dambulla.
Indian Skipper M.S Dhoni however chose to be cautious at yesterday’s press conference. “We are starting this tournament as underdogs and we hope our senior players can find their form.”
Bangladesh clearly come in as the dark horse as their recent performances show continuous improvement in their cricket, and the Tigers will be keen to build on this at this tournament. Their captain Al’ Hasim said, “we will play our best in every game and we are taking every game very seriously.”
One thing is for certain, the Asia Cup will be a closely fought tournament and with Sri Lanka and India tied on four Asia Cup wins a fierce battle is to be expected to decide who will be the kings of cricket in Asia. On formbook though the odds are in favour of the home team.