Hosts Bangladesh meets Pakistan in today’s ‘curtain
Sri Lanka go out favourites in Asia Cup
Sri Lanka, which showed good form in the recent Commonwealth Bank
Tri-Series, eliminating world champions India from the final and giving
a close run to Australia, will go out favourites at the 2012 Asia Cup
cricket tournament which begins in Bangladesh today.
Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, which has a record of
hosting 50 one day internationals within four years will be the venue
for the tournament during which the four participating teams will play
each other in the league round qualifiers. The top two teams after the
six qualifying round matches will advance to the final to be played on
Sri Lanka to make it a habit of winning
After suffering back to back defeats in the first two games, Sri
Lanka came back strongly to enter the CB Series final, pushing world
champions India to the third place. Sri Lanka has shown impressive form
in the CB series, beating eventual winners Australia in three of the six
Especially, Sri Lanka’s young brigade – Lahiru Thirimanne, Dinesh
Chandimal, Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera have shown good form in
recent times while spinner Rangana Herath too has proved his credential
in ODIs. Vice captain Angelo Mathews, who missed the last two CB Series
finals due to an injury, is expected to be fit for Sri Lanka’s first
game of the tournament – against India on Tuesday.
Sri Lanka beat India in only one of their four league round meetings
in the CB series, losing two with one tie.
Skipper Mahela Jayawardene, since reassuring the captaincy, has
transformed the team into a fighting lot under the guidance of their new
coach. Hence, Sri Lanka will make every effort to make it a habit of
winning and maintain their consistency.
Former captain Tillakaratne Dilshan has regained his brilliant best
and his explosive batting will be a decisive factor towards Sri Lanka’s
success. If skipper Jayawardene and experience Kumar Sangakkara could
keep the scoreboard moving, it will not be that difficult for Sri Lanka
to meet the challenge ahead.
Undoubtedly, India will make every endeavour to resurrect its lost
prestige after winning the 2011 World Cup. Hence, the reigning World
champions will go flat out to regain their supremacy and attempt to win
their sixth Asia Cup title. They have won five of the past ten Asia
Cups, since the tournament was inaugurated in 1983 under the auspicious
of the Asian Cricket Council.
But the team to watch will be the high-riding Pakistan, which will be
under a new coach, Australian Dav Whatmore, the man who made Sri Lanka’s
successful recipe to win the 1996 World Cup under Arjuna Ranatunga.
Whatmore has already declared that he wants his team to make a good
start in the Asia Cup, following Pakistan's dismal performance against
England in the ODIs. “The Asia Cup is a very important tournament given
the opposition,” Whatmore was quoted as saying.
It was India and Sri Lanka which has dominated in the Asia Cup
series, having shared nine titles out of the ten tournaments held so
far. India takes the lead with five cup titles to Sri Lanka’s four. The
only occasion in which Pakistan won the Asia Cup was way back in 2000.
Whatmore has worked hard with the team after Pakistan conceded 0-4
and 1-2 defeats in the one-day and T20 matches against England in the
United Arab Emirates last month. Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq aims to
bounce back and perform their best.
The four-nation tournament will bring a carnival atmosphere to
cricket-crazy Bangladesh though the hosts have never won this elusive
title. The hosts will take on Pakistan in today’s ‘curtain raiser’ game.
But the two ‘big games’ of the tournament will be the battles between
arch rivals India and Pakistan to be played next Sunday (18).
The tournament will provide yet another opportunity for Indian master
batsman Sachin Tendulkar to go for that much sought after ‘100th
century’ in international cricket.
Tendulkar, who turns 39 next month, has so far scored a record 99
centuries in world cricket – 51 in Tests and 48 in ODIs. In 460 ODIs,
the veteran opener has aggregated 18,254 runs with an average of 44.74,
a rare feat no other current batsman in world cricket could dream about.