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Sunday, 11 March 2012





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Hosts Bangladesh meets Pakistan in today’s ‘curtain raiser’:

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 March 22.

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 meetings.

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.



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