Pakistan, Sri Lanka face off in opening match today
Less than 72 hours after Bangladesh ended their gruelling series against Sri Lanka, the country is now ready for another cricket carnival in the Asia Cup, which begins at Fatullah today.
The 12th edition of the tournament, which is being held in Bangladesh for the fourth time, offers no clear favourites, with all four Asian giants – Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – in with some kind of chance.
Afghanistan, a relative infant among the region’s cricket powers, join the tournament for the first time and will hope to cause a few upsets, which they showed they are well capable of in recent international matches.
All previous editions have been won by India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka, but Bangladesh showed they are not lagging that far behind, having reached the final of the 2012 tournament, which they also hosted.
Mushfiqur Rahim’s men lost the final against Pakistan by just two runs, underlining their potential as title contenders.
The recent defeats against Sri Lanka may have demoralised the Tigers, but they can take heart from other recent series in which they were equally competitive against top nations.
Defending champions Pakistan will face Sri Lanka in the opening match at Fatullah before Bangladesh face India the next day at the same ground. Afghanistan will make their debut against Pakistan on February 27.
The busy international calendar forced organisers to limit the tournament to 12 days, which means there will be at least one game every day until a break before the final.
The hectic schedule is sure to have an impact on teams, which are already suffering from some injury problems.
India will be without regular captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, while Pakistan will miss the services of frontline bowler Mohammad Irfan. Sri Lanka’s bowling attack is depleted by the absence of Nuwan Kulasekera and Rangana Herath.
Sri Lanka have some injury worries in the batting department as well, with experienced campaigner Tillakaratne Dilshan nursing a finger injury.
The Bangladesh cricket team has its share of injury concerns as well, as the host will play their tournament without star opener Tamim Iqbal. Tamim scored four fifties on the trot in the previous Asia Cup to help Bangladesh stun India and Sri Lanka and reach the final.
Bangladesh also have some other problems to deal with, as they will play their first two matches without ace all-rounder Sakib al Hasan, who is serving a three-match ban for a lewd gesture on live television during the Sri Lanka series.
The tournament will be televised live on Channel-9, with matches scheduled to start at 2:00pm.
-With New Age input