Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Asia Cup: An Overview

India’s Asia Cup campaign begins on the 16th as they take on the underdogs Bangladesh. This quadrilateral series comes as a golden opportunity for the butchered heroes to bounce back and regain their lost glory. The boys are at the Emerald Isles on a mission: to rectify their pathetic show of the past few days; to clinch a series victory and shatter the 15-year-old jinx of not having lifted the Asia Cup and most importantly, climb up in the ODI rankings.

The Asia Cup assumes a lot of significance. It is the perfect ground for the 2011 World Cup preparations, given the fact that this part of the subcontinent will host a pretty major chunk of the event. Again, with four test playing nations in the run, the series should witness some high quality and competitive cricket being played. The dwindling popularity of the 50 over format of the game could be transformed if the event is a hit among cricket lovers. Given the fact that the ODIs are being crushed in between the traditional tests and the zippy T20s, countries like England and Australia have already begun experimenting with his format, adding zing to it by splitting it up into two innings of 20 overs each. An innovative way to combine the elements of two of the stellar forms of the game.

Defending champions Sri Lanka will start as favourites, vying to script a hat trick Asia Cup victory. Apart from having a home advantage, the hosts will be grinning because of the in form Dilshan and the return of the stalwarts, Sangakkara and Jayawardane. Angelo Matthews, the hero of the IPL, will also be a player to watch out for. Their trump card:

1. The bowling combination of newbie, Suraj Randiv and surprise pick, Ranjana Herath along with the veteran, Muralidharan.

2. The deadly opening pair of Dilshan and Jayawardane, who could come out with all cylinders firing.

Pakistan, a side known to be back with a bang after a bout of conflicts and controversies, will also try to set their Asia Cup record straight. Having lifted the Cup only once, this side would be aiming to come up with credible performances. It would be interesting to note how the team gels, given the return of the “back-biting” former captain Shoaib Malik and the twin dope offenders, Shoaib Akhtar and Md. Asif. Struggling with a lot of issues, including internal differences in the team, it would be a perfect time for the team to rise above these trivial matters and perform as a unit. The return of speedster Akhtar could work in the team’s favour. Their trump card:

1. A deadly pace attack with Mohammad Aamer, Md Asif and Soaib Akhtar at the helm.

2. Presence of the blistering batsman Umar Akmal.

India would be looking to heal their bruises and get back to winning ways. Advantage one would be the fact that the seniors would be fresh after a long beak from cricket. What the team needs to do at the moment is to shed all the baggage of the past, and start afresh. The focus should on one match at a time. To avoid being rusty, the team will have to sweat it out at the practice session. Their trump card:

1. Return of the likes of MSD, Sehwag, Gamhir, Harbhajan, Nehra and Zaheer.

2. In form Raina and Rohit Sharma.

3. Ashwin, Dinda and Saurabh Tiwary could emerge as surprise performers.

The Bangladesh team could well enforce an upset in the series. With experienced customers like Mortaza and Ashraful, the young guns could give the prominent teams a run for their money. Their trump card:

1. A fairly new squad. Could spring up a few surprises.

2. Tamim Iqbal, in peach of a form, going past the half century mark in six of his seven innings in tests.

Another interesting aspect of the upcoming edition of the Asia Cup would be the random dope tests. This is a first in the history of the series. Two players each from two sides will be picked post each match for the test. It could bring past offenders Akhtar and Asif under the scanner.

With all the teams gearing up for the onslaught, the meet would take the competitiveness to a higher level. If all the teams perform to their potential, it will a treat for all cricket enthusiasts

Friday, June 4, 2010

Blurred Horizon...

Team India's tryst with shoddiness continues, with back to back humiliation at the hands of the gritty minnows. The Men in Blue were struck by a bolt from the blue as the hosts registered their second thumping victory, this time with close to 11 overs in hand. Cruising towards a berth in the finals, the "underdogs" even bagged a bonus point. With no more late nighters to be taken shelter under, the boys are sure to face some blaring music once back home. 

Sadly, the saga of of absurd team selection continues, even post the World Cup debacle. Murali Vijay earning a place in the team despite the outright horrendous performance in the WC has raised quite a few eyebrows. Poor shot selection, substandard fielding, erroneous bowling...the list of blunders can go on. Making mistakes and shamelessly repeating them seems to have become a habit.

This brings me to a question that has probably been hounding the heads of every thinking follower of Indian cricket. Is it about time to fall back on the stable shoulders of the seniors? With most of the pro's leaving a profound and lasting mark on all formats of the game, it would probably be wise of the selection committee to let the colts blossom under the shadow of the seniors, rather than letting them fend for themselves. Their inexperience and immaturity to handle even an easy opponent like Zimbabwe is a cause for concern. With preparations for the next World Cup on full swing, it would be better for the BCCI to nip the problem in the bud than cry over spilt milk later on.

The killer instinct seems to be missing. This young team, which should be oozing with enthusaism and zeal, is ironically, looking pale, with no spark or zing. The fate in this series is dependent on the performance of the other teams rather than their own. Unfortunate. But they have only themseleves and the board to blame. 

The BCCI is already under the scanner after refusing to send a team to the Asian Games. A series loss will only add on to their woes. Being labelled as a commercial sport, the immediate future looks a little too bleak for the BCCI’s comfort. It is in a muddle of issues at the moment: sports authorities slamming them for their move regarding the Asian Games, successive pathetic shows by the team at major outings, the evergreen Lalit Modi issue. Quite a bit on their plate!