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