The Asia Cup: Who Wears the Pants at Home?
NEVER MIND that India have already proved (in a little tournament called the World Cup) that they are the best in subcontinental conditions. Never mind that we’ve watched too many games between the participating teams.
The Asia Cup may be mostly meaningless, now that the rest of Asia has been taken out of it, but there is still one thing that validates it. Something so phenomenal, so gargantuan, so Ramesh Powar-esque, that everything else around it feels as inadequate as this setup.
I’m speaking, of course, of India vs Pakistan. Or, as Pakistanis call it, “Pakistan vs India”. Or, as those in charge of security like to call it, “squeaky bum time.” The Asia Cup is just an excuse to see these two teams face off, because without World Cups, these matches are rarer than the steaks Jacques Kallis likes to eat.
In Asia Cup matches that have had a result, India and Pakistan have faced each other 8 times, with each team having won 4 matches. India, though, have had the upper hand in recent tournaments – the memorable last encounter (2010) ended with Harbhajan Singh (remember him?) hitting Mohammed Aamer (remember him?) into the stands to win the game (remember what that’s like, India?).
The date picked for low subcontinental productivity this time? Sunday 18th March.
Squad: Mushfiqur Rahim (c)(wk), Mahmudullah (vc), Imrul Kayes, Nazimuddin, Jahurul Islam, Shakib Al Hasan, Nasir Hossain, Mashrafe Mortaza, Abdur Razzak, Elias Sunny, Nazmul Hossain, Shafiul Islam, Shahadat Hossain, Anamul Haque (wk), Tamim Iqbal.
Like the token black guy in a horror movie, Bangladesh will be somewhat fun to watch until they are killed off, and they will hope that they take someone down with them. It has already begun, but keep expecting the headline “_____ win despite Shakib heroics” for every match they play.
The pre-tournament selectorial fiasco couldn’t have helped them one bit – to add to that, Tamim Iqbal was almost left out. A struggling side like Bangladesh cannot leave a player like him out, especially when he seems to be the best bet to provide the extra spark to win a match against the bigger sides. You’re doing a good job, selectors, of resisting Ashraful, but don’t get carried away.
Best XI: Tamim Iqbal, Nazimuddin, Jahurul Islam, Mushfiqur Rahim (c)(wk), Shakib-al-Hasan, Mahmudullah, Nasir Hossain, Abdur Razzak, Mashrafe Mortaza, Shafiul Islam, Shahadat Hossain.
Key: The possibility of cloning Shakib, Shahadat’s half-volley-spawning grunts.
Squad: Mahela Jayawardene (c), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thisara Perera, Farveez Maharoof, Sachithra Senanayake, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Seekkuge Prasanna, Suranga Lakmal, Shaminda Eranga [replacement for Angelo Mathews].
After a fantastic showing in Australia, falling just short of winning the CB series, the Lankans will be happy enough to return to the subcontinent and brag about it to all their neighbours, earning their annoyance. They last won the Asia Cup, however, when Ajantha Mendis was still able to pull live rabbits out of his hat.
Even with the electric Rangana Herath (fun fact: his real first name is also Herath) being inexplicably dropped, Sri Lanka look like a much fresher side. The shifting of the captaincy from Dilshan to Jayawardene has improved the form of both men, so “mad props” to whoever decided that was the way to go.
Losing the talismanic Angelo Mathews to a calf injury has dealt a further blow to Sri Lanka’s balance, and the islanders will be relying heavily on a powerhouse top four, and a middle order that is slowly clicking into gear with some promising knocks from Thirimanne and Tharanga, the latter of whom has found a second coming down the order.
Best XI: Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene (c), Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thiramanne, Upul Tharanga, Shaminda Eranga, Nuwan Kulasekara, Sachithra Senanayake, Farveez Maharoof, Lasith Malinga.
Key: The near-erotic Jayawardene-Sangakarra partnership, the confounding consistency of Mathews and Kulasekara, the tongue-twisting Sachithra Senanayake.
Squad: Misbah-ul-Haq (c), Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Younis Khan, Umar Akmal, Hammad Azam, Asad Shafiq, Shahid Afridi, Azhar Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Umar Gul, Aizaz Cheema, Wahab Riaz.
Just when you thought they were ready for world dominance again, they went and lost the ODIs 4-0 to England in conditions that Pakistan had historically excelled in. Their chances lie in them having finishers left towards the end. I would ask who is capable of filling this role, but I can already see Afridi pointing every finger he has towards the heavens, while the (electric) fan behind him blows his hair around.
They will be especially wary of India, who have knocked them out the last couple of times. Here’s what’ll help: don’t drop Sachin once for every 5 runs he makes, and don’t throw your wickets away to part-timers.
Not what we had in mind.
Best XI: Mohammed Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Younis Khan, Umar Akmal, Asad Shafiq, Misbah-ul-Haq (c), Shahid Afridi, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Wahab Riaz.
Key: Saeed Ajmal’s every footstep, Shahid Afridi’s appetite, the chance that Umar Akmal will defy his surname. Oh, and there’s no DRS to save Sachin…
Squad: MS Dhoni (c)(wk), Virat Kohli (vc), Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Manoj Tiwary, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Praveen Kumar, Vinay Kumar, Rahul Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan, Ashok Dinda.
Still licking their wounds from a calamitous Australian tour, India will have murder on their minds, and not the good kind. For them, it’s the equivalent of getting beaten up by a bully, then coming home and slapping around their younger siblings. Which they do quite well, I’ll give them that.
With the “misfiring” Sehwag having been “rested”, there is unlikely to be any more of that “rotation”, that the team “management” felt was “necessary” (aren’t quotation marks the best?). Praveen Kumar will lead a “pace” “attack” so weak that Vinay Kumar gets in just because he has “experience.”
Virat Kohli will be looking to build on his Australian heroics, where he cemented himself as the most talented young batsman in the world today.
Best XI: Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli (vc), Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (c)(wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Irfan Pathan, R Ashwin, Praveen Kumar, Vinay Kumar.
Key: Censors when Kohli bats, the crazy-swing new-ball duo of Pathan and Praveen, Ashok Dinda’s head band.
Sri Lanka to beat India in the final, calling it “revenge”. Sachin to make at least one 90+, but no hundred. Pakistan will beat India but miss out on the final by NRR. Bangladesh will ask everyone to turn down the music so they can sleep.