Dhaka, Mar 10: At last, there is some relief for India. They have returned to familiar territory. After the debacle in Australia where India's batting was exposed on bouncy tracks, they are back in the comfort zone of the subcontinent as Asia Cup gets under way here in Bangladesh on Sunday.
Also read: Asia Cup Schedule
Asia Cup 2012 Squads
India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and hosts Bangladesh will play each other once in the league stage before the top two sides square off in the final on March 22.
The inaugural match features Bangladesh and Pakistan. All matches are day and night affairs and start at 1.30 PM IST. India's first game is against Sri Lanka on March 13, Tuesday.
Asia Cup history shows India are the one team to beat. In 10 editions, India have been champions on five occasions. They are the title holders too, having won the final against Sri Lanka two years back in Dambulla.
Sri Lanka have won the title four times while Pakistan managed to do it once.
India, the reigning World Cup champions, and Sri Lanka start as joint favourites in the tournament. Sri Lanka ended runners-up in Australian tri-series and are the in-form team.
Pakistan did not enjoy a good ODI series against England as they lost in the United Arab Emirates. They will have a new coach in Dav Whatmore and it will be a fresh challenge in the subcontinent for the Australian who once successfully steered Sri Lanka to 1996 World Cup triumph.
The biggest contest of Asia Cup is coming up next Sunday, March 18, where India face off against Pakistan. It is the most awaited clash of this quadrangular tournament.
It will be the first time since last year's World Cup semi-final in Mohali that India and Pakistan will be meeting in any form of the game.
Pakistan will be hungry for success against their neighbours.
Captain Misbah-ul-Haq and all-rounder Shahid Afridi have played down the talk of revenge in Asia Cup. However, players on both sides will be charged up for this encounter at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur, which will host all the matches in the tournament.
India will be without Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan. Two of the senior most players were given rest by selectors after the Australian tour.
It is another opporunity for Sachin Tendulkar to get that elusive 100th international ton. Come March 12, Tendulkar would have been without a century for one year. His 99th international hundred was scored against South Africa during the World Cup last year in Nagpur on March 12, 2011.
Tendulkar is the second highest run scorer in Asia Cup with 799 in 20 matches. Retired Sri Lankan opener Sanath Jayasuriya is on top with 1,220 runs in 25 matches. Tendulkar is also India's joint highest wicket-taker in Asia Cup with 17 scalps along with Irfan Pathan.
All eyes will be on new vice-captain Virat Kohli, who is emerging as the next young batting superstar.
Praveen Kumar, Vinay Kumar, Ashok Dinda, Irfan Pathan will head the pace bowling department. Ravichandran Ashwin, Rahul Sharma are the spinners in the team.
Dhoni can utilise the services of Yusuf Pathan for bowling as the hard-hitting all-rounder has made a comeback after a string of good domestic performances.
For Pakistan, off-spinner Saeed Ajmal will be key along with Afridi's leg-spin. Misbah will shoulder the batting responsibilities with the experienced Younis Khan and Umar Akmal.
Paceman Umar Gul can breathe a sigh of relief as Sehwag is not around this time. Gul was smashed to all parts of the PCA Stadium by the Delhi opener in that World Cup semi-final last year.
Sri Lanka have been impressive under Mahela Jayawardene, who accepted the captaincy again after Tillakaratne Dilshan quit the post. Known to be one of the best leaders, Jayawardene has led the team from front. He has opened the batting with good success. His partnership with Dilshan at the top of the order was key to team's progress to tri-series final in Australia.
Dilshan will arrive in Bangladesh with confidence after ending the tri-series as the highest scorer with 513 runs. That earned him the Man-of-the-series award.
Sri Lankan batting is in good health with Kumar Sangakkara and the talented youngster Dinesh Chandimal also among the runs.
Their bowling will rely heavily on Lasith Malinga with the supporting cast involving Nuwan Kulasekara, Farveez Maharoof and the returning fast man Suranga Lakmal and spinner Seekkuge Prasanna.
Hosts Bangladesh have failed in every tournament. They have done well in patches. The home crowd will want their team to do well and there won't be lack of support for captain Mushfiqur Rahim and his side.
They have the ability to upset the big teams. India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will not be taking them lightly.
The last time India played a match at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, they thrashed Bangladesh in the World Cup opener on February 19, 2011. Sehwag and Kohli scored tons to power India to a big win.
Pakistan should not have any problem in putting it past Bangladesh in the opener on Sunday.
Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Younis Khan, Umar Akmal, Hammad Azam, Asad Shafiq, Shahid Afridi, Azhar Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed (wicketkeeper), Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Umar Gul, Aizaz Cheema, Wahab Riaz.
Bangladesh: Mushfiqur Rahim (captain), Mahmudullah (vice-captain), Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Nazimuddin, Jahurul Islam, Shakib Al Hasan, Nasir Hossain, Mashrafe Mortaza, Abdur Razzak, Elias Sunny, Nazmul Hossain, Shafiul Islam, Shahadat Hossain, Anamul Haque.
Umpires: Ian Gould (England) and Paul Reiffel (Australia)
Third Umpire: S Ravi (India)
Match Referee: David Boon (Australia)
Match starts at 1.30 PM IST
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