DHAKA: India and Pakistan get a rare chance to score brownie points when they renew their intense, but intermittent, cricket rivalry in the Asia Cup one-day tournament which opens in Bangladesh on Tuesday.
On-field contests featuring the traditional foes, which attract millions of viewers around the cricket world, have fallen victim to political stand-offs between the two warring neighbours.
Since the World Cup semifinal in 2011, India and Pakistan have played just five one-day internationals and three Twenty20 matches against each other, mostly in multi-nation events.
Their most recent meeting was in the Champions Trophy last June when India won a rain-affected match in Birmingham by eight wickets and went on to win the tournament.
"It's always a big challenge playing against India because there is so much interest in the game," said Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq. "India are a formidable side and we have to be at our best to win.
"We may not have played each other much recently, but I know it will be an exciting match."
Pakistan begin the five-nation Asia Cup, the symbol of regional supremacy in the one-day game, as the defending champions, having won the 2012 edition in Dhaka.
World Cup holders India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, hosts Bangladesh and new entrants Afghanistan will play each other once in the league with the top two qualifying for the final in Dhaka on March 8.
Pakistan take on Sri Lanka in the tournament opener in Fatullah, a suburban town south of Dhaka which will host the first five league matches before the action shifts to the Bangladeshi capital.
The high-profile India-Pakistan game has been scheduled for Sunday, March 2 at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium in Dhaka.
India, the most successful team in the Asia Cup with five titles in 11 editions so far, will be without inspirational captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni who was ruled out with a side strain.
Top-order batsman Virat Kohli will lead India, while Dinesh Karthik will replace Dhoni as wicket-keeper.
Sri Lanka begin the tournament with the advantage of having been in Bangladesh for the past month, winning the Test, Twenty20 and one-day series against the hosts.
India start their campaign against hosts Bangladesh on Wednesday, eight days after ending a dismal tour of New Zealand where they lost both the Test and one-day series.
The focus will be on the fast-improving Afghans, who were added as the fifth team by the Asian Cricket Council after they qualified for their maiden World Cup next year.
The minnows have played just two one-dayers against Test nations, losing both matches to Pakistan and Australia.