Asia Cup: Acid test for India

Last Updated: Wed, Jun 16, 2010 09:33 hrs

So the 2011 World Cup ODI campaign begins. The debacle of the T20 World Cup is behind us. Seniors like MS Dhoni and Virendra Sehwag have been rested and must be fresh and raring to go.

Youngsters like Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli have been exposed to pressure and should come good: This especially after the 2-0 drubbing of Zimbabwe in the T20 series.

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Out-of-form players like Yuvraj Pathan and Yusuf Pathan have been dropped. The IPL’s hot find Saurabh Tiwary has been included in the squad. On paper, things look good, though the acid test will be on the field.

This is India’s best chance of regaining lost glory at the Asia Cup.

The “lost” cup…

In the 1980s and 1990s, we dominated the one-day tournament scene like we’ve never done after and that also showed in the Asia Cup. In the first five editions from 1984 to 1995, India won an impressive four out of five: All of them convincingly. From 1997 to 2008, India reached three finals and failed to win a single one, collapsing tragically in each. In fact, we lost the last final by a whopping 100 runs.

The Ganguly-Dravid era resulted in a lot of lost finals, so much so that it had become a jinx. While Dhoni has been by and large been a consistent captain in all forms of the game, his Achilles heel has been tournaments featuring four or more teams (His debut at the 2007 T20 WC was an exception). Dhoni also featured in the disastrous 2008 Asia Cup final. This is his chance at redemption and would be a great way to begin our World Cup campaign.

A good opposition…

Of course, Sri Lanka is the team to beat, having entered every final till date. They are the defending champions with the home advantage to boot. They showed it in the first match when despite being 168-7 at one stage; they won by 16 runs in the end thanks to some hostile bowling by Lasith Malinga. Both India and Pakistan will have to play out of their skins well if they want to meet in the final. Sri Lanka also seems to save its best for the Indian sub-continent. They are peaking nicely for World Cup 2011.

Coverage: Asia Cup 2010

Pakistan has won this tourney just once and their new captain will add to their unpredictability. There’s absolutely no way knowing what Shahid Afridi does with his power hitting and captaincy. He sure did begin in style with a blistering century studded with sixes. Though it was in vain in the end, the new captain has signaled his intent.

One thing he will be happy about will be the fast bowling. After the Akram-Younis era, Shoaib Akhtar emerged as the fastest bowler in the world and Mohammed Asif as the most accurate. But both drifted thereafter and have made a comeback here, Akhtar the more impressive. He also seemed more sober and controlled, which is necessary if he wants to survive till 2011.

All three teams seem to be in a state of flux and it’s anybody’s guess where they will land up when ODI’s biggest prize is up for grabs next year. While the short ball won’t be a problem, spinners like Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha will be the key. One hopes that they come good in the current tour.

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But India’s journey begins with Bangladesh, which definitely won’t be a walkover. Out of 21 matches that they have played, India has just lost two matches. But one of them happened to be in a World Cup in 2007 thanks to which we got booted out early. After that we play a hungry and unpredictable Pakistan: Followed by a dominant Sri Lanka.

And finally the finals jinx, should we get that far!

he author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger.

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