Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik believes there is no clear favourite for the Asia Cup, which begins on Tuesday.
Many pundits have tipped Pakistan for glory after an impressive recent run of form. Malik’s side have claimed victory in 12 of their 13 one-day internationals this year and beat India and Bangladesh to claim the Kitply Cup earlier this month.
That win was all the more remarkable considering star bowler Mohammad Asif was held in Dubai over allegations of possessing drugs for the duration of the competition.
Nevertheless, Malik was quick to play down his sides chances of triumphing on home soil.
“I wouldn’t say any team is favourite,” Malik told Chennai Online. “India is a strong and balanced side but we showed in the tri-series final they can be beaten. So in a way this Asia Cup I think is going to be the closest one in recent years.”
Former Under-19 World Cup-winning captain Sarfraz Ahmed has been called into the Pakistan squad to replace out of form wicketkeeper-batsman Kamran Akmal.
Holders Sri Lanka come into the tournament on the back of consecutive ODI series defeats against England, Australia and the West Indies. The 2007 World Cup finalists have won just two ODIs all year and will be without injured duo Lasith Malinga and Farveez Maharoof.
Captain Mahela Jayawardene told the Times of India that his side have been pulling out all the stops to turn their slump around.
“We have had good preparations as it is an important cup to win. Both India and Pakistan will be hard to beat,” said Jayawardene who welcomes back Sanath Jayasuriya and Muttiah Muralitharan after their absence against the West Indies.
India fast bowler Sreesanth has failed to recover from the side strain he suffered during the IPL and will miss tournament.
Sreesanth joins Sachin Tendulkar on the sidelines for the three-time champions who will be looking to build on their victory over Australia in the VB Series earlier this year.
Bangladesh enter the competition on the back of comprehensive defeats to Pakistan and India in the Kitply Cup.
The form of star batsman Mohammad Ashraful, who has been promoted up the order to number three by coach Jamie Siddons, could hold the key to whether Bangladesh can progress past the group stage of the tournament.
As in the 2004 Asia Cup, minnows Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates will make up the numbers. Honk Kong face the daunting task of games against India and Pakistan in Group A, while the UAE join Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in Group B. The top two teams from each group will progress to the semi-finals.
Pakistani officials are viewing the tournament as good preparation for hosting the ICC Champions Trophy in September.
England and Australia have already expressed security concerns about travelling to the country this autumn and a smoothly run Asia Cup could play a crucial role in alleviating those fears.
Source: Cricket365More on:2007 World Cup, Asia Cup, Bangladesh, Chennai Online, Dubai, Hong Kong, ICC Champions, Kitply Cup, Mahela Jayawardene, Mohammad Asif, Muttiah Muralitharan, Pakistan, Sachin Tendulkar, Sanath Jayasuriya, Sarfraz Ahmed, Shoaib Malik, Sri Lanka, UAE
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Tuesday, June 24th, 2008 and is filed under General.
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