India aim to break 15-year Asia Cup jinx


- dEsPeraTe cRaNky -
India get a chance to make amends for recent debacles, climb up the ODI rankings and break a 15-year jinx in the Asia Cup which takes off on Tuesday with home favourites Sri Lanka facing the ever-so-unpredictable Pakistan in the opening match.

Four-time champions India, who come after twin debacles in the Twenty20 World Cup and the recent tri-series in Zimbabwe, last won the title 15 years ago in the United Arab Emirates and will open their campaign on June 16 against Bangladesh.

Before that, with a hat-trick of titles in sight, Sri Lanka would look to exploit the home conditions against Pakistan at the Rangiri Dambulla ground.

Considering the fact that Sri Lanka won the title in the previous two editions, the hosts are slight favourites over the others in the four-nation tournament.

The tournament opener between Sri Lanka and Pakistan holds promise as on paper both the teams are equally matched in terms of potential, though the buoyant hosts have the more experienced players, who have a reputation of being devastating in their own backyard.

The inclusion of wily off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who recovered from an injury sustained during the Twenty20 World Cup, has strengthened the Kumar Sangakkara-led Sri Lankan side.

Even though both Sri Lanka and Pakistan made it to the semifinals of the Twenty20 World Cup in the West Indies, the hosts will draw confidence from their recent tri-series victory in Zimbabwe.

Like India, Sri Lanka too had fielded a second string team in Zimbabwe, but the Lankan young guns rose to the occasion to come out triumphant in the tri-series.

What would be a morale-booster for Sri Lanka is dashing Tillakratne Dilshan's return to form.

Leading a young side in the tri-series, Dilshan made a rollicking return to form with a delectable century in the title clash against hosts Zimbabwe.

To add to it, Sri Lanka would be bolstered by the return of regular skipper Sangakkara and senior batsman Mahela Jayawardene, who has been in sublime form this season.

If Dilshan and Jayawardene combine well at the top of the order, it could spell trouble for Pakistan who had last won the title in 2000 in Bangladesh.

The 21-year-old Angelo Mathews will be another Sri Lankan to watch out for over the next two weeks as the quality all-rounder seeks to prove his supremacy in the biennial event.