India look to redeem themselves in Asia Cup

Mirpur (Bangladesh): The 11th edition of the Asia Cup cricket tournament begins here on Sunday with defending champions India hoping to redeem their pride and restore their reputation after the debacle in Australia.

Hosts Bangladesh will take on Pakistan in the opening fixture of the four-nation tournament which will conclude on March 22.

Bangladesh have not won a single ODI series in the four they played last year, even losing 2-3 to Zimbabwe in a five-match rubber when they visited the African country. They lost by identical 0-3 to Australia and Pakistan and 1-2 to West Indies, all at home.

The hosts were also mired in controversies in the run-up to the tournament with young wicketkeeper-batsman Mushfiqur Rahim in the dock after voicing his concerns about player payments in the Bangladesh Premier League and had a 24-hour wait before he was made captain.

Opening batsman Tamim Iqbal was dropped by the Board chief, then asked to prove his fitness despite being passed fit by the team doctor two days earlier and then picked again.

In the middle of it all, chief selector Akram Khan, who happens to be Tamim`s uncle, quit over claims of interference.

The young side, however, cannot be taken lightly as Bangladesh can be giant-killers on their day and the other three established sides of world cricket can hardly afford to be complacent.

The unpredictable Pakistan, on the other hand, would want to begin their campaign with a win with a new coach Dav Whatmore taking charge. It will be Whatmore`s first assignment with the team and he will be hoping to make an impression straightaway.

Pakistan has been a mixed bag last year having beaten West Indies (3-2), Zimbabwe and Bangladesh (3-0) and Sri Lanka (4-1) before slumping to a 0-4 drubbing by England last month in UAE.

When they toured Bangladesh last December, they had beaten the home side comfortably in all the three matches, including two at the Sher-E-Bangla Stadium.

India, who kick off their campaign against Sri Lanka on March 13, would get a chance to make amends for their dismal performance in the triangular series in Australia where they won just three matches out of eight.

India are coming into the tournament with just a few changes in the squad that played in Australia with hard-hitting batsman Yusuf Pathan and pacer Ashok Dinda drafted into team while Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav have been `rested` due to injuries.

The tournament could also see Sachin Tendulkar recording his much-awaited 100th international ton. The feat eluded the champion batsman in the Test series against Australia and the triangular series.

Sri Lanka have been a resurgent side this year. They narrowly lost the five-match series in South Africa 2-3 early this year and reached the finals of the just-concluded triangular series in Australia.

Defending champions India have won the Asia Cup five times since the event first took place in 1984. Sri Lanka have won four times while Pakistan have lifted the cup only once.