You could almost rename the Asia Cup cricket championship as the Subcontinental Cup with Bangladesh,India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka meeting once again for the 2012 edition at Dhaka, Bangladesh. The tournament will run from March 11 to March 22 on a straight all-play-all single-league with the top two teams qualifying for the final. Here is my guide to the teams in show:
Preparation for the cup by the hosts has been rocked by a series of off-field controversies. First, the press reports the BCBs dissatisfaction at Law taking an unscheduled leave just before the tournament. He is eventually found to have been in Dubai, which is also the ICC HQ. The scuttle but has it that he was on a job interview. Then, dashing opener Tamim Iqbal is dropped from the squad on the personal orders BCB President AHM Mostafa Kamal and chief selector Akram Khan resigns citing interference from the Board chief and directors. Rumors fly around about who did what when and even the PM gets in on the act, calling on Akram Khan to rescind his resignation (which he does). Eventually, everything is sorted out. Tamim Iqbal finds his way back in the team and Mushiqur Rahman is retained as captain. Bangladesh is not expected to do much but the home crowd will be behind them all the way, hoping for a win or two. Keep an eye on the number one Test and ODI all-rounder Shakib Al Hassan.
- Chances of winning the cup: Also ran
- Past cups: 0
- ODI ranking: 9
- Recent results: LLLWL
While India are the defending champions of World Cup and Asia Cup, they have rapidly dropped to the third position in the ICC rankings after the drubbing they received on their disastrous tours to England and Australia. And, in the just concluded Commonwealth Bank tri-series, they ended up winning only three matches out of eight and crashed out of the competition. With many of their aging stars getting past due date, they look a very jaded team. The Indian think-tank seems unable to tinker for the future and we get to see the same old faces at the Asia Cup, where old might just be the operative word. Speaking of old, many eyes will of course be on Sachin Tendulkar to see if he can get his 100th 100 before the sun sets. Watch out for Virat Kohli though, whose emergence has been the only recent bright spot for Indian cricket. He was rewarded with the Vice captain chair.On paper, and on a good day, they can still bat any team out of the cup.
- Chances of winning the cup: Good
- Past cups: 5 (1984, 1988, 1991, 1995, 2010)
- ODI ranking: 3
- Recent results: WLLLT
Pakistan comes in to town led by a good old friend of Bangladesh. For Dav Whatmore, who coached Bangladesh quite ably for many years, this will be his first challenge after taking the head coach position with them just two weeks ago. Prior to Whatmore, interim coach Mohsin Khan led them very ably to wins over Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and England in recent tours. Their forward momentum appears to have been stalled most recently when they lost both the ODI and T20 series to England after their emphatic Test series win over the same team. Most dramatic about the Pakistan team has been the lack of drama. Coming off the distraction of the recent spot-fixing scandal, this Pakistan team has been making the press recently more for their on-field activities than their off-field antics. While they bat deep, their one-day batting can often be very fragile. If they all click, and backed by their battery of pacers and their one man wrecking crew Saeed Ajmal, they have a good chance to play much above their ICC #6 ranking and take the cup .
- Chances of winning the cup: Good
- Past cups: 1 (2000)
- ODI ranking: 6
- Recent results: LLLLW
Sri Lanka appears to have peaked at the right time.
Beaten finalist at the previous World Cup and also the Asia cup, Sri Lankans seemed to have shaken off some recent mediocre performances with a very strong showing at the just concluded Commonwealth Bank tri-series that included India and Australia. They fought tooth and nail in the 3-match final against the world #1 Aussies and must be fancying their chances in Dhaka. However, legspinner Rangana Herath and fast bowlers Dhammika Prasad and Chanaka Welegedara have been rested, ostensibly to prepare for their Test series against England, which starts four days after the Asia Cup final. Their batting has been firing consistently and both Tillakaratne Dilshan and Lokuge Chandimal appear to be in top of their form. The Sri Lankans are an extremely balanced team and must be odds on favorite to win it all.
- Chances of winning the cup: Very Good
- Past cups: 4 (1986, 1997, 2004, 2008)
- ODI ranking: 4
- Recent results: LWLW