India, Pakistan to renew rivalry in Asia Cup

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Dhaka—India and Pakistan will renew cricket’s most bitter rivalry this week after a two-year gap when they face off in the Asia Cup, a contest for regional supremacy which is also a final rehearsal for the World T20.
The biennial 12-day tournament, which is being held in Bangladesh for the second time in a row, begins on Wednesday night when the hosts take on India at Dhaka’s Sher-e-Bangla stadium—the venue for all the matches.
Local supporters will be looking to see if Bangladesh’s sharp improvement in 50-over cricket will translate into an upturn in their performances in the shortest form of the game, with the World T20 in India only weeks away.
But most eyes will be on Saturday’s glamour tie when India and Pakistan take to the field together for the first time since the last World T20 in 2014.
India-Pakistan showdowns usually draw hundreds of millions of television viewers, making it the biggest box office attraction in the sport.
But diplomatic tensions have meant that the two teams have not played
any bilateral series for more than three years and their rivalry is therefore restricted to multi-national tournaments.
Pakistan, furious that India has rebuffed repeated pleas to play a bilateral series at a neutral venue, will be desperate to cause an upset against their giant neighbour.
With the reigning champions Sri Lanka going through a rebuilding phase, most pundits expect India to cement their position at the top of the T20 world rankings ahead of their staging of the format’s premier tournament.
Meanwhile, former captain Wasim Akram says India may have a slight edge, due to current form, over Pakistan for Saturday’s match of the Asia Cup Twenty20 at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium at Dhaka (Bangladesh).
“Yes, that will be a good game to look forward to and given the way India are playing right now, they may be favourites,” Wasim told the Times of India.
He also said the Asia Cup would be a good preparation for the participating teams for the upcoming World Twenty20 in India next month.
Wasim said out of the last three World T20 champions, three are participating in this Asia Cup, so that quotient alone adds so much excitement to the tournament.
“Then, Bangladesh have been an unbeatable side at home. This edition has a lot of potential and will help teams pick their best combinations for World T20,” he said.
It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan and India last met at the 2015 World Cup. India and Pakistan were scheduled to play a bilateral series in December 2015 but that did not materialize.
After playing India, Pakistan’s next match in Asia Cup T20 will be on February 29 against the United Arab Emirates (UAE), then against Bangladesh on March 2 and Sri Lanka on March 4.—APP

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