Columns - Colonel's Commandment

'Lankans tough to beat at home'

By Dilip Vengsarkar
Tuesday, June 15, 2021

The biggest Asian battle for cricket supremacy – the Micromax Asia Cup - begins today, providing the sport lovers with lots to cheer for. For India, the big men are back and they will first run into Bangladesh before crossing swords with arch-rivals Pakistan on Saturday night. Yes, it’s perhaps time again for the Indians to seek revenge and return of the giants will only add more teeth to the Indian force.

With Mahendra Singh Dhoni back at the helm and Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir occupying the opening slots, the batting will look much steady and strong. There’s no Sachin Tendulkar, a tad sad, but then he deserves a break and nothing wrong if he has asked for it.

On the bowling front; Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Praveen Kumar and Harbhajan Singh will add the much-needed solidity. Though Ashok Dinda may not get a place in playing eleven, here’s a chance for him to see and learn a lot from the seasoned campaigners.

The inclusion of Saurabh Tiwary adds a dash of zeal to the side. The presence of this tall and Dhoni-like youngster alongwith Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli will provide for the right youthful presence that helps a team produce sparks when needed.

The job seems to have been well done as far as the balance of the Indian team is concerned. The young team too, which toured Zimbabwe, would have had enough rest. Those who will join the team straight from the African nation would aim to better their own performances. The hosts – Sri Lanka – have also got rid of the cobwebs; there is no Sanath Jayasuriya and no Ajantha Mendis either. Instead, they have Muthiah Muralitharan and Rangana Herath, and also Suraj Randiv to mesmerize the opposing batsmen.

Their batting too looks good with the big three Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene guiding the other allrounders. The team looks good and the knowledge of home conditions will also make them more difficult to beat.

Then there is Pakistan, always hungry to attack. And now that they’ve failed to lift the T20 Cup, expect them to hit back harder. The return of Shoaib Akhtar adds mystery if not mystique and you can never write him off.

With Mohammad Asif steaming from one end and Akhtar from the other, you can imagine what kind of contests this Cup can rustle up. Pakistan have more in Shoaib Malik, Mohd Aamer, off-spinner Saeed Ajmal and left-arm orthodox Abdur Rehman.

Handling men of this team can be an issue for skipper Shahid Afridi but if they excel as a bunch they can be more than a handful for any opposition.

Do not rule out Bangladesh for they can shock anyone as we’ve seen in the past. They also have a new commodity in the young left-handed bat Tamim Iqbal, who recently set the Thames on fire, even though his team struggled against England in Tests. Iqbal loves to score at a fast clip and it will be interesting to watch him in this exciting competition. Get set for a rollicking sporting bonanza. This Asia Cup promises entertaining cricket after a long time so get ready for the Battle for Asia and you can catch all the action on Neo Cricket.