Asian nations prepare for World Cup
Dambulla: This month`s Asia Cup will provide the region`s cricket nations with an ideal preparation ahead of the World Cup to be played on the subcontinent in just eight months time.
Host Sri Lanka joins India, Pakistan and Bangladesh at the central town of Dambulla for the region`s top limited-overs tournament starting Tuesday.
India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will co-host the cricket World Cup from February 2011.
Pakistan was originally to have also been a co-host, but was dropped due to security concerns.
Sri Lanka plays Pakistan in the opening match and all four teams will play six preliminary, round-robin games ahead of the June 24 final.
Sri Lanka, a winner of four Asia Cups including the previous two editions in 2004 and 2008, has dropped veteran batsman Sanath Jayasuriya and spin bowler Ajantha Mendis due to poor form.
Mendis` six-wicket haul against India in the final was instrumental in winning Sri Lanka the 2008 title.
Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath and allrounder Farveez Maharoof have been recalled after long layoffs.
India batting great Sachin Tendulkar has opted out of the tournament to stay with his family, while batsmen Yuvraj Singh and Yousuf Pathan have been dropped from the team.
Saurabh Tiwary, a 20-year-old uncapped batsman, has been called into the side on the back of an impressive performance in the Indian Premier League.
India has four Asia Cup titles, but has not won the tournament for 15 years.
Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi`s biggest challenge will be team unity after infighting in recent months resulted in suspensions for some senior players, including former captains Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan and Shoaib Malik.
The suspensions on Younis and Malik have been lifted while Yousuf is still under an indefinite ban.