DHAKA - Pakistan is determined to defend their trophy, but Sri Lanka's captain Angelo Mathews remains optimistic as the two cricket giants face off in the opening match of the five-nation Asia Cup on Tuesday, in the run-up to the Twenty20 World Cup.
Pakistan, who won the title in 2012, are aiming to put pressure on their opponents with a team balancing experienced players and newcomers. Both teams are focusing not just on the opening match but on the whole tournament. "We have played a lot against Pakistan and India," Mathews told reporters at a news briefing on Monday. "We know them and they also know us. All the teams are even. They will want to win the matches. We also would like to win. Hopefully there will be a really good competition," he added.
For Tuesday's opening match at Fatullah, Sri Lanka have one thing in their favour — there played here a month ago against Bangladesh, winning two Tests, three one-day internationals and two Twenty20s. "I think we need to show more good performance to go further," Mathews said. "We beat Bangladesh 3-0 — that doesn't mean that it would be easier for us to win the Asia Cup. It will be a tough tournament and there will be huge challenges. The main challenge will be to tackle spinners successfully. All the teams have good spinners."
Pakistan's skipper Misbah-ul-Haq said they are taking spirit from the series wins over Sri Lanka and South Africa, and will fight to defend the Asia Cup title. The team beat Bangladesh in the 2012 final. While the team has several relatively inexperienced players including Sharjeel Khan, Sohaib Maqsood, Mohammad Talha, Bilawal Bhatti and Anwar Ali, it also has Misbah himself and Mohammad Hafeez, who will play the key role in batting. (Afridi injured in jaw ahead of Asia Cup).
"Ahmed Shehzad has been part of our team for quite a while, he has been doing well," Misbah said. "Sharjeel Khan had an average series, but he gave glimpses of being a good player, he can time the ball well. We are looking forward to seeing him develop into a good player," he said.
He has faith in Sohaib Maqsood too. "Maqsood played well in South Africa and against Sri Lanka. With experienced players, a few youngsters like Anwar Ali and Bilawal Bhatti, they are putting together some good scores. I am happy that it is a good, balanced unit," he said.
The Pakistan skipper is not willing to take the Asia Cup tournament lightly, and is even serious about first-timer Afghanistan. "All teams have ability to win against any side," he said. "It will be good competition. The last Asia Cup was witness of that: Bangladesh beat two big teams and they came close to us. You can expect any team can win against any team.
PAKISTAN: Sharjeel Khan, Ahmed Shehzad, M Hafeez, Sohaib Maqsood, Misbah-Ul-Haq (capt), Umar Akmal (wk), Shahid Afridi, Bilawal Bhatti, Anwar Ali, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan
SRI LANKA: Kusal Perera, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Dinesh Chandimal, Ashan Priyanjan, Angelo Mathews (capt), Thisara Perera, Sachithra Senanayake, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Suranga Lakmal.