By Syed Khalid Mahmood
In normal circumstances Sachin Tendulkar would have surely missed the upcoming edition of the Asia Cup, starting in Bangladesh on March 11. Either he would have been rested by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) or the master batsman would have sought another break on his own.
But the situation seems different right now and the BCCI, by selecting him in India's one-day squad for the Asia Cup, has proved that Tendulkar’s 100th international ton is also in their mind.
The master batsman will be getting at least three more chances during the course of the tournament to get to the landmark which has eluded him for very nearly a year now.
In theory he could also get more than one opportunity to do it in Australia if India advance to the final of the ongoing CB series. India’s fate depends on the result of the Australia-Sri Lanka game to be held on March 2. If the hosts continue their winning streak, India would sneak into the best of three finals.
So there’s very much a possibility of Tendulkar arriving Bangladesh with 100 international centuries under his belt instead of chasing it there. Hopefully he will not disappoint the Bangladesh fans by dropping out at the eleventh hour if he reaches the most talked about milestone in Australia.
The BCCI has dropped or, more respectfully, rested Virender Sehwag for the Asia Cup, a move which was more or less expected following his horrible batting performance in Australia.
Unlike Tendulkar, he struggled for runs throughout the tour, having looked a mere shadow of his own self. His timing alongwith the hand-eye coordination deserted him on the bouncy tracks where he had scored heavily on the earlier visits to Australia.
Sehwag’s omission created a vacancy for vice-captain and not surprisingly the job has been assigned to India’s man of the moment, Virat Kohli, who played a magnificent innings in Hobart just a day earlier. Literally he has received his reward for the momentous knock within no time.
All-rounder Yusuf Pathan, known for his rollicking stroke-play, makes a comeback in the Indian squad as does Bengal fast bowler Ashok Dinda, who was the second-highest wicket-taker in Ranji Trophy with 37 scalps in six matches.
There’s no place for the injury-prone left-arm paceman Zaheer Khan but the exclusion of Umesh Yadav, easily the fastest Indian bowler in memory looks surprising particularly when the other promising speedster Varun Aaron is still recovering from injuries.
India, having won the Asia Cup a record five times, are also the defending champions. Hosts Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are the other contestants in the event to be held from March 11 to 22. All the matches, to be day-night affairs, will be played at Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur.
Following is the schedule of matches:
March 11: Bangladesh v Pakistan
March 13: India v Sri Lanka
March 15: Pakistan v Sri Lanka
March 16: Bangladesh v India
March 18: India v Pakistan
March 20: Bangladesh v Sri Lanka
March 22: Final