Dambulla: While fancy clichés often litter the interview room, the one about 'Who Dares Wins' explains some of the thinking that is going on at this 10th edition of the Asia Cup.
It is this metaphor, used by nine elite special military forces over the years, which explains the feeling surrounding the India and Pakistan camps as their key game, the fourth in the event, looms at Rangiri Stadium Saturday.
A smiling Shahid Afridi, fit again after the cramps experienced during his death-or-glory century on Tuesday against Sri Lanka, suggested that as both sides are evenly matched, it presents an enticing outing. There are no predictions though, which is why the view is that whoever blinks first in an eyeball-to-eyeball contest as this loses.
It is why the challenges facing both sides and players with flair as well as being the show pony types, can swing the game. Such as how Virender Sehwag will tackle the pace trio led by the recycled Shoaib Akhtar will be one of the more interesting, and possibly entertaining sideshows of this particular game.
While criticism surrounds the staging of the event in its current format, the view is how teams have been rushed into the tournament as part of a TV deal between Nimbus and the Asia Cricket Council, both captains had their mind on other matters.
MS Dhoni has not placed too much an emphasis on the importance of the toss at a venue where lights have come in for heavy criticism by players and officials. What he did suggest is that India are hoping to improve the formula of the middle-order in terms of the team’s rotation. Also some areas of the seam and swing bowling, where the team management were not a hundred percent happy, needed to improve.
As he pointed out, this is because with Yuvraj Singh missing, India are hoping to find an established number four replacement. But this did not mean, should either Rohit Sharma or Suresh Raina make a success of the role that Yuvi will need to find a new place in the batting order when he returns.
"It depends largely on who is selected for the next series," he said during the team’s extensive net session Friday. "It needs to be remembered that we are playing in this series without Sachin (Tendulkar) and he plays a big role in our side.
"Gautam Gambhir has filled the role well on occasions in his (Tendulkar’s absence) when there is a need, but to be frank it is the middle-order area where we need to focus some attention," he commented. "It is why there is a need for the top three to do well and get some runs on the board to lessen the pressure on the middle order."
The impression here, without delving too deeply into the underbrush of explanation is that Team India are hoping the current middle-order will fill the roles once filled by Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, part of the fab four fame. The new baby-faced trio have yet to display the same sound technique and streetwise expertise of such quality batsmen of the new century.
They are a tough act to follow and the younger players know all too well just how important is this series in the build up to the World Cup now eight months off.
It is why Dhoni's caution over current and future selection policy is understandable.
"There are any number of possibilities in our batting strategies," he added. "One is who will be batting in what position when there is a need to chase a total. Rohit (Sharma) and Suresh (Raina) will be tested. Don't forget, I can move up if needed. It depends on our needs."
He agreed that Pakistan had a good side with good all-round strength with Shoaib Akhtar considered as the ace in the Pakistan bowling attack. He has matured as a bowler and the batsmen need to be aware of the dangers when he is bowling.
Dhoni was not particularly worried by the current ICC rankings, or the bonus point. If a situation arises where it is feasible it will be considered.
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